(No puns intended for Gabriel Marquez's 1988 novel.)
Please spend a few minutes and read the College's announcement about current coronavirus situation. (The College sent it to you through MplsConnect email channel on 3/4.)
In 2019, the SciMath Team and I made a plan to improve our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). My summary of the SciMath 2019 KPI plan can be found HERE.
For 2020, I would like to propose the following initiatives. I am also inviting the team to propose additional initiatives that we should work on.
Closing Achievement Gaps
Dear Colleagues of SciMath and ITEC:
I am writing to you to sound a rally call. Minn State is launching a campaign called Equity 2030, which aims at eliminating the achievement gap at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities by 2030.
This is no easy task. For example, suppose there is a course with a passing rate of 80% for the white students and 60% for the student of color. Using an exponential growth model, to bring the 60% passing rate up to 80% in 10 years, the students of color need to perform 3% better than the previous year for 10 straight years, assuming that the passing rate is fixed at 80% for the white students.
On the other hand, Minnesota has had little/no success at closing the gap: the State has worked on it for the last two and half decades only to see the gap grow to one of the largest in the nation. Let's face it: despite all the great effort, Minnesota educators are not very good at teaching students of color, or the underprepared students in general. I am no exception: I have much to learn in the area, as a teacher and as an administrator.
Here are what I think we should do as individuals and as a team.
Keep searching for ways to teach underprepared students. Emergency room doctors don't refuse to treat smokers or alcohol/drug abusers, who are the most vulnerable and who need help most. As educators we also cannot abandon our weakest students. When students and their challenges evolve, so should we the educators. Let's continue to ask:
Continue to innovate. Let's look into new ideas as well as older but good ones that were not given a chance in the past. Let's try out good practices you learn from colleagues elsewhere or from professional associations. I will reach out not just to the Minn State System but also to successful inner-city colleges and HBCU around the nation for their best practices in educating students of color.
Take on the challenge and seize the opportunity. In the Chinese language, crises are called risky opportunities "危機". The achievement gap is a risky opportunity for our school. It is a risk because of its severe negative impact on an important portion of our students, but we also have an opportunity to turn things around. With a systemwide initiative, we might be able to get additional support or help. And if some of our peers in the College or the System choose to act passively or not at all, we would also seize the opportunity to take the lead in doing something great for our students.
Everyone in SciMath and ITEC has a great deal of professional and intellectual excellence, and we did not come this far in our careers just to be an ordinary college that can't handle students of color. The Minneapolis College is Minnesota's most diverse higher education institution, and we fulfill a unique role in serving a unique student body. Please join me in this important initiative for our students and for our college.
September 28 is Confucius' birthday, and Taiwan's National Teacher's Day. A philosopher, a political activist and an academic leader of 3000+ followers, Confucius himself was most proud of being a scholar and an educator (學而不厭，誨人不倦). Though not a religious figure, Confucius had the greatest and the most dominant influence on the entire Chinese culture and society as well as most of east and southeast Asia.
Happy Teacher's Day, esteemed colleagues! Thank you for being great educators for our students, as instructors, advisors and CLA's. May your work continue to enlighten our world and our time, like Confucius' work did to his.
According to a Spring 2019 survey of students at Minneapolis College, about half of them have been late for class 2+ times in the last year due to transportation issues. This means having late or absent students is almost an inevitable reality and it doesn't happen just because they don't care.
For the SciMath School Meeting on 9/19, I would like each one of us to think about 3 ways to run the first 15 minutes of class that are
1) meaningful or accountable for students who come to class on time, and
2) recoverable or less harmful for students who are late for 15 minutes.
We will hold a 15-minute discussion using a Family Feud Board. Prizes are pineapple short cakes and other yummy snacks from Taiwan. See you there!
One of my favorite podcast channels is Sticky Notes Podcast by conductor Joshua Weilerstein. In the episode What Does the Conductor Really Do, he describes a conductor as the silent member of the ensemble who does "nothing, and everything".
According to Weilerstein, professional orchestras can play pretty well without conductors because the musicians play their own parts capably, listen to each other and have no difficulty performing coherently together. However, a good conductor provides the kind of artistic leadership that may elevate music making to "the celestial level".
As the dean of the Schools of SciMath and ITEC, I feel the same way about what I do: nothing, and everything. No, I do not teach classes, advise students or maintain labs. But yes, I am involved in every aspect of our mission, and I do everything to support you and to maintain the key functions of our schools, from teaching to advising and from hardware to software.
In my first annual performance self-evaluation, I was asked about three points of pride about my programs. Instead of selecting three from the many things our team accomplished in 2018/19, my response is:
My schools made a great deal of accomplishments this year because (1) the faculty is student-centered, (2) most of them are open to my new ideas and proactive leadership, and (3) many actions and discussions are faculty-driven.
No, none of our success in AY 18/19 was about me or by me. They were the results of great individual or team work. I just did my part in this ensemble.
Going into AY 19/20, we have great opportunities in many things we do. Let's work together towards the celestial level!
All is welcome. Ben buys coffee/beverage for the first 2 visitors. Please stop by and talk about anything you wish.
Location: Dunn Bros Coffee on the T-Building 2nd Floor
Welcome to AY 19/20. As we begin the new semester, I would like to first look back on what we have done together as a team in Spring 2019. (You may want to check them against the objectives I set for Spring 2019.) We have:
For Fall 2019, I would like to focus on the following:
(1) Agendas our school would like to prioritize. I will be hosting a discussion at our first meeting on 8/22, and I shall follow up with action plans.
(2) Continuing the discussion on good teaching. Let's keep discussing teaching ideas and sharing good practices.
(3) Developing more transfer agreements and transfer guides.
(4) Providing great service to the college. None of our degree programs (MATH, BIOL or CHEM) graduated 2-digit-numbers of students in 2019. Our courses are in high demand mainly because they are needed by many other disciplines. It only makes sense that we calibrate these "service courses" and make them more relevant to students in all disciplines in the college. In Fall 2019, our school will initiate a curriculum conversation by BIOL, CHEM and NURSING.
(5) Learning more about your concerns. I will be hosting biweekly coffee hours at the Dunn Bros Coffee. Please join me and let's chat!
(6) Creating new programs. AS in Environmental Science is in the works, so are some other exciting opportunities.
How are you? I hope you had a fantastic summer vacation. The new academic year is upon us, and I know you are as excited as I am, if not more! As we prepare for the grand opening, I would like to remind you of the following:
1. The faculty duty days (AAD) are 8/21 and 8/22. I will glue myself to the greeting table this year, so that I won't miss the opportunity to say hi after the long summer. Please plan to attend: there will be a lot of important information for you, as well as fun activities like Dean's Contest on the new faculty handbook, game-show style. (I am playing against John Ford and Traci Krause; wish me luck.)
2. The School of SciMath meeting is 3--4:30pm on 8/22. I will lead a brainstorming activity. Please view this video and complete the worksheet before the meeting.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you on 8/21 and 8/22!
For the Spring of 2019, I would like to pursue the following:
(1) Any great ideas and progressive agenda from you. Our school will be at its best when important agendas are faculty-driven. Let me be a great supporter of your great ideas, not the annoying manager who tries to drag the entire school in his own direction.
(2) KPI-related initiatives. Our school's KPI's are: (a) increasing the number of awards, and (b) eliminating achievement gaps and improving course learning outcomes.
(3) Transfer agreements and course equivalencies. With the help from discipline faculty, I will be reaching out to our frequent transfer partners (UMN, Augsburg, Metro, etc.) and working on optimizing the transfer pathways for our students. This would allow us to better serve our students and improve our degree programs.
(4) Planning new programs. The College supports our school to develop a new degree in Environmental Science and to study the opportunity of a pre-engineering or a broad field engineering degree.
(5) Promoting opportunities on improving teaching. Cheryl will continue to lead us in this important exploration, and I'll continue to advocate and support everyone in our school to find better ways to deliver excellent teaching to our student population.
(6) Visiting at least one 4-year transfer destination.
Is there anything our school should also pursue? Please let me know.
Dr. Ben Weng