Trustees advance knowledge at retreat
Sessions offer insight on critical University issues
By Ruth Stevens
Princeton NJ -- University trustees recently spent some time on campus attending their own specially designed set of lectures and precepts.
As part of last month's regular board meeting, President Tilghman organized a retreat for the trustees. There were no action items on the retreat agenda -- the sessions were designed purely to educate the trustees on several issues of critical importance to the University.
"As (Executive Committee Chair) Bob Rawson and I began discussing the next 10 years, we concluded that there were several fundamentally important issues on which the board should be broadly educated," President Tilghman said. "Information from the retreat will, in some cases, help lay the groundwork for future action."
Tilghman described the retreat at the Dec. 2 faculty meeting. "This retreat was unusual -- there had not been such an event in 25 years," she said.
The retreat, which was attended by 100 percent of the board's 38 members, took place Nov. 8-9 in Robertson Hall. The topics they explored were: pedagogy; the role of the University in the nation's science, technology and engineering infrastructure; and the international character of the University.
The sessions began with introductory lectures by recognized experts in the particular subject matter and University administrators. The trustees then dispersed into small groups for discussion, and returned to the larger group to pool their thoughts.
Howard Gardner, the John and Elisabeth Hobbs Professor in Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel started off the section on pedagogy. The trustees considered issues such as: how faculty members teach, including the role of technology; what faculty members teach; and who teaches which courses.
As part of her presentation, Malkiel shared with the trustees lists of faculty members' activities from a variety of departments, as well as narratives from several faculty members describing their typical day (see related stories on page 6). "This had the biggest impact on the trustees," Tilghman said. "They saw just how hard our faculty members work."
While the trustees took no action, they arrived at some consensus on several issues during this session, including:
· Technology should be used to enhance the quality of education, and should not replace the close student-faculty interaction that is a hallmark of Princeton's teaching program.
· While traditional studies are grounded in a particular discipline, there is an increasingly urgent need for "multi-perspectival approaches" that go beyond silos of departments.
· There are key times during the undergraduate experience when student interaction with the faculty is most critical: freshman seminars, gateway courses that are introductions to the discipline and senior theses. There are important roles to be played by visiting faculty, lecturers and graduate students in teaching as well. Learning to teach is a critically important part of a graduate student's education, and faculty should take an active role in their pedagogical training.
Introducing the topic of science, technology and engineering research were John Marburger, science adviser to President Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dean of the Faculty Joseph Taylor. Topics discussed ranged from basic versus applied research to funding from the federal government versus funding from industry.
Findings from this session included:
· Although Princeton has some disadvantages when it comes to such research -- such as its small size and no medical school (both conscious decisions on the part of the University) -- it has several advantages, including strong centers of excellence in individual departments, an intimate campus where collaboration across departments is facilitated, and the integration of engineering and science education in a liberal arts curriculum.
· On the science and technology spectrum, the trustees believed Princeton's strengths lie more on the basic side of research. While there are risks in moving forward aggressively to do more applied research through collaborations with industry, these opportunities -- as well as collaborations with medical schools -- should be explored.
· Not only should Princeton not create impediments to applied research, Princeton should be hospitable to applied research. The University should create a welcoming environment for those faculty and students who wish to do applied research.
"The sentiment among the trustees seemed to be that they wouldn't want to see a dramatic change in this area," Tilghman said. "We should proceed cautiously, continuing to focus on the quality of our education as well as the quality of our research."
The third session centered on Princeton as an international university. It was introduced by Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service; Anthony Lake, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Walsh School; and Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
The trustees discussed the extent to which Princeton is an international university, agreeing that Princeton is an American university with a global perspective. "The trustees feel it is important that all of our students leave the University with an appreciation of the culture, history, language and perspective of people from other countries," Tilghman said.
The discussion revolved around ways in which Princeton could accelerate toward a goal of becoming more international. Findings from this session included:
· The University should seek creative ways for all students to receive international exposure. These avenues could include incorporating comparative information into more courses as well as continuing to enhance study abroad programs and to bring international visitors to campus.
· The University could improve the promotion of Princeton internationally by tapping into the alumni network abroad.
"It was a very interesting day and a half," Tilghman concluded, noting that the trustees will explore other areas of the University in future meetings. "I think we were served very well by this educational experience. I came away pleased with the terrific groundwork we laid for the future."
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Editor: Ruth Stevens