Final CUOS K–12 Education Outreach Program Report, March 2002
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1. North Central Accreditation Process
[bold emphasis added below]
October 9, 1992 Mission Statement: The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.
In March 2000, the University of Michigan was recommended for a ten-year reaccreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Institutional Requirements Report and the Special Emphasis Self-Study Report that preceded the NCA site visit, as well as the report of the visiting team, offer several insights into how the values and goals of the university are related to our outreach values and goals.
Any discussion of the role of a modern complex university must recognize that such an institution has at least three vital missions. The first of these is to educate students in the light of certain general educational goals. The second is the preservation and refinement of knowledge already acquired, along with the production, dissemination, and utilization of new knowledge. The third role of the modern university is that of helping to define and assist in the solution of the problems of society. The familiar rubrics ‘teaching, research, and service’ are a shorthand for denoting these three major activities which the University performs.” We believe that outreach work contributes in two of these spheres: educating students and serving society. The report specified that the university “has a goal of contributing to the growth of citizens, especially of future leaders,” and the maturation process spurred by Reach Out! voluntarism and organizational leadership certainly do that. Outreach work also contributes to the university’s obligation, as a faculty report on educational goals delineated, to “prepare students who ... have the training required to assume productive roles in society, have an awareness of the need for self-criticism, recognize their responsibilities to society and their fellow man, and will continue to develop intellectually.” The Working Group on Undergraduate Teaching and Learning discussants “observed that while higher education necessarily encouraged specialization, this alone is not a sufficient preparation for handling many-sided problems and projects of life after graduation.” We agree that disciplinary knowledge and skills are not enough, and we assert that Reach Out! members develop complementary knowledge, skills, and attitudes through their outreach work that will enhance both their work and personal lives. The Self-Study Report recommended that the university “foster experiences where students are required to think deeply about their goals for their undergraduate education,” which our participants assuredly do! Many have changed majors as a direct consequence of their Reach Out! participation: some have left engineering for science teaching; some have left teacher education for liberal arts majors; some have postponed medical school for stints with Teach for America. Many have become happier and more settled in their engineering majors as they discovered that other life dimensions can complement their technical work, resulting in greater personal happiness and satisfaction.
The core value of diversity was described as making the institution “a place where core social and civic values are articulated, debated, and disseminated.” Reach Out! participants eloquently testify about how they discover and define new personal values—and how they spread them by engaging their friends and social acquaintances in the work they find so meaningful. The Institutional Report expressed concern that growth, specialization, and characteristics of the physical campus “can bring a disaggregation, a loss of sense of shared purpose and value.” Further, “attention to connection, communication, integration, and community has become an especially important theme for a diverse and complex public research university.” Repeatedly, Reach Out! participants identify integration into a community with a shared sense of purpose as the most important—and unexpected—aspect of their outreach involvement. It not only provides a sense of community on campus, in which they make friends without regard to academic specialties, but it also takes them off campus to feel part of and to contribute to their larger community.
The 1990 NCA evaluation team had noted that students were “conspicuously absent from the strategic planning process,” even though the involvement of students “in important decision-making areas of the university is an institutionally-held value.” It may not be an “important decision-making area of the university,” but Reach Out! coordinators have substantial say in the planning and implementation of their outreach programs. An organization originally formed to complement the CUOS K-12 Outreach Program has, in some ways, surpassed it. Members are advised and supported by the K-12 Outreach director and staff, but they are the engine driving everything we do in Ann Arbor.
The 1990 evaluation team had recommended that greater attention “be paid to integrating the curricular and co-/extra-curricular experiences of students so as to create a better total learning environment.” One response of the university to this concern and recommendation was the launching of the Community Service and Learning Program. We believe that we fit a niche in the mission of the Community Service and Learning that was not being filled—service aimed at math and science literacy and learning, as well as personal and career exploration. As near as we can tell, nothing like this exists within the America Reads, AmeriCorps, Project SERVE, Project Community, and Michigan Community Service Corps programs overseen by the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning. Our efforts can be seen as complementary to theirs, serving the same university- and NCA-endorsed goals.
2. UM President’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience
Another response to the recommendation above regarding the total learning environment was UM President Lee Bollinger’s creation of this Commission, facilitated by Provost Nancy Cantor, which issued its report at the end of October 2001. As President Bollinger wrote to the UM community in sharing this report,
The report noted that, “On the whole, the University errs too far in hiving off the intellectual energy and social diversity of campus life in monocultural and monogenerational spaces and settings.” The Commission asserted that the University should
As noted previously, our student volunteers interact not just with a variety of other students, but also with children, teens, and adults aged from their twenties through their eighties, from a variety of subcultures in the community. They contribute to the community while developing a sense of efficacy and responsibility regarding civic life. And they are guided—by action, modeling, peer pressure, and specific counsel—to think seriously about who they are and wish to become. They are challenged in a personal and ethical way that does not often arise in their classes.
The commission laid out six goals through which undergraduate life at the university could be optimized. We believe that our programs contribute significantly to five of them.
The only goal that we do not address directly is #6. We are unable to “prepare and reward” faculty for implementing the commission’s suggestions, although we think it quite evident that faculty are, in fact, implicitly penalized for putting time and energy into anything outside of research and teaching.
As for the other goals, our anecdotal reporting (the volunteer Voices running through this report) gives powerful testimony to the intellectual, ethical, social, and emotional growth experienced by volunteers, as well as to the extensive personal networks they develop and to the specific advising they enjoy.
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