Provost announces new committee to improve undergraduate experience

CWRU Provost Bud BaeslackProvost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack today announced the launch of a two-year effort to assess undergraduate education at Case Western Reserve and identify ways to enhance future students’ overall campus experience.

“Our university has a long history of excellence and innovation in education, and we have continued to evolve rapidly to provide students new opportunities and approaches to learning,” Baeslack said. “This faculty-led process will involve a more comprehensive look at all that we do now, as well as strategic consideration of steps we can take to offer an even stronger program for future undergraduates.”

The initiative, known formally as the Provost’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience (CUE), builds on goals articulated in the university’s most recent strategic plan, Think Beyond the Possible. That 2013 document emphasizes engaging and inspiring students, preparing them for global leadership and innovation, and creating knowledge through interdisciplinary initiatives.

To help achieve these priorities, Baeslack explained that the CUE will:

  • develop and articulate a philosophy and approach for advancing CWRU’s undergraduate experience, including SAGES and general education requirements;
  • explore how CWRU’s residential environment could better support learning and provide a more intellectually vibrant experience for undergraduate students; and
  • engage those who can help CWRU understand external perceptions of CWRU’s undergraduate programs and how any changes that may implemented would be perceived.

Associate Professor of English Kimberly Emmons, a member of the faculty since 2003, will chair the provost’s commission, which includes eight other faculty from schools that enroll undergraduates. The group also has four senior administrators, and one undergraduate student. Baeslack said the CUE will consult widely with the campus community throughout the process, and also seek perspectives from prospective students.

“I’m excited to be a part of this effort to refine and enhance the undergraduate experience at CWRU,” Emmons said. “The last several years have seen significant growth in our educational programs and our national profile, but we still have many challenges to meet. I welcome the opportunity to participate in the dialogue that will shape the lives of our students: the innovators, leaders, and scholars of the future.”

The university’s previous major examination of undergraduate programs, the President’s Commission on Undergraduate Education and Life (PCUEL), completed its report in 2001—also after a one-year process. Recommendations from that assessment helped lead to the development of Village at 115.

Glenn Starkman, director of the Institute for the Science of Origins and professor of physics and astronomy, led the PCUEL process. Based on that experience, he advised that the new group work with the entire campus community to determine how the university can best draw on its strengths to provide future students a complete, coherent experience that also is distinctly Case Western Reserve’s.

“Fortunately, [our] assets are many—from the excellence of our faculty across the university, to our fortunate position at the heart of one of the most vibrant centers of cultural and scientific institutions in the world,” Starkman said. “Be bold, but be prepared with a clear and realistic understanding of the financial costs and human effort that will be required to make our communal vision a reality.”

Part of the commission’s engagement will involve targeted efforts by working groups and subcommittees. Donald Feke, vice provost for undergraduate education, will staff the CUE, along with Victoria Wright, associate vice president for university administration and planning. More information on the group’s charge and work soon will be available at The Commission also will provide periodic updates and encourages those with questions, comments or recommendations to email

“We’ve selected an outstanding team to lead this effort,” Baeslack said. “We know they will share creative ideas and engage students, faculty members, staff and other stakeholders in considering the possibilities and identifying priorities for the future.”

The Provost’s Commission includes:

  • College of Arts and Sciences: Kimberly Emmons (chair), associate professor of English; Jerrold Scott, professor and chair of the Department of Theater; Lee Thompson, professor and chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences; and Blanton Tolbert, associate professor of chemistry
  • Case School of Engineering: Daniel Lacks, the C. Benson Branch Professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering; and Frank Merat, associate professor of electrical, computer and systems engineering
  • Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing: Amy Bieda, assistant professor of nursing
  • Weatherhead School of Management: Robin Dubin, professor and chair of the Department of Economics
  • School of Medicine: Hope Barkoukis, associate professor of nutrition
  • Support areas: Richard Bischoff, vice president for enrollment management; David Fleshler, associate provost for international affairs; Susan Nickel-Schindewolf, associate vice president of student affairs; and Jeffrey Wolcowitz, dean of undergraduate studies
  • Student representative: Nishant Uppal, a junior biomedical engineering student