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Oct. 10, 2019 - Message from the Provost

October 10, 2019

Good afternoon, colleagues: 

Since we began the fall semester, the campus has been abuzz with activity. It is hard to believe, but we are well into October—nearly six weeks into the term—and experiencing the season’s first snowfall today. On Monday afternoon, I provided reports to the Faculty Senate on two key initiatives in Academic Affairs related to educational access, attainment, and affordability: Graduate Wyoming, a new effort to enhance ease of transfer into the University, and the status of Distance Education at UW. In the same spirit as last month’s message, I wanted to share additional information with faculty and staff colleagues so you are apprised of current developments in Academic Affairs in service of our common mission. 

I hope that your fall semester has been productive and enjoyable so far. I welcome your feedback on the efforts outlined below and look forward to sharing further developments as they emerge. 

Go Pokes!
Dr. Kate Miller
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs 

 

Graduate Wyoming

Graduate Wyoming is a new umbrella initiative developed in partnership with the state’s community colleges to expand support for transfer students. In recent years, UW has worked with the community colleges to establish program-specific 2+2 plans to facilitate the transfer of students with an earned associate’s degree. These have been an important tool and will continue to be administered, but do not meet the needs of a significant number of students who wish to transfer to continue their education at the University. To ensure that we serve those students who are not supported by 2+2 plans, Graduate Wyoming is developing additional tools and services to meet the needs of all prospective transfer students. These include: 

  • Transfer Planning Guides, or TPGs, will offer side-by-side guides for course articulation for students at the community colleges who plan to transfer to UW. This information will help prospective transfer students to “self-select” into courses with an upfront understanding of how their coursework will transfer to the University of Wyoming, allowing them to identify the courses that will be most beneficial to their progress toward completion of a bachelor’s degree. Many of us have encountered students who arrive on our campus frustrated that UW “didn’t accept” a significant share of their transfer credits. Often, these students have simply taken courses that don’t articulate to satisfy course requirements or just aren’t necessary for degree completion. The new TPGs are designed specifically to support students who are not eligible for 2+2 plans, who comprise 40% of UW’s transfer student population. These resources will ensure that transfer students can efficiently move through the community colleges and University toward a UW degree.

  • Reverse Transfer, the process of awarding associates degrees to students who transfer to UW in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree before they have completed requirements for an associate’s degree at the community college, will be elevated. We are developing an MOU to formalize a robust and collaborative approach so that once students have completed the remaining requirements at UW toward an associate’s degree from a community college, they will be eligible to receive the appropriate credential. This means they will have a valuable associate’s degree in hand even while they continue work toward their next milestone—a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming.

  • Peer Mentoring to connect incoming transfer students to current UW students, who will place outbound calls to welcome them to the University, host them for a luncheon during Cowboy Connect, and serve as contacts when transfer students visit Laramie and get started as bachelor’s degree-seeking students.

  • A State-Wide Transfer Advising Group serving as a professional network to connect advisors from UW and all of Wyoming’s community colleges. The advising group will include a listserv facilitating communication about issues affecting transfer students.

I want to stress that as these new efforts launch, our 2+2 plans will not go away. In fact, we are streamlining the manner by which these plans are reviewed, amended, and developed as we proceed. Through the efforts above and others to be developed collaboratively with the community colleges, we will better serve all prospective transfer students—and better position them for success in attaining a bachelor’s degree from UW. I want to thank the representatives from UW and the community colleges who convened on our campus last week for the annual Wyoming Articulation Summit. By continuing to work in partnership, our institutions are expanding access to higher education for Wyomingites, facilitating the attainment of our state’s educational attainment goals, and preparing the workforce necessary to grow and diversify Wyoming’s economy and communities. 

Online Distance Education

I also gave the Faculty Senate an update on the status of online Distance Education at the University of Wyoming. Even though we sunsetted the Outreach School three years ago, today UW offers 40 unique credentials—undergraduate completion degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates—through online modalities, and has several more lined up for launch in the coming semesters. This is on par with or exceeds the offerings of our close peers. And, thanks to the contributions of hundreds of UW instructors, we offer more than a thousand courses online—around 1,200-1,300—annually. As a result, approximately 14.6% of UW’s students this fall are able to complete their coursework via distance education. 

While we are doing exceptionally well in this area, our mission as Wyoming’s four-year, research, and land-grant university, as well as the educational attainment goals of the state  call on us to expand our efforts to serve Wyoming’s place-bound students, adult learners, and others whose life circumstances do not allow them to come to study on campus in Laramie or Casper. It is important that we continue to develop and launch new online degree programs that meet students where they are regardless of their geographic location or stage of life, help those students to advance personally and professionally, and contribute to the state’s needs for a citizenry and workforce prepared to meet the demands of Wyoming’s future. 

To this end, Academic Affairs and Distance Education have invested in a number of tools and programs that expand our capacity to provide services such as 24/7 online tutoring, assessment of online course quality and student learning outcome development, and reliable online exam proctoring. These tools will also aid us in in our efforts to continually assess and improve upon the quality of the educational experience students receive in our online courses and programs. 

To further incentivize the development of additional online courses and programs, beginning this fiscal year, the share of tuition revenue generated from online enrollments provided to the colleges has increased from 50% to 70%. These funds will a) help the colleges and departments to hire instructors and teaching assistants to support growing enrollments in online courses and b) provide funding for colleges to invest in the development of new online courses and programs to ensure we can serve the needs of our students well and address the attainment priorities of our state. We look forward to continuing our work with partners in the colleges and departments to expand our online course and programmatic offerings to best serve the needs of our students and the state.  In the last academic year and at UW’s request, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) conducted a strategic consultation review of graduate education at the university, including the administration of graduate education, graduate enrollment management, and the assessment of graduate student learning outcomes. In its report, CGS made a number of recommendations that Associate Vice Provost Jim Ahern and his team are in the process of reviewing and implementing. In addition to working to rebuild and better support graduate education at UW, the Office of Graduate Education is also leading an effort to review how allocations of state-funded graduate assistantships are made in order to make sure that allocations align well with Academic Affairs’ strategic plan. As plans are developed over the coming months, members of the faculty and the Faculty Senate will have opportunities to discuss these issues and contribute input.

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