I stood in for the Chancellor at the 114 annual ROTC Pass-in-Review held at the Pride Field on the NMSU Horseshoe. It was a great honor to review our ROTC cadets and note their unity and pride. My congratulations to Lt. Col. Jeremiah Klomp and Maj. George Childs for their good work in leading the cadets. In my remarks to the cadets, I noted that one of the privileges an officer has is to lead enlisted men and women. These are extraordinarily dedicated men and women and there is no greater honor than to lead them. I encouraged the cadets to endeavor to be worth of the respect they will receive from the men and women they lead, and from the American public, which holds military service in great esteem.
Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium
It was a singular pleasure to welcome students to the 21st URCAS, the longest running student symposium at NMSU. In my remarks, I focused on the importance of the relationship students have formed with their research advisors, noting that these relationships often last a lifetime. I noted that my friendship with my Ph.D. advisor, who recently passed away, had lasted for 40 years and that there were few people who had had such a profound and positive impact on my life and the life of my family.
NMSU General Education Taskforce
At the Friday afternoon meeting of the General Education Taskforce, we met to begin our work on a general education curriculum that would be built around the acquisition of essential skills. A great deal of the discussion focused on the question of whether there should be a common first year experience course, and if so, what the course would look like. There was considerable enthusiasm for the idea of a set of team taught courses (five faculty members, 100-125 students), with each course focusing on a big, interdisciplinary issue, such as climate change. Common to each course would be the introduction of the state essential skills and NMSU essential skills. Also, although these are large courses, students would break into smaller groups each week for discussions that would be led by a faculty member. The small group discussions would ensure that all students had the opportunity to really become acquainted with a tenured/tenure track or college track faculty member at NMSU. The team teaching model breaks us out of our silos and would encourage cross disciplinary interactions, which may lead to interesting interdisciplinary research programs. Another advantage is that it provides us with the opportunity to learn about teaching from one another. In an email message to me after the taskforce meeting, Jon Holtzman noted that another model to consider is a small class taught by a single faculty member. In my response to Jon, I agreed that this is a viable alternative and it may make sense to offer students both options. This would allow us to compare outcomes of the two models and determine which is more successful in imparting essential skills. With regard to cost concerns associated with small first year classes led by a single faculty member, I believe that nothing will help our retention more than students getting to know regular faculty members in a small class setting. If we can move the retention needle, these small classes will more than pay for themselves. Also, many of the electives taught at the upper division have small enrollments. As we move to 120 credits for a degree, these courses will have an increasingly hard time filling. This should free the faculty members necessary to focus more of our teaching efforts on the first year.