November 9, 2015

Chancellor launches University Courses trans-institutional initiative; proposals due Dec. 14

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos today launched the University Courses initiative, a key component of Vanderbilt’s Academic Strategic Plan, to promote new and creative trans-institutional learning at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.

(Vanderbilt University)

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos today launched the University Courses initiative, a key component of Vanderbilt’s Academic Strategic Plan, to promote new and creative trans-institutional learning at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos (Vanderbilt University)

“These new courses — either taught by faculty outside of their home department or school or co-taught by faculty from different schools or colleges — will leverage the natural synergies across Vanderbilt’s 10 schools and colleges,” he said. “Faculty will have the opportunity to reach beyond departmental boundaries through innovative classes on important subjects that will not only promote students’ intellectual fulfillment but also prepare them for the complexities and challenges that await in the workplace and wider world.”

This cross-college teaching initiative will function as a curriculum “incubator” that invites faculty to develop new courses across undergraduate, graduate and professional school boundaries. These important new teaching investments will be well-positioned to partner with the initiatives arising from Vanderbilt’s major investment in Trans-institutional Programs.

“This initiative supports Vanderbilt’s values, which are commitments to a liberal education, research and diverse perspectives,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Wente. “Great faculty teaching great students provides valuable opportunities to yield both learning and discovery. These courses will help our students develop critically important intellectual and civic capabilities while ensuring our faculty are immersed in a vibrant environment of learning and discovery.”

All University Courses should seek to advance the following goals:

  • Big Questions: addressing enduring historical questions, cross-cutting societal themes and today’s most captivating challenges
  • Innovation: approaching subject matter with an innovative methodology
  • Synergy: leveraging an interdisciplinary approach to create or extend collaborations across fields as it relates to both teaching and discovery
  • Diversity: embracing opportunities to present diverse perspectives
  • One Vanderbilt: advancing the mission of One Vanderbilt through collaborations and coursework
  • Learning: educating the whole student and promoting lifelong learning by tackling pressing real-world problems

A special call is further issued for Multicultural University Courses that meet the above criteria and specifically address multiculturalism, racial/ethnic issues, identity literacy, and/or cultural competency within an interdisciplinary setting.

This initiative arose from a series of conversations in a faculty committee chaired by Vice Provost John Geer. The committee was charged with implementing the recommendation from the new Academic Strategic Plan to facilitate more cross-college teaching. “The interest is this idea was widespread across all the faculty,” Geer noted, “and I am so pleased to see this idea come to life.”

Members of the faculty committee are:

  • Chair John Geer, Provost’s Office
  • Ellen Armour, Divinity School
  • Robin Fountain, Blair School of Music
  • Christopher Loss, Peabody College of education and human development
  • Jonathan Metzl, College of Arts and Science
  • David Miller, School of Medicine
  • David Owens, Owen Graduate School of Management
  • Doug Schmidt, School of Engineering
  • Mavis Schorn, School of Nursing
  • Kevin Stack, Law School
  • Ex-officio Cynthia Cyrus, Provost’s Office

Proposals for the 2016-17 academic year are due Dec. 14, with awards being announced in January 2016. A committee will be tasked with evaluating proposals and making recommendations to the provost and chancellor. Proposals for courses must involve full-time faculty, and at least one faculty member should be tenured or tenure-track. The courses must be new (not previously offered) or be a substantial reworking of an existing course. Proposed courses must generate sufficient enrollment to be funded, and courses will be funded through this initiative for up to three semesters over five years.

The proposal budget can include expenses up to $5,000 to support course materials or outside speakers each time the course is offered during the funding period. Faculty members will receive a one-time $10,000 allocation. Separate from the above funding, deans of involved schools and colleges will receive funding for each taught University Course to cover faculty costs and course reductions. After a course is offered for the third time, the cost of successful University Courses will be covered by the respective deans.

Two information workshops will be held in the next several weeks to provide interested faculty with an opportunity to gain understanding of the University Courses objectives and ask questions about the proposal writing and submission process. Faculty are also encouraged to submit any questions or feedback using this form on the Academic Strategic Plan website.