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Leadership in undergraduate education recognized in report

A new national report that calls for a dramatic reorganization of higher education in this country recognizes U-M for its innovations in undergraduate education.

The report, released Sept. 30 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), centers on giving all students—regardless of institution or major—a practical and engaged liberal education.

“Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College” features U-M as one of the pace-setting institutions leading the way in creating a “New Academy” for the 21st century. The report recommends a series of major reforms affecting nearly all aspects of higher education, including how colleges and universities organize, teach and interact with K-12 educators.

AAC&U chose the University after a competitive process for its comprehensive commitment to learning-centered education. Innovations at U-M inform the report’s findings and recommendations for the future of higher education.

Lester Monts, senior vice provost and senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs, and Constance Cook, director of the Center for Research in Learning and Teaching, are U-M’s liaisons to the Greater Expectations Project. Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, served on the panel that developed the action steps recommended in the report.

Monts says he is proud of U-M’s contribution to this effort to rethink the role of liberal education. “We have a number of initiatives in place that are consistent with the recommendations of the Greater Expectations report. President Mary Sue Coleman has been clear that making progress on improving the undergraduate experience for our students is high on her list of priorities,” Monts says.

The Report of the President’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience issued last fall shows that the University has much to boast about, yet has room to improve in this area, Monts says. “Our vibrant undergraduate degree programs; the diverse living-learning communities; the Program on Intergroup Relations, Conflict and Community; the International Institute; the College of LS&A’s race and ethnicity course requirement; and programs offered by the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service are examples of ways we prepare students for civic engagement in an increasingly diverse society. Our pre-college and outreach programs, administered by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, are also in line with the report’s recommendation for close alignment between colleges and K-12 educators,” Monts says.

Recommendations from the Greater Expectations panel include:

  • Restructuring higher education to better serve the new student body, which consists of more older, part-time and minority students, as well as students who get their college education over longer periods of time and from multiple institutions.

  • Adopting new ways of teaching that produce students who are intentional, lifelong learners capable of meeting emerging challenges.

  • Integrating elements of the curriculum—general education, the major and electives—into a coherent program for every student.

  • Utilizing new curricula and teaching practices that require students to demonstrate their accomplishments and apply them to the real world.

  • Creating a closer alignment between colleges and K-12 educators.

    The report concludes that a practical, liberal education for all students should be built on the belief that all students are capable of higher level learning; commitment to inclusiveness and equal access to high-quality college education for all individuals and groups; clear and coherent expectations of achievement throughout education levels; solid preparation for challenging college work achieved through excellent K-12 teaching and curricula; and a focus on learning and the quality of student accomplishment.

    Having released the Greater Expectation panel’s recommendations, AAC&U is calling upon university and college presidents to lead the discussion about the purpose of liberal education in the 21st century.

    Monts announced that Coleman will host a campus and community dialogue on April 3, 2003. It will bring together educators and community leaders from southeastern Michigan with AAC&U senior staff members, who will speak about the report’s recommendations and provide the organization’s perspective on liberal education.

    AAC&U is a national association devoted to advancing and strengthening liberal learning for all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Since its founding in 1915, AAC&U’s membership has grown to nearly 800 accredited public and private colleges and universities. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at the national and local levels, and to help institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

    Greater Expectations was published with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The full report, with additional links and information, is available at For information about AAC&U, visit

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