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essay

Teaching and learning
an essay by Dr. George Barthalmus

Shortly after being named Academic Programs director (see related article), Dr. George Barthalmus wrote an open letter to the College family. Following is a condensed version of that letter.

G. BarthalmusThose of you who have known me know that my dedication to students, teaching, research and extension is unbending and unbiased. Although my focus will be on Academic Programs, I firmly support the teaching and learning that occurs through research and extension. I have experienced the synergy that rises out of the close association between our three College functions and from the single but dynamic fabric that expresses the ties between the agricultural and life sciences units. This fabric is our strength and the envy of others.

Following are some key areas of focus:

    • Academic excellence must be promoted and defended as we are pressed to grow in enrollment while adapting to dramatic changes in science and technology and to greater expectations from clientele and taxpayers.
    • Strong undergraduate student advising and mentoring services must be shaped into the normal culture of student-faculty ties.
    • We must learn to better respond to the ever-increasing demand for accountability. We must show that having been with us for four or five years has changed students’ lives in important and measurable ways.
    • The agricultural and life sciences are undergoing a scientific and technological revolution. I will help shape our curricula to better position our graduates for jobs in the emerging agricultural, environmental and health-related industries. I want the College to be positioned so that our students not only recognize career options but are sought out by industries and graduate programs.
    • Do we need to offer more than 40 undergraduate curricula? Or should we focus our menu, making it better and more reflective of realities in campus resources and the employment world? I ask that we study this issue.
    • We must use our facilities and faculty time efficiently. I will encourage adapting a few courses (perhaps beginning with graduate courses) that can be taught in 1-3 credit modules over abbreviated time periods (3-6 weeks) and at atypical times (evenings or weekends).
    • I will promote undergraduate research at every turn. All experience-based learning activities will be encouraged and financially supported.
    • We need capstone undergraduate courses that challenge our students to synthesize new ideas and to question old ones through discourse, teamwork and writing.
    • Teaching counts with me in tenure, promotion and salary adjustment decisions. Advising not only counts, it is expected and it factors into the faculty workload.
    • The College must increase its scholarship and graduate student support pools. The dollar value here is inextricably linked to excellent programs and satisfied graduates and employers.
    • I encourage faculty members to build a family spirit with students, a closer bond within departments, and a greater sense of shared excitement for learning. I also encourage graduate student involvement in the mentoring of undergraduate research.
    • I believe in advocacy initiatives that support new faculty, and I support the systematic peer review of teaching.
    • Student diversity is not an issue solely hinged to ethnicity and race. Students will be admitted and scholarships awarded based upon academic record, curriculum interests, special talents, leadership potential, unique work or service experience, appreciation of cultural and human diversity issues, urban or rural residency, ethnicity, gender and physical and/or learning challenges.

At 115 Patterson Hall, my door is always open to you.