September 29, 2005
By Anne Bromley
With a focus on student life and how to improve it, U.Va.’s
Board of Visitors Educational Policy Committee met on Friday
to discuss ways for faculty to incorporate diversity into
their teaching and how to increase student-faculty interaction
in the classroom and in research. Board member Glynn Key,
who chairs the committee, said she and the other members
are gathering information for a spring 2006 proposal they
will make on protecting and enhancing the undergraduate experience.
The results of an optional national survey about student
satisfaction with academic experiences were presented by
J. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, and
Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs
The data from the 2004-2005 National Study of Student Engagement
indicated that students’ satisfaction rate puts U.Va.
above the mean in the categories of faculty-student interaction,
enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment,
as well as class size.
When Key noted the perception persists that U.Va. students
have more larger classes than desired, Adams responded that
the data contravenes that perception; 51 percent of U.Va.
classes comprise 20 or fewer students, excluding discussion
sections and labs. Only 16 percent of classes enroll more
than 50 students, with the remaining percentage of classes
falling between those two sizes.
Getting students into the classes they need, and into the
appropriate kinds of classrooms, including those equipped
with the latest technology, will continue to be important
objectives, Adams said, especially as construction of new
buildings and renovations proceed in the near future.
According to the NSSE survey, U.Va. falls below the mean
in active and collaborative learning experiences. Edward
L. Ayers, dean of Arts & Sciences, noted that this measure
may be low because some disciplines don’t traditionally
use such teaching methods. In philosophy, for example, most
of the course experience focuses on individual work.
Lampkin used data from the study to present several snapshots
of student experience.
U.Va. students spend more time than students at other research
universities volunteering for community service, pursuing
internships and other practical experiences.
Lampkin mentioned that about 3,000 students a week volunteered
through Madison House, donating approximately 110,000 hours
of their time last year.
Shifting to student health issues, Lampking reported that
there seems to be a nationwide trend in the increase of students’ use
of mental health services. At U.Va., almost twice as many
students, 64, were hospitalized for psychological disorders
last year, compared to 34 two years ago. Counseling and Psychological
Services records show 1,700 students made 8,700 visits last
A slight increase in emergency-room visits related to alcohol
use by students may actually be due to encouraging them to
seek medical help, Lampkin said. In-house surveys by CAPS
and the Center for Alcohol and Substance Education show a
downward trend in other alcohol-related incidents, such as
students missing class, having unprotected sex, getting hurt
or being involved in fights.
“We continue to address these issues through multiple avenues,
such as orientation, social norms marketing campaigns and
student health education efforts,” she said.
Looking at students’ research experience, several deans
said there is a strong need to teach students methods and
standards of research in humanities, as well as sciences.
Adams said he would look into the possibility of offering
a methodology course in the January term. Dr. R. Ariel Gomez,
vice president for research and graduate studies, said the
methodology seminar for graduate students could be adapted
As the University seeks to recruit and enroll more students
interested in math and the sciences, opportunities for them
to get involved in research should make U.Va. more attractive,
said dean of admission John Blackburn.
To augment the stronger emphasis on diversity in recent years,
Adams suggested that faculty would benefit from a workshop
on teaching diverse groups of students and how to make diversity
an effective part of their teaching. The Teaching Resource
Center addresses this topic, but he would like to see more
faculty get involved, he said.
Karen Van Lengen, dean of the Architecture School, said she
supported the idea. At a former institution, she said a similar
type of training turned out to be positive, although faculty
resisted at first.