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Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1991

KU EDITION

August 17, 1991

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Undergraduate science education and faculty development will receive special attention this year in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"If you look at some of the shortcomings in higher education, our inability to interest . . . young people in the sciences would be high on that list," said James Muyskens, dean of the college.

His goal is to make the university a leader in science education and make the "general student scientifically literate."

Another of the dean's priorities this year is faculty development. This is a matter of necessity rather than luxury, he said.

Muyskens said the university must do more to assist faculty with their work because of limited state support for salaries and academic programs.

"WE'RE TRYING to do much more to help faculty write research grants and get extra (financial) support," he said.

Muyskens said a significant problem at KU and other research universities is the lack of start-up funds for science faculty. However, KU faculty continue to produce "tremendous scholarship," he said.

The college is the liberal arts hub that supports academic schools at the university. About half of KU's students are enrolled in the college.

Muyskens had been dean for three years, and over those years he has noticed more enthusiasm for the liberal arts.

"I feel more and more deans of other schools are supportive of trying to get students more of a liberal arts background," he said.

The dean said expansion of the environmental studies program may be one way to entice more students to the sciences.

"GET THEM interested in something like the environment. Then they see they need biology and chemistry and get interested in the sciences," Muyskens said.

"This major is a more interdisciplinary one, but there is a lot of good hard science."

The plan may look great on paper, but bringing that to life won't be easy, he said.

After Gov. Joan Finney's rejection of a tax increase, the university had to identify areas of the budget that could be cut.

Muyskens proposed that the largest share of the college's budget cut come from summer school in 1992.

About one-third of summer school course offerings, accounting for 40 percent of the summer enrollment, would be eliminated. Field camps, language institutes and other light enrollment courses would be retained, Muyskens said.

"The courses that would be cut would be those courses that are offered in the fall and spring," he said.

The result: More KU students won't be able to graduate in five years, Muyskens said.

"STUDENTS WHO work or students who take majors that require a lot or choose their major later in their career, really depend on summer," he said.

If a reduction in summer school doesn't meet the target, money could be taken from instructional labs. Reducing faculty employment wouldn't help, he said.

"The problem with that is we would lose our teaching capacity," he said.

Muyskens said the college could downsize its operations only if the number of students enrolled were decreased as well.

"The joke around here is that we're going to . . . do a basic chemistry class with 2,000 students in Memorial Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse," he said.

He said that type of mass-production instruction would dilute the quality of a student's experience.

"I don't see anything wrong with students having some big classes. We do some large classes very well. We do some classes terribly," he said.

He said one of the most serious academic problems in the colleges is that too many students cannot get into some courses in their major until their senior year.

"If you are applying to graduate school, that is a terrible disadvantage, because you're applying to graduate school with only 12 credits in your major," he said.

Muyskens said a solution to the problem isn't simple. It's impossible to match the number of seats in a classroom with the number of students enrolled, he said.

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