In 2011, Provost Gregg Kvistad charged a task force of faculty members and administrators with creating — and testing — new ways to improve learning at every level of the University. The initiative is called Renew DU.
Q: What is driving Renew DU?
A: There are a few drivers of this initiative. First, after the University received its Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation in spring 2011, we immediately began the process of setting University-wide academic priorities for the next five to 10 years. We regularly do this after accreditation visits, and this follows that pattern. Second, as we all know, there are enormous challenges, as well as opportunities, facing higher education in the U.S., and it is imperative that the University align its academic programs, initiatives, and faculty and staff resources to meet those. This process must involve broad swaths of the University — most fundamentally, our faculty members. And third, as in all complex institutions, it’s important to take stock of what we are doing, how well we are doing it, and how we can do it better.
Q: What are the task force’s strategic priorities?
A: They’re focused on six areas: academic technology, university teaching, inclusive excellence, internationalization, interdisciplinarity and research. We have six incubators, made up of faculty and administrators, soliciting proposals from the faculty for each of these areas. The goal is to identify a group of promising University-wide initiatives and pilot-test them by drawing on a “venture fund” created by the University. Then, we’ll select the most successful and transformational of the tested projects and implement them.
Q: What has happened to date, and what happens next?
A: Currently, the incubators are reviewing, sorting and combining proposals to present to the Renew DU Committee, which consists of faculty members and administrators. This process began in the summer and will continue through the fall term.
Q: Is there a precedent in University history for this experimental approach?
A: The closest analogue at the University is the Marsico Initiative that we used to intensify undergraduate arts and sciences education about a decade ago. That was a five-year initiative that also used pilot testing. It started in 2002 and eventually transformed the undergraduate writing program, the general education curriculum, student orientation, advising, and a number of other key components of the undergraduate academic experience.
Q: How will we know if Renew DU is a success?
A: Renew DU will be a success if, two or three years from now, we can point to a handful of University-wide academic programs that have fundamentally improved the academic experience of our students and faculty.