A couple of UDC’s neighbors see a lot of promise lurking behind the problems facing the District’s only public university. They’ve expressed hopes that UDC will blossom under Mayor Muriel Bowser’s watch – and they have a few suggestions about making that happen.
[col_1_2 style=”box border box_blue”]Click here to view the video of the December 10th forum. Speakers of note:
Before Mayor Bowser was sworn in on January 2nd, DC residents were invited to participate in eight transition forums on public safety, health and homelessness, affordable housing, open government, transportation and sustainability, education, economic development and the arts.
Two Forest Hills residents who’ve taken a great interest in UDC were among the more than 100 who testified at the then mayor-elect’s education forum on December 10th. Forest Hills Connection contributors Carol F. Stoel and David Jonas Bardin have written on UDC’s history and and some of its course programs.Stoel’s background is in education, most recently at the National Science Foundation’s Education Directorate, where she often worked with faculty and administrators from land grant universities like UDC. Before that, Stoel worked on a variety of programs that linked K-12 to post-secondary education and has evaluated the effectiveness of such programs on first-generation college goers.
She sees such collaboration between UDC and DC schools beginning to happen and describes such a program at the Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC).
“Many CHEC Early College students take English composition and first year seminar, prerequisites for a variety of courses at UDC. Others take college mathematics and logic. This college opportunity also gives students a financial boost by covering the tuition costs for the college courses. Happily, I note that the Office of the State Superintendent has currently covered tuition costs for Early College students attending UDC Community College. This policy should become institutionalized as it is in many states.”
Stoel tells the committee she has had the opportunity recently to look closely at three degree programs in particular, and she is impressed at what she’s found. At UDC’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences, at JAZZAlive and the music programs and archives, and at the Division of Urban Architecture and Community Planning: “Thriving centers of strong intellectual and creative vitality with outstanding faculty and leadership and would fit in at many land grant universities.”
But none are fully enrolled. Upon asking why, Stoel says, “I received complicated but hopeful responses. UDC is not well known, and many of its students are adults whose lives are complicated by work and families and are unable to take more than one course at a time. I also learned that some external critics have labeled UDC a “dropout factory” warning students not to attend it until its retention policies improve, and in truth with a 15% graduation rate after six years, there is serious reason for concern.”
Stoel exhorts the mayor to bring UDC into the fold and see it as an important city resource. She specifically suggests “ the mayor to invite a group of knowledgeable leaders to convene intermittently and advise the president (of UDC) and mayor, provide introductions to various key groups in the city, and offer support for new innovative programs that would prepare the city’s future workforce, such as in the STEM or high tech areas.”
Both she and David Bardin, who also testified, find the choice of the next president for UDC of the utmost importance, not only for the future of the university but for its value to the city.
Bardin, who has become a UDC student as a senior citizen and can take classes at no charge, testified of his concern about the governance of and funding for, this institution and makes these recommendations:
• Under re-elected Board Chairperson, Dr. Elaine Crider, the Trustees are moving to transform Board performance. That needs Mayoral support, for example, to persuade DC CFO DeWitt and UDC’s CFO (who serves at Mr. DeWitt’s pleasure) to provide timely information needed by Trustees to perform their fiduciary duties.
•UDC’s Presidential Search Committee, appointed in November, needs to define qualifications for the job in a way that opens the door to picking a transformative leader (not a business-as-usual one) – if he or she can be convinced to take the job.
• The Board should ask for resources it really needs to transform UDC, to attract DC residents for whom UDC is a good fit, to retain students, to enable students to advance toward and reach their educational goals, and to find their way afterwards – rather than accept the CFO’s dictate as to what it may seek.”
Bardin’s final recommendation is that the mayor include funding in the 2016 budget for the transformation of UDC in time for the new president to tackle the UDC Vision 2020 strategic plan. He says this will show “prospective candidates that this Mayor cares about all of UDC – its community college, its Flagship, its Law School, its non-academic training and community service programs as well as its academic, degree-conferring programs.” This is an opportunity, according to Mr. Bardin, the mayor should embrace, for the good of the students and the city.
Finally, one more suggestion by Stoel should be highlighted: “The creation of a Mayor’s Office of Institutional Research, PK-16, to collect a broad sweep of education and workforce data to understand at a fine grain level how to support greater access and retention of our citizens in the K-16 system, including workforce training. This would include tracking of STEM courses taken in high school, majors pursued in college, and STEM teacher training and professional development. It would help us to know how many new DC teachers are trained at UDC, and the quality of their preparation, particularly in reading and mathematics teaching.”
This important evaluation component to improving education is necessary for targeting improvement.
Editor’s Note: Both Carol Stoel and David Bardin exemplify our democracy at work. The Forest Hills Connection wants to recognize their efforts and those of others including our ANC Commissioners and the many public servants and other residents who contribute to making our city a wonderful place to live and to making it even much better.