Sept. 24-30, 1999
Study of staff morale shows respect is key
Managers build strong relationships with employees
VA 2020 Science and Technology Planning Commission to hold workshops Sept. 23-25

NEH recognizes two U.Va. web sites

Women's Club entertains Virginia 2020 themes
Q&A - Dean Sondra Stallard on a mission
After Hours - Couple spends weekends horsing around
Housekeepers honored at picnic
Hot Links - Intramural-Recreational Sports
Stephen Cushman publishes narrative on Civil War battle
Woodson Institute fellows announced

In Memoriam

Sounds of Indian flute to fill Old Cabell Hall on Oct. 2

Opening U.Va.'s doors to working adults

By Ida Lee Wootten

Eighteen people are beginning a new chapter in U.Va.'s history this fall. Coming primarily from the local area, with an average age just over 37, the students are the first to enter the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program. Approved by the State Council of Higher Education in April, the program opens U.Va.'s doors to working adults who want to pursue education on a part-time basis.

To enter the program, students must meet strict admission requirements including completion of approximately 60 transferable hours of credit. "This is not a way to circumvent the regular undergraduate admission process," said Donna Plasket, who was named BIS director in August. "It's not a program for 18-year-olds."

The new third-year students are embarking on an academic path quite different, but just as rigorous, as that facing other undergraduates, program planners say.

Those who enter the BIS program begin as provisional-status students. To gain regular status, they must successfully complete within four consecutive sessions a core of liberal studies, prerequisites needed for their concentrations, BIS coursework and a computer competency requirement. Once gaining regular status, BIS students must declare a concentration, choosing from business, humanities, information technology and social sciences. In rare cases with permission of the BIS director and guidance of an academic adviser, students can create their own concentrations.

Among the BIS courses students must complete are two Critical Issues Seminars and one Analytical Skills Seminar. Small, discussion-oriented classes focusing on ethics and effective decision-making in contemporary society, Critical Issues Seminars will require at least two oral presentations and major papers, allowing students to refine their thinking, writing and speaking skills. After soliciting proposals from faculty across Grounds, the first two seminars are on "Punishment and Forgiveness" and "Nationalism and National Identity."

In order to graduate, BIS students must complete a Capstone Project. Similar to a senior thesis, the project will allow students to work as individuals or teams to examine their educational experiences in a meaningful way, such as through research, scientific experiments or performances. The group of new students is expected to finish the program in two to six years.

"We want to get to know these students and their needs. We'll need to know, for example, if they want representation on Student Council or the Honor Committee," said history professor Thomas Noble, who has served as chair of the BIS Advisory Committee.

Everything about the new program, from its admission requirements to the curriculum and areas of concentration, has been crafted through the caring, deliberate work of the advisory committee. Created in April 1998, the committee met weekly for well over a year to hammer out such details as administrative regulations, advising procedures, faculty credentials, and students' access to computer labs, library resources, recreational facilities and career planning and placement. The committee continues to meet at least monthly.

Committee members welcomed the challenge of starting an undergraduate program for adults. "To build consensus and to expand our minds about the idea, we started with a wide-ranging discussion of what the program would be and how it would mesh with other University programs," said Noble. "We wanted the program to have a liberal arts core that offered real-world applications."

The initial advisory committee included Noble and faculty members Daniel Larson, Milton Adams, William Kehoe, Barbara Nolan, and Toni Wegner. Steve Thornton joined the group after Larson left U.Va. Vice President and Provost Peter Low and Continuing Education Dean Sondra Stallard served as ex-officio members. Also on the committee was Kurt Gottschalk, chair of the business technologies division at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

"It was a labor of love for those on the committee. Everything about the program had to be pinned down, from the several-step admissions process to the scope of the curriculum. Without Tom Noble's leadership, the new program would not have been possible. He had the vision and tenacity to get us there," Stallard said.

Now that the program is a reality, Plasket has several short-and long-term goals for BIS students. Among the most immediate is creating a welcoming environment for the new students. "I want the students to be fully integrated into the University experience," she said. To help them adjust to University life, Continuing Education hosted an orientation on Aug. 28, "move-in day" for first-year students. At the event, both Stallard and U.Va. President John T. Casteen III welcomed the students. Noble and Jim Baker, associate director, Center for University Programs, described the University's academic expectations and honor traditions. The BIS students were also invited to that night's Convocation and Honor Induction on the Lawn.

Plasket sees well beyond the first group of students. "I want the student body to grow quickly, without compromising the program's quality. And I want the program to move beyond Charlottesville, just as Continuing Education has done with other programs," she said.

Stallard sees a move off-Grounds as realistic. "Once we have insured that this program is of extraordinary quality and comparable to other undergraduate degree programs, we will want to take it to people who cannot come to Charlottesville to study part-time," she said.

Stephanie Gross
Willie Young, left, teaches a class on "Punishment and Forgiveness," a Critical Issues Seminar that is part of the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies curriculum.


Profile of the 18 students in the BIS program

  • 12 women
  • two African-American
  • 17 Caucasian
  • 15 live in Charlottesville or Albemarle County
  • One lives in Richmond
  • Average age, 37.6
  • 10 have an associate degree
  • 14 took at least one class at a Virginia community college
  • 13 took at least one course at Piedmont Virginia Community College
  • All but one work at least 35 hours per week
  • Four are employed at U.Va.
  • Two are former U.Va. students in good standing





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