Herman creates new education task force

By Diana Blickensderfer

Chancellor Richard H. Herman envisions the University as a school where students learn in other places than the classroom. Herman is creating the Chancellor’s Task Force on Civic Commitment in the 21st Century to emphasize involvement in the community for the 2006-2007 school year.

“Excellent programs must inch closer to unachievable perfection,” Herman said in a speech titled, “On our watch” given Nov. 8. “Programs that are drifting must find their way. People who are satisfied with their accomplishments must rekindle the lost spirit that first made them accomplished. People who are burning to do their best must know that Illinois is the place for them, the place where their ambitions will be backed and realized.”

The major goal of the task force will be to help “connect academic learning with learning in the community,” said Ruth Watkins, associate provost at the University.

The task force will add ways for students, faculty and staff to participate on campus and throughout the community by planning a “year-long series of events and activities,” said Rose Ann Miron, assistant vice chancellor for public engagements.

The committee will “help students learn how they can make a contribution to society,” she said.

Creating a committee of people is the “most effective way to get the campus focused on this,” Watkins said.

In order to make the task force successful, a steering committee of eight faculty members was formed to choose 25 to 30 people for the task force. The steering committee, lead by Watkins, has met only once so far.

The group will meet weekly in order to identify students, faculty and staff to serve on the task force.

“If we’re going to have a broad impact, we need campus leaders to help us make this happen,” Watkins said.

The idea of creating a task force was a “major focus of the chancellor,” Watkins said. Herman will participate and give the task force the charge they need to jump-start the project.

The task force will start meeting and planning in January and will work until the 2006-2007 year begins. Whether or not the task force will become a standing committee is not yet determined, Watkins said.

“The job of the task force is to figure out what kinds of programs and funding will be needed (for the 2006-2007 year),” Miron said.

The plan is to “create new experiences and try them out in the coming year,” Watkins said. The activities will hopefully become a permanent part of the University so the work of the task force will have a more sustained presence, she said.

Successful events will be integrated into University life in the following years, Miron said.

A number of faculty members are already combining academic learning with hands-on learning in the community, Watkins said. But, the goal of the task force is to get even more involved and “to increase a campus wide focus.”

“A lot of students are already involved,” Miron said. “We just want to build on what’s already here.”

The task force will also create more opportunities for students, faculty and staff to apply for grants and funding for programs, Miron said.

The Chancellor wants the University to be creative in the way it provides education, she said.

“It’s important for us to always look at how to contribute to society,” Miron said.

“We would like to see students prepared to take on roles of lifelong leadership and to be an active part of society,” Watkins said. “A well-rounded education includes contributions to the community.”

“We must be better at educating, even inspiring, students to realize that citizenship and leadership are the sacred duties of all people who would govern themselves,” Herman said in the speech.