21, No. 15, March 7, 2002
retreat focuses on collaboration, innovation
By Sharita Forrest,
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bill Wiegand
Participants discussed one of four initiatives in smaller
groups the morning of the faculty retreat Feb. 27. Facilitators
representing each of the initiatives then presented suggestions
gleaned from the groups at a plenary session in the afternoon.
applications and interdisciplinary collaborations were the focus of
discussions at a Feb. 27 faculty retreat at Levis Faculty Center.
During the morning session, faculty galvanized their separate group
discussions around one of four broad themes provided by Chancellor Nancy
Cantor and Provost Richard Herman: arts in a technology-intensive world,
the humanities in a globalizing world, American institutions in a demographically
changing world and biotechnology/bioengineering in a nano world. Faculty
members exchanged ideas about fields ripe for breakthroughs, critical
societal issues and instructive opportunities related to these themes.
Group facilitators presented summaries of their groups discussions
at the afternoon plenary session.
Faculty members recommendations were wide-ranging and included
establishing an arts center on the Urbana campus where artists and scientists
could more easily collaborate as well as a suggestion that the administration
revamp the humanities curricula and the general education requirements.
Faculty members recommended directing research toward areas such as
nanoscience applications in global resource management and security
and into societal problems such as the economic impact of the burgeoning
Many of the suggestions proffered by faculty were pragmatic and economical,
only requiring a change in perception, said Christine Catanzarite, associate
director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.
"It was interesting to see that people have the templates in place
to support the programming being suggested," Catanzarite said.
"We dont need to reinvent the wheel because people are already
talking about these things."
Faculty groups also asked the administration to restructure academic
policies that they believe are too stringent and preclude innovative
course design and interdepartmental and intercollege co-teaching.
Faculty members also cautioned that the UIs eminence in technology
is eroding, and the university should strive to establish itself as
a world leader in information technology by strengthening the human-technology
While the faculty groups were enthusiastic about new research and educational
opportunities, they also cautioned administrators that existing programs
such as the humanities are underfunded and need support.
Some faculty members welcomed the opportunity to exchange ideas with
colleagues from other disciplines, departments and colleges.
"Im from the science side of the world, and we dont
get a chance very often to cross-pollinate with people from law, the
social sciences, the humanities and other disciplines," said Mark
Shannon, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering. "We
come with different assumptions and different languages. It was very
dynamic and very useful."
Michael Ross, director of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, said
he hoped the administration would provide ongoing opportunities for
"For me, the gathering was a very encouraging manifestation of
the team approach I sense between the chancellors, the deans
and provosts offices and across campus," Ross said.
Although the retreats timing might have seemed less than ideal
given the universitys budgetary problems, Cantor said that it
was the perfect time for campus members to investigate new research
applications and nontraditional collaborations.
"We will be able to attract more resources to the campus in this
way," Cantor said at the plenary session. "Weve got
to move forward. These are real leadership areas for this campus."
Cantor told the participants that she was gratified by their willingness
to redefine existing boundaries and explore new collaborations.
In his closing remarks, Herman assured faculty members that the administration
would support their efforts.
"We need to pledge our willingness to do things in new ways,"
Herman said. "We will redesign things so that existing structures
no longer get in the way. We will work on these issues to make your
rich ideas come to fruition."
Administrators are reviewing the faculty members recommendations.
Once the administration has designated the areas of focus, faculty/student
work groups will be convened to develop implementation plans for new
programs and curricula and to secure funding.