Author Archives: Director of University Affairs

Director of University Affairs

About Director of University Affairs

ASUW Director of University Affairs

International Student Fee and Advisory Committee

This quarter, there has been a major shift in ASUW’s opinion regarding the International Student Fee. While support for this $45 a quarter fee passed our Student Senate this year, after the fee was levied there were many international students who didn’t hear about the fee in time to weigh in on the discussion. After an impressive effort from students and RSO’s, the ASUW changed its opinion just before spring break to instead support the removal of the fee, funding the services from other operating funds.

This process made me realize that ASUW, and the University, needs a better way to conduct a dialogue with international students, separate from current governance structures. To that end, I worked with a few administrators to create the International Student Advisory Committee, which will be composed of 13 international students advising four administrators. Applications are currently open at http://tinyurl.com/ASUWISAC . Feel free to contact me at asuwbdua@uw.edu with any questions!  Applications close Monday April 21st.

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Internal Lending Program Brief

This post is a little bit of a trial for me; I’m beginning to think that there is not enough information out there about the workings of the UW in a digestible form. I wrote a brief earlier this year on the Internal Lending Program, which is the major method UW uses to pay for its large capital expenditures. Hopefully I’ll be able to release similar briefs as the year goes on.

Cheers,
Jeffrey McNerney
Director of University Affairs

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Universities in the Digital Age

Perhaps the most important philosophical question that colleges have to answer today is why students should be paying for a brick and mortar education when theoretically we could all watch lectures online from a single faculty.  The availability of technology has forced a consideration of what higher education really means, and the value of the current system.  The dilemma facing universities now is how to incorporate video and online strategies into the curriculum to create the most effective education system possible.

To that end, ideas like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Flipped Classrooms have been created and tested.  There has been mixed opinions on the system, with a recent article about a small study in USA today making waves:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/22/flipped-classrooms-effectiveness/3148447/ The UW is beginning the process of taking a look at how these, and Online Degree Completion programs effect students, faculty, the university as a whole, and what a UW degree means.  If you have any experience with online learning, I’d love to hear your perspectives.  Email me at asuwbdua@uw.edu, or stop by the ASUW Office.

Cheers!

Jeffrey McNerney
ASUW Director of University Affairs

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The Importance of Shared Governance

Do you feel like you should have a say in how UW is run?  Most people seem to believe in some sort of input from students, but that frame of mind didn’t always exist in higher education.  Over the last 100 years there’s been a steady, though at times slow, increase in the extent to which students participate in the governance of the University, and now there’s a Student Regent, students presenting budgets, students meeting in Olympia, even students deciding on the appeals for library fines.  From this representation has come stronger student rights, new and better ideas for the University, and a stronger higher education system in the United States.

The student voice has the capacity to do incredible things, but for that voice to be strong, it must be wide and diverse.  It’s simply not enough to have one student talking about issues, or two, or three.  Real change comes when hundreds or thousands of students stand together with clear and unified goals.  ASUW, which has the benefit of institutional shared governance, can facilitate this process by making sure as many students as possible are able to get involved in areas and issues that fit their interests and skill sets.

Whether it’s through Senate, RSOs, or other means, every student should have the opportunity to find a way to make their voice heard.  As the Director of University Affairs, I make many of the appointments to Faculty and University Committees, and I’m always looking for more people to volunteer and sit on these committees!  It’s really a rare opportunity to sit around a table with administrators and distinguished faculty, exploring the issues facing UW, and it’s one of the best ways to enrich your college experience and take advantage of the Washington Way.

If you’re interested, check out volunteer.asuw.org!!

-Jeffrey McNerney, Director of University Affairs

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Improving Resources for TAs on Campus

One of the central aspects of my role as Director of University Affairs is to focus on ways that we can improve the academic experience for all students. When I’ve asked undergraduate students and Student Senators for ways that we can do this, the response that I most often get is to find ways to recognize and prioritize teaching quality at our institution – a difficult task in some cases where departments would rather focus on more lucrative research efforts.

When I researched this further, I found that the base of the problem rested in the fact that many graduate students are thrown into the classroom with little resources on how to teach well. All of the individuals that enter these positions are immensely qualified to do so; they have not only been admitted to the University of Washington, but succeeded in the often competitive process to gain funding as a Teaching Assistant. However, teaching is difficult, and in doing it for the first time you are often going to make mistakes or remain unaware of the most helpful techniques for the students in your classroom.

 
I took on this issue this last quarter by establishing the ASUW Working Group on TA Support. We are a group of nine students that are passionate about teaching at the UW, and our goal was to twofold: find a way to provide more resources for teachers that want them, and determine the systematic issues that are preventing those resources from being distributed.

After weeks of meeting with graduate students, relevant administrators, and collecting stories from dozens of students on the issue, I am proud to say that we have finished the first Student Best Practices Guide for Teaching at the University.

This will be distributed widely in the next few weeks with the intent that each TA at the UW will have an understanding first-hand, from students, of what are the best (and worst) techniques to engage a classroom. This is an ambitious goal, but the response we have received for this guide has been immensely positive and I am confident it will serve as a valuable resource for the University for many years to come.

Our next step is to write a briefing on the systematic issues at hand here at the UW. We believe that this report will give the analysis that is necessary for the administration to do something about increasing resources for TAs at this University.

We have already been successful in bringing teaching to the front of administrative attention; the recent International Student Fee proposal (which we have not taken a stance on but ASUW has supported) included an allocation for increased investment in International TAs as a result of our work. We are confident that, moving forward, both our analysis and the change in thinking we have promoted will lead to positive results for teaching at the UW.

If you have any questions about this initiative, feel free to contact me at asuwbdua@uw.edu! I look forward to discussing this important issue with you.

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Three Ways to Help Middle Class Families Pay for a UW Education

Our nation’s leaders have made a commitment to the prosperity of the middle class. Even this week, our President stated his top priority is to “do everything in [his] power to fight for the middle class.”

However, it is often the middle class that leaves their education with the most debt. A 2012 study of the American Sociological Association found that students from middle income backgrounds graduate with an average of $6000 more debt than their lower income peers, and about $10,000 more debt than their upper income peers.

The University of Washington is not sheltered from this problem. Here, “grant aid” stops at around $15000 Estimated Family Contribution, calculated by the FAFSA. This is better than past years, but we can do more. I still hear many stories of students that are loading up student debt because their families’ resources are limited and they don’t get any financial aid.

Here is what I propose we do about it:

1. Repeal the ability for the University of Washington to charge differential tuition.

A proposed policy of the University of Washington is to charge Engineering and Business majors $3000-$5000 extra per year for their education. There are some benefits to this, such as giving the UW ability to expand these programs and increase their quality, but ultimately, middle class students would be paying for it. Tuition increases hurt those without ability to pay or financial aid assistance the most. I believe it would squeeze these students out from these majors and force them to look to other fields of study.

That’s why I’m excited to advocate for HB 1043, which prevents the UW from charging differential tuition to resident undergrads based on fields of study. E-mail our Office of Government Relations at asuwogr1@uw.edu if you would like to join the efforts to pass this bill!

2. Preserve GET, the Guaranteed Education Tuition program.

There has been some talk in Olympia of eliminating GET (does anyone else think the term ‘Education Tuition’ is redundant?). I think this would be a bad move if we truly want to support middle class access to higher education. GET allows families to buy credits of tuition at near-current prices, allowing them to pay for tuition at this year’s rate. With the way tuition has been increasing lately, this is a great investment – I have a friend whose parents paid his whole tuition for about $20,000. While GET may not be accessible to everyone, it is largely middle class families that benefit from it. Furthermore, it gives the state incentive to keep tuition low, because it costs them more money when tuition increases. For more information, check out this post.

3. Create an aid program like the Middle Class Action Plan.

It is unfortunate to say that the Cal system seems to be leading us in the area of middle class financial aid. They have recently implemented the Middle Class Action Plan, which restricts family contribution to resident undergraduate cost of education to 15% of their total income. So, for example, if you came from a family that makes $100,000 per year, your parents would only need to pay $15,000 towards tuition, books, and housing, which costs about $30,000 at UW. It works for a stated income range of $80,000 to $140,000 (and their financial aid for below $80,000 was already fairly comprehensive).

Middle Class Action Plan Chart

They were even able to fund it without state support, through philanthropic donations and admitting increased amounts of non-resident students (they also qualify for the program, but only the resident costs – see this article for more info).  This is pretty revolutionary, and while I think our own income range for a program like this would be a little lower, it seems completely feasible to implement.

Let’s see if we can’t make something like this work for us at UW. If you feel the same way, and you want the UW administration to know about it, let me know at asuwbdua@uw.edu.

That’s all for this week! I will continue to work as hard as I can, along with the rest of our ASUW advocacy team, to make the above things happen and bring the cost of education down for all Huskies.

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Making Course Evaluations Results More Accessible to Students

During my campaign for this office, I made a promise that I would work to implement course evaluations reform. This has been one of my primary focuses over the past couple weeks, and it has been a topic on the agendas of my past two predecessors. Here’s what I would like to see changed:

  • Course Evaluations data should be in a more prominent and relevant location in academic planning. Ideally, one could immediately see the evaluations and comments for a given professor when looking at their class in the Time Schedule. Additionally, few people actually know that they can see the results of their course evaluations in the Course Evaluation Catalog of MyUW. For example, here are the evaluations for my Math 125 class last year (a pretty fair review). This info needs to be more accessible for students to make the best decisions in choosing courses.
  • There should be an option for Course Evaluations to be given online. This would save the UW a ridiculous amount of paper, and most schools are already moving to this model. This would also make the data easier to analyze and therefore give students better information when looking at the results.

I met with the MyUW redesign team, the Director of the Office of Educational Assessment, and the MyPlan development team, and things are looking good! Provided that we generate the right decision-making support for it, MyPlan, a student-funded project, is on track to bring Course Evaluations Data to the forefront in academic planning. The Office of Educational Assessment will have an online course evaluations pilot running in the Law School next year. Finally, the MyUW team is interested in making course evaluations more closely related to the registration process in the next version.

So what is our role in this process?

Unfortunately, Faculty don’t always support the free distribution and publicizing of course evaluations data, and it will be especially hard to garner support for the release of student comments. I believe that if students come out in strong support of both of these actions, it will make a big difference in University decision-making related to this issue.

As always, feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have questions or want to get in touch on a specific Administration or Faculty related issue at asuwbdua@uw.edu.

Yours,

Michael Kutz

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