Faculty and staff pitch ‘Big Idea’ to alter TCU’s future


    TCU’s search for the Big Idea, a long-term plan to improve the university, has been narrowed down to four proposals that would drive the university, as a whole, in different ideological and academic directions, Catherine Wehlburg, assistant provost of Institutional Effectiveness, said.

    Wehlburg said that every 10 years the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools determined if the university followed the criteria to be eligible for re-accreditation.

    New criteria, implemented in 2004,called the Quality Enhancement Plan, required that universities create a project that would be in effect for a minimum of five years and that would enhance the quality of the institution, she said. This will be the first time TCU has attempted to meet that criteria.

    Wehlburg said the final drafts of the proposals are due May 1, and the final choice would be announced June 1. The plan would be implemented in June 2013, the same year that the university’s re-accreditation would take place.

    Administrators sent out varying levels of calls for project proposals and narrowed the field to four proposals, she said. During the process of choosing a plan, faculty and staff attended town hall meetings, but the public also was able to attend them. Wehlburg said she was shocked by the number of attendees.

    “The number of people that came — it was wonderful,” she said. “People were sitting on the floor.”

    According to the TCU Southern Association of Colleges and Schools website, over the course of several months, Big Idea team members formed plans, altered them, combined them and even scrapped them altogether.

    Instead of looking at it as a hassle, Chancellor Victor Boschini said the university is embracing the QEP as an important opportunity.

    “I think it’s great,” Boschini said. “It kind of forces us to be creative in our thinking.”
    When asked about the originality of the four final models, Wehlburg said they were completely new and were not based off plans executed by other universities. Where one plan would emphasize interdisciplinary studies, another plan would emphasize the fostering of creative thinking, she said.

    David Whillock, dean of the College of Communication and a Big Idea team member, said that although the Big Idea might affect the way the university is outwardly perceived, the focus should be on the internal transformation that would occur.

    “The most important [thing] is what it does for the students that are here or who will come here,” Whillock said. “That is, to allow them to stretch their minds and be able to enjoy an opportunity of enhanced education that will benefit them for life.”

    Wehlburg said the proposed programs would have the potential to impact not only policies that govern students, such as possible new study abroad opportunities, but also the financial structure that supported the university’s academics. However, Boschini and Wehlburg both agreed that no matter what plan was chosen, student tuition would not be affected.

    Team leaders Andrew Schoolmaster and David Aftandilian said despite competing for their ideas to be chosen, they believed no animosity had formed between teams and said they would be happy about the final selection, no matter the outcome.

    Boschini said the final decision might not be the end for plans that are not selected.
    “If these ideas are so compelling, I think it’s going to force us to put our feet to the fire and say, ‘We have to find a way to do these,’” he said.

    Four Big Idea proposal finalists with key points

    Creativity Across Disciplines and Cultures: Inquiry, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
    -The fostering of creative thinking and problem solving.
    -Transform learning across the campus and evolve TCU into The Creative University.

    Disciplina est Facultas: The Transforming Power of Inquiry, Global Integrated Learning, and Innovation
    -Interdisciplinary studies integrated with study abroad.
    -Team teaching and planning.
    -Reflection-focused service learning.
    -Purposeful international travel and study.
    -Participation in meaningful, cross-disciplinary research.

    TCU’s Global Community: Learning to Change the World and Education Across Borders: Engaging TCU with the World-Integrated Learning from Local and International Perspectives
    (Combination of two proposals)

    -Enhance study abroad definition and experience.
    -Interdisciplinary programs solving global issues.
    -Bring international disciplines to TCU classrooms.

    Transforming Campus and Community Through Community Engaged Scholarship-Engage local community.
    -More service learning.
    -Civic responsibility.
    -International research.
    -Create global leadership, starting with community engagement.

    *Information gathered from TCU’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) website.