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Let’s improve undergrad education this year


Constantine Tzouanas is the Student Association director of external affairs and a Wiess College sophomore

By Constantine Tzouanas     10/5/16 8:00am

Student responses to last year’s Survey of All Students encapsulate the emphasis we collectively place on our education: Three times as many students selected teaching for undergraduates as the key priority for the Student Association as any other area. As students, our time at Rice presents a unique environment for personal growth and development, including opportunities to learn from the diverse views of our fellow students, time to explore career possibilities through internships and experiential learning and of course, a world-class education that sets the foundation for success after graduation.

I see this year as an exciting opportunity for us as students to assert an active, engaged role in what goes on inside the classroom. From discussions with students, faculty and administration, I have seen significant interest in coming together to meet student needs in teaching. An article in last week’s Thresher described the IDEA course evaluation software, which brings together groups including the Provost’s Office, the Faculty Senate and the Center for Teaching Excellence. The SA is currently conducting the Survey of Teaching for Undergraduates to collect focused information on recurring areas of student feedback and lay the foundation for future student-led initiatives. In recognition of the contributions made by students and professors toward a positive classroom environment, we as students must collaborate with the stakeholders on campus to effect concrete progress in teaching for undergraduates.

Rice’s own mission statement notes a “distinctive commitment to undergraduate education” and “unsurpassed teaching.” Rice’s recent ranking as the fifth-best university in the nation for undergraduate teaching is cause for celebration and highlights our strengths in this area. I feel confident that a spirit of collaboration and open communication between faculty, administration and students will build upon this further. These two initial efforts, the Survey of Teaching for Undergraduates and the IDEA course evaluation pilot, are a strong start for students to play a key role in contributing to our undergraduate education. The unique opportunity we have at Rice to share our views and work for meaningful change is not one to be taken lightly. By committing to a campus-wide dialogue on what our education should look like, students can strengthen a vibrant academic environment and shaping the landscape of teaching at Rice University well into the future.

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