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Integrating the Life Sciences: Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century

Colorado State University
February 28 - March 1, 1997

Executive Summary of Recommendations

  1. There is no single correct way to re-structure the life sciences at academic institutions. Rather, given the diversity of academic institutions and the student populations they serve, each institution must perform a self-analysis to determine their strengths and overall mission. It is of paramount importance that any administrative structure governing life science programs support identified areas of excellence and be accountable to external agencies.

  2. Institutional re-organization of life science programs must both protect and promote interdisciplinary programs (IDP) at the graduate and undergraduate levels. During the re-structuring process, Universities must re-evaluate departmental boundaries that currently exist and determine whether they serve the institution's goals or impede intellectual discourse and attractive educational options.

  3. Enrollments in the life sciences have surged in the past decade, and this has produced serious resource allocation problems. Burgeoning enrollments have forced life science departments to rethink educational goals, and present a major challenge to reform efforts.

  4. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Industry can play an important role in re-structuring and integrating life sciences at academic institutions. Specific actions include:
    • Training grants for undergraduates and graduate students involved in IDPs.
    • Research experience for undergraduate (REU) grants should be protected and augmented.
    • The Systemic Reform Initiative should be expanded to include post-secondary education.
    • Industry should continue to support internships to students and support research collaborations with faculty.

  5. Universities must respond to the widespread public perception that academic institutions and their faculty are not providing enough educational outreach to the general public. It is the responsibility of both the institution and individual faculty to take part in, and support to outreach activities.


Across the U.S., life science departments are, in general, organized along traditional disciplinary lines (i.e. zoology, ecology, forestry, horticulture, botany, etc.) and frequently are not physically located in a way that optimally fosters interactions between faculty. In private schools and many universities, the dichotomy is typically undergraduate biology versus the pre-medical school program. At land grant institutions, such as Colorado State University (CSU), biology (life sciences) is much more diverse making it more important to have an organizational structure that is user-friendly. Unfortunately, the kind of life science organization that exists today in the land grant institutions does little to demonstrate to undergraduate and graduate students that nature does not adhere to such artificial divisions. This probably impedes the ability of students to learn the interrelationships of the natural world. Thus, we may not be meeting the needs of students entering the 21st century who will not only encounter, but must solve, complex and difficult issues that will certainly cross several of what are now considered "traditional" boundaries.

At the present time, many institutions are talking about, and moving toward restructuring their biological science departments. In addition, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is re-thinking how to best peer review proposals, review proposals that clearly cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries, and as always, support the best science. We have seen a crumbling of traditional life science walls for some time, resulting in increased collaboration of faculty from different backgrounds and disciplines. This kind of collaboration has produced extraordinary scientific results. In effect, some of the most exciting science currently being conducted is not coming from within traditional biological disciplines, but from the boundaries between disciplines. Institutions, as well as the NSF must be able to encourage and support research at the boundaries. Therefore, the goal of this workshop was to address problems at land grant institutions, specifically that of re-organization within the life sciences.

The workshop provided a unique opportunity for faculty and administrators to come together and learn from each other the problems and solutions facing institutions that wish to re-organize their life science departments, with particular focus placed on land-grant institutions. Some 16 midwestern, western, and mountain state universities and colleges in 13 states attended. Topics were varied and stimulated much discussion: for example, how should introductory courses be organized for biological science majors, as well as for majors in different disciplines.


The workshop was well worth the effort. We hope that universities starting to re-organize will learn from those who are currently working through the changes. Although we may not like to change, to be competitive in the 21st century, change appears necessary.

General Conclusions From the Workshop

  1. The strengths and mission of institutions with professional schools (e.g. Medical, Dental or Veterinary programs) will be different from universities with Colleges of Natural Sciences, Forestry , etc., but the inherent goal of any re-structuring effort should be to maintain areas of academic excellence.

  2. It is clear that much of the "cutting edge" science (e.g. atmospheric and geochemical research, plant molecular biology, and conservation biology to name a few) is currently being conducted at the boundaries of traditional life science disciplines. This kind of interdisciplinary research has been initiated in large part by the concerted efforts of faculty. Within the university, this kind of intellectual focus of scientists has, in general, enhanced graduate education. However, there are still problems with interdisciplinary programs (IDP) at the graduate level that must be resolved, for example, administering resources across departments and how to handle new emerging themes in the life sciences. At the undergraduate majors level, IDPs are virtually non-existent and yet, at the K-12 level, students are beginning to be taught to integrate life science disciplines.

  3. In fact, major educators feel that biology has become the major of the '90s. This very rapid rise in life science majors is not without monumental problems. Staffing requirements in the introductory level courses have been stretched to the limit, with the result that resources drive pedagogy rather than the reverse. Further, faculty must re-focus attention on not just educating future life scientists, but on providing scientific literacy for future citizens. Several science education studies report that students learn best when they take responsibility for their own learning, and hands-on, problem-based approaches appear to be most effective. Providing these educational experiences with class sizes continuing to increase, is nearly impossible without additional resources. In addition, faculty will need much more support and training to meet these challenges.

  4. The NSF should take the lead in developing a program that supports curriculum and re-organizational change at the University level. This means providing seed money to re-vamp entire life science programs. These moneys could be used to keep programs going while resources are being re-allocated and until new resources could be obtained. A program along the lines of the systemic reform of secondary education should be developed for post-secondary education. The NIH training grant programs at the graduate level are examples that the NSF might learn from. The USDA is in need of undergraduate and graduate training grants which would strengthen applied research opportunities for agricultural life science majors. Industry should continue to support internships to graduate and undergraduate students at academic institutions and consider supporting research collaborations with more faculty.

  5. Enhancing the public's perception of beneficial functions the institution provides to the community can only foster better relations and a greater flow of ideas between the communities. Further, since the academic institutions derive many of their students from within state, helping the public to understand how faculty train students for the coming decades can only encourage the public to support future educational endeavors.



Academic institutions should pay close attention to the following areas:

  1. Increasing enrollment in the life sciences.
  2. Accountability, which includes, how well we disseminate what we are doing and how well we are educating the public.
  3. Increasing the visibility of our mission; to perform state-of-the-art research which includes students, and teaching those students how to think critically and address novel problems.
  4. The expanding diversity of the students entering the life sciences.
  5. Information technology and transfer in terms of teaching and research.

All of the above issues will play a role in how well prepared institutions are in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

Forging stronger links with industry and promoting career days that highlight life science careers other than in academia were also suggested for undergrads and graduate students. Programs that encourage faculty to be better mentors are to be developed. The Future Faculty Programs funded by the Pew Charitable Trust is noteworthy in its goal of faculty development.

A key element in developing a better prepared student for the next century that all agreed must be present is: students and faculty must continue to be problem-oriented rather than discipline or technique oriented if we are going to move forward. This mission forces us to re-consider how departments are organized and students taught.

Breakout Group Summary

1. Teaching and Public Perception

A. The current system does not reward excellent teaching at research institutions. This needs to be corrected particularly in post-tenure reviews.

B. There is a need to emphasize critical thinking and enhanced learning in the classroom, with corresponding assessment.

C. We don't teach science the way we do science. We need to involve students through faculty-student interactions, and promote more collaboration.

D. We must work to increase the public understanding of higher education. Faculty should communicate with all students, continue to demonstrate how they are accountable, and educate legislators about what faculty are doing and how well our "product" (the student) is doing.

2. Industry the Federal Funding Picture and Interdisciplinary Research

A. We should continue to encourage industry to support basic research that is curiosity driven-rather than profit driven.

  • Internships for graduate students in industry would increase the ties with academic institutions. Sabbatical programs for faculty in industry could be exciting and productive (not just in molecular biology!)
  • Universities can encourage research links with industry, promote career days, and develop mentoring program with retired industry scientists. Down sides are: perhaps not free to communicate all scientific findings, profit building rather than mentoring, public perception of what faculty are spending their time on.

B. What models could NSF devise that link faculty and students in various fields and industry?

  • An agriculture research institute is one model.
  • NSF needs to solicit more proposals at the interfaces of life sciences. (More interaction between Directorates and Divisions)
  • More small group grants (interdisciplinary)
  • More REUs
  • Make it easier to reward PIs (approve continuing grants) when novel/creative results are obtained.

C. Interdisciplinary Research: Perhaps department chairs could develop new ways to give credit toward a particular faculty member working in an interdisciplinary program. Support for graduate assistantship (GTA) slots for interdisciplinary programs is absolutely required. Departments could be re-organized based on programs: no private departments just interdisciplinary programs, this puts all departments on the same playing field across science colleges.

Fix the review process for interdisciplinary grants. Institutions do not know how to create a good working structure that allows flexibility and interaction. In addition, people are discouraged from sending in proposals. Promotion and tenure must be solicited from interdisciplinary programs as well as other department. Faculty must be educated about what's expected.

Breakout Session on Teaching Fellows Teaching and Research Assistants Need to Broaden Education of MS and Ph.D.

Faculty Job Description, Workload
The group focused on the greater question: How do we meet the very diverse demands of a large modern university?

Large modern universities need to deal with a high degree of complexity. These universities have taken on mass education responsibilities. The bachelor's degree is evolving into the basic job certificate in American society. Graduates of many liberal arts degree programs get jobs that have very little or nothing to do with their majors. Bachelor's degrees are achieved by a larger segment of society, hence they are worth less on the job market. At the same time, we have a (mostly self-generated) imperative to provide research programs, graduate education, and specialized undergraduate programs.

However, in this changing environment, we have not changed expectations for our faculty. Given the diverse missions of modern universities, would we structure faculty job descriptions along traditional lines? Or, can we think more strategically to meet our mission and do the best possible job to deploy our resources? Would we design the university the way it has evolved?

In hiring faculty on 50/50 teaching/research appointments, we may not deploy our resources very well. We need to rethink how we hire faculty. When we do so there is a potential to improve both teaching and research. Are we doing the best for our research programs by spreading new resources over all faculty positions? Our current hiring strategy produces less than optimum teaching and research. Lab space and start-up packages are costly and limited. To put these limited resources to best use we might consider a hiring pattern such as: two-thirds of the positions with both traditional research and teaching expectations and one-third of the positions structured to emphasize teaching with moderate research expectations in science/mathematics education.

There were some concerns expressed whether it would be possible to achieve collegiality with this approach. A number of participants said that this had worked at their universities. Faculty can be educated. One institution gives faculty with teaching emphasis one-quarter appointments in the School of Education. There is some evidence that such faculty are quite mobile and would not be forever stuck at the institution making the initial appointment.

Enrollment Crunch in Biology
The number of biology majors has doubled at many universities, yet the number of faculty in biology departments has not doubled. Further, it is safe to say that the biology B.S. degree has become the liberal arts degree of choice in the '90s. Departments cannot do as good a job with the increased numbers of students. Many departments had to increase teaching loads and/or go to temporary and part-time faculty to meet the demand. In addition, many Board of Regents (or other governing body of the university) prefer that ranked faculty teach students especially at the lower division. This situation implies that the departments cannot simply reallocate resources to teaching assistants to meet the demand.

This is an institutional problem. At many universities, colleges of science, or arts and sciences, carry most of the teaching burdens in the biological sciences. At one institution, 25-30% of the faculty do 90% of the teaching. What do we do about the huge teaching demand when resources don 't follow? Should resources follow student credit hours?

Because of the tenure system, the bulk of university resources are not readily movable. Enrollments fluctuate. Faculty positions can't always follow those enrollment fluctuations. We can't commit tenured positions to follow such fluctuations.

An answer may be to involve faculty from more applied bioscience departments in teaching. There needs to be more flexibility in allowing faculty to participate in the teaching function. What are the barriers? Is there an ego problem for the basic bioscience departments? Is money a problem?

University Value System
An English department example was discussed. This hypothetical department has a large number of tenure-track faculty. The number of positions are justified by large numbers of students in freshman composition classes, usually taught in small sections. However, very few faculty ever set foot in the freshman composition classes. These are taught by graduate students. This same department has a record of low graduation rates and poor job placement. This approach calls into question the model assumptions for staffing and job descriptions in a modern university. Although it may not be this extreme, the sciences suffer from this same syndrome. Further, the Student Credit Hour appears to be a poor measure or parameter to use when justifying resources, and yet this is exactly what many administrations use. How do we change the value system? How do we encourage people to make the contributions they should be making?

Degree Programs
The bachelor's degree has changed. For the majority of students, the bachelor's degree has been "juvenilized." We need to rethink the role of the master's degree. In many graduate programs, MS degrees are for "weak sisters." This is different in other disciplines. MS degrees in computer science, chemistry, and geosciences are in demand. These tend to be majors that have a traditional pipeline to industry.

We, as faculty, have communicated a lack of valuing anything other than what we do as faculty. It is a mark of failure in a department if it just reproduces itself. We need to encourage students and help them to do something else.

Graduate students tend to have a broader view of job opportunities than faculty. Teaching positions are popular with graduate students, We need to allow more flexibility in our graduate programs. An example might be a Ph.D. program with a business/entrepreneur-ship component in biotechnology.

Kansas State University has implemented an approach that eliminates traditional lectures and labs. Classes of 65 students are organized into student teams of four. There is one faculty facilitator for 65 students. He/She defines the theme lesson for the day. GTAs assist. The teacher is a resource person rather than a lecturer. This is the way high schools teach science. Students are learning in groups and are being tested in groups. We need to anticipate what is coming down the pipeline. We need to train students for group work environments. To accommodate this change in teaching and learning, we will need to reconfigure the physical set-up. This approach takes about the same staffing resources as the traditional lecture/lab system.

Some participants pointed out that there is little evidence that such an approach leads to improved learning. There is no information that learning is any better under this program.

In response, it was pointed out that people generally work in groups. We need to train students the way they will need to work. Also, the new generation of students is more adept at interacting with computers. They are more exploratory. We should take advantage of that and use computers as a learning tool.

Another comment was that we should try to view our mission of science education and science literacy more broadly. We need to look at the education of science majors rather than biology, chemistry, and physics majors. New resources should go into the development of an integrated science course. One could tie resources, such as GTA positions, to such a course. One could involve the School of Education in the development of such a course.

One institution tried to convince faculty to develop and teach an integrated science course. This was viewed as too big a challenge for the faculty. Can anything be done for the faculty to encourage them to take this on?

Role of the Experiment Station
At one institution, Experiment Station support helped facilitate integration of life sciences. Departments worked out a trade of instructional resources with Experiment Station resources. Departments with relatively few instructional FTEs traded away Experiment Station dollars for the opportunity to teach introductory courses.


Breakout Group for Core Curriculum and courses for non-majors:

Summary of Discussion:

  1. Integration of science courses are the wave in K-12 and higher education needs to incorporate this kind of teaching in it's curriculum. Future students will understand how to integrate the life science disciplines before the faculty. In addition, integration of subjects often occurs much better in applied bioscience departments, particularly when the faculty are "problem-oriented".
  2. There was much discussion over whether courses for non majors should be more "process" oriented versus "content" oriented. Both groups were in agreement that BOTH are needed.
  3. Demystifying science should be a major objective of non-major courses: whether we should have separate courses for majors and non-majors was not tackled. Everyone agreed organizing a non majors course takes lots of work because one must be able to discern what is "non essential" information and delete it from the syllabus. It is not sufficient to just "water down" a major's course; rather, one must take selected topics and develop them fully.
  4. Many faculty are willing to consider nontraditional approaches for non-major courses but not for majors' courses. We should be exploring new methods in all of our teaching.
  5. Faculty are not made aware of important resources like the American Biology Teacher and Journal of College Science Teaching. These are valuable resources for both major and non major courses.
  6. Refuting psuedoscience should not be a major goal of non major courses, although we should be prepared to deal with such issues. Undoubtedly, issues such as evolution vs. creationism will come up and we must be prepared to tackle it.

Breakout group: Issues in Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies:

Idea of a department needs to change to have effective interdisciplinary programs. Need flexible organization relating to scholarship. Departments can be the administrative body, but not in academic program.

Concerns-this structure requires more administration if one divides up the life sciences:

  • tension between flexibility and recourses;
  • need appointments (MOU for participation).

One model: At Montana State, the biotech program includes microbiology, plant and animal departments, and departments are rewarded for participation.

Faculty need to feel an affiliation with, and responsibility for, the function of the unit smaller formally organizational units are best. - don't want micro management - should have commitment of units to interdisciplinary programs (only have MOU after all faculty will decide on what to do and how to do it). - must have agreement among Deans and chairs.

Examples are: New Mex. State-environmental science interdisciplinary program -- which cuts across colleges and departments. This seems to work, while at the Univ. of Colorado at Boulder the environmental studies interdisciplinary program does not work. There is too much tension between departments and staffing within the interdisciplinary program. This has to be eliminated to make it work.

Many institutions have organized IDPs into one or several "Schools" and this appears to work for those universities. It is not like, IDPS are something entirely new. But, it is extremely important that IDPs have a clear mandate of who is responsible for their academic oversight.


  1. Resources-spaces, staff, faculty
  2. What is the mission? Are we concerned where faculty are associated or where the degree is housed: a complex issue.
  3. Faculty - what area is their primary affiliation? Who evaluates them? There is a need for very tight reporting and criteria. If you have more than one interdisciplinary program then the role of department is lessened.

Institutes at U.C. Boulder - they hire the faculty, but faculty are in departments and teach in departments - institute director does annual evaluation (consults with department for teaching) but department does evaluation for tenure and promotion. Some faculty are co-localized in institutes - but others are spread out.

Mandatory 5 year review of centers/institutes - fine for graduate research but, not for undergraduate education.

Degree vs. major -

New Mexico St. has single degrees but lots of majors under the degrees. This presents problems because there are different core requirements for different degrees. There is a need to bring applied and basic faculty together to re-design this.

Retention problem: some students in professional colleges need smaller groups and individual attention

NSF is structured some what like a university; very little interdisciplinary interaction. There is a need to provide a better mechanism for review of interdisciplinary proposals. Perhaps changing NSF Structure so that there are very few or no permanent programs (based on traditional lines), but rather special programmatic themes, that are flexible and cut across disciplines (environmental biol-environmental geochem etc.). These, too would not be permanent programs (last perhaps 5-7 yrs to catalyze these areas of research), and presumably new themes would evolve. In too many ways, NSF mirrors what is going on at universities.

Breakout Groups: Connections to high school, two-year colleges, and liberal arts colleges: Changing science education and technology/information transfer:

  1. Has technology impacted the form of our curriculum? The general response was that it had affect how, but not what, material was taught. Examples included use of Web pages, access to computer tools like GIS, and searching genetic data bases.
  2. This led to a discission of presenting courses using the Web. We know that this is beginning to occur. On one side, it may not be very different from correspondence courses. Indeed, in that example it may be better than correspondence courses since it offers added visual effects and interactive opportunities on bulletin boards and so forth. But, on the other hand, they do not allow the direct hands-on and interpersonal mentoring interactions we know have been so successful in the best courses.
  3. Advantages:
    a. good way to deliver content: example, medical schools now
    using CD programs and WWW to teach anatomy, and other information rich subjects.
    b. can use lectures from best scholars worldwide
    c. on CD, etc., could stop, review, and interact

    a. loss of direct student interaction and hands-on experience, especially in courses with lab or field work
    b. In communication, we key on human interactions (eye contact, intonation, body language, and so forth) to emphasize points and questions; people look at videos differently than they look at people, and these elements are lost.
    c. If we become limited to having only a few CD lecturers. The educational system could lose the diversity of ideas, emphases, interpretations, and other variables that help stimulate the challenging of ideas.
    d. An important problem is that WWW courses may threaten university financing. Where funding is based on student enrollments, what effect will there be if major courses are taught by entrepreneurial businesses or colleges on a large-scale basis? Example cited: The University of Phoenix offers non-traditional instruction on an extension basis, and it was described as the 4th largest university in the world. But, obviously the best one-on-one interactions between faculty and students can not be provided. Yet, this is the kind of school that one would expect to seek an expanded role in internet instruction. A possible protection is through articulation policies and transfer credit evaluation; if the content is offered but the development of scientific experience is not, then the courses might not be equivalent to those we teach now and, thus, not acceptable for transfer to a more traditional academic institution.
    e. The technology really is not quite there yet, but it will be.

  4. Technology, like Web instruction may have several major consequences.
    a. It may change a faculty member from a lecturer/instructor to a facilitator, working primarily/solely in small groups, labs, and so on. This is still time-intensive (perhaps even more than now) and requires good communication and interpersonal skills.
    b. It may remove the time constraints on education. For example, would a course be limited to a "semester" format? What about a "self-paced" university?
    c. It may be more appropriately-applied in a general education or non-majors course than in a major's course where certain physical skills (dissection, microscopy, etc.) need to be developed, too.
    d. What image does this bring of the "library" of the future and the continued need for paper documentation?

  5. A key NEED: faculty development to allow effective integration of the technology in our courses. During our discussion this was expressed several times. Ideas included:
    a. training of faculty to develop and use these technological tools effectively in their individual courses.
    b. It is fairly easy to get funding to obtain the hardware, but it difficult to get the support to develop packages. Faculty need to have this skill, and not just have to depend on commercial sources for educational materials.
    c. Develop teaching centers for faculty to go to and learn WWW and related techniques in a user-friendly manner.
    d. "Buy" the expertise by hiring people to develop materials for a department's/university's courses. It is hard to develop these materials (given the learning curve, etc.) given the faculty already being over-burdened in other ways.
    e. Commercial operations are being formed, but these and regular publisher outlets were felt to be limiting and not necessarily would meet the standards or needs of each level of educational institution or student body.

  6. Another interesting example of the use of technology was offered in Gary McCallister's description of the use of robots and robotics to explore insect behavior and other processes (this draws on chemistry, electronics, mechanics, and other supporting areas).

  7. We are often concerned about the education of students in K-12. When they enter college, they are often not as well-trained in basics and many need remedial course work. Are technological changes going to be a valuable link to K-12?
  8. Possible Advantages:
    a. Special "enrichment" programs being provided to local schools directly to the students.

    b. Possible concurrent "advanced placement" courses.

    c. Use of WWW pages to answer student questions and develop an interaction with interested ones (and stimulate that interest).

    d. Enrichment programs for teachers in their home schools, rather than having them do this only during special summer programs.

    e. Though not directly related to this topic, it also brought out the example of drawing together dispersed faculty (e.g., those involved in extension service work at different sites) and allowing them to participate in programs where faculty numbers would otherwise not provide sufficient support for a program.

    Possible Disadvantages:
    a. Some technologies (e.g., compressed TV) require special resources and expensive air time).

    b. If one could enroll for at-home learning and then formally enter college as a late sophomore of junior, what would that do to the curriculum?

    c. Again, the question of university funding based on student enrollment came up. It could lead to an unfortunate competition for students and alternative/innovative approaches (e.g., stay and study at home on the farm) that might not provide the other socialization benefits of college.

  9. Some ideas of interaction with K-12 education:
    a. Provide periodic "hands-on lab and talk" to local schools; volunteers giving a weekend day each month to work with school groups; virtual-reality field trips; short special programs targeted to the students.
  10. b. For teachers, help to K-12 through teacher enhancement must be systemic and continuous to be effective.

    c. Cited successful examples included having a specific contact person who builds contacts and a reputation with K-12 teachers in local schools. (Described as a "bio-education" contact.) These can help facilitate interactions between K-12 classes and university faculty.

    d. Master Teacher in Residence -- as a contact/facilitator (one is in the Dean of A&S Office at Okla. State Univ.)

    e. Develop content-based courses for elementary education teachers.

    f. Offer appropriate courses in afternoon/evening times.

  11. K-12 (and teacher) potential problems:
    a. Technology access may be a problem for disadvantaged students and minorities.

b. Requires expansion of technological equipment in K-12 schools and the knowledge to use it effectively.


  1. Technological advances offer many opportunities and will change education.
  2. But, faculty must retain control of the curriculum and not let it be defined by technology. Technology should be used to enhance the educational experience, not to drive it to some impersonal extreme. We should always keep in mind those aspects of education, like one-on-one interactions, that we know have provided the current strengths of education.
  3. Hands-on experiences are critical. We should teach students about science the way we do science.
  4. There is not just a single solution to any of these questions given the diversity of academic institutions and the student populations they serve. These differences amoung institutions are appropriate and should be valued. An error would be to force a single solution on all.

Breakout Group: Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs:


  1. How to administer-resource allocation?
  2. How to handle emerging themes?
  3. How to build in stability and administratiion - yet maintain flexibility - allow evolution.
  4. Degree programs vs. non-degree programs.
  5. At U. of CO. Boulder - certificate programs - overlap other programs
  6. How to provide GTAs to interdisciplinary programs.

At the University of Colorado, Boulder, GTA support is close to same across colleges and have advanced GTAs for students who have passed prelims. Graduate dean provides GTAs for interdisciplinary courses.
Interdisciplinary programs (IDP) at CU can have homes in lots of places, not just in Grad. School.

At U. Arizona, they made one university department report to 3 Deans. This program failed because Deans didn't work together. They now have 20 IDPs across colleges and all report to Dean of Grad. College. University of Arizona has majors and minors for Ph.D. There must be adequate funding in place to bring in students into IDP so they can rotate into different labs.

In some Universities, IDP have taken over graduate school programs. Departments had very few students in departments, students preferred IDP. What was purpose of departments? If departments make sense for undergraduates then keep department structure only for their use. For graduate students, IDPs seem to make more sense for graduate degrees.


Colorada State University Workshop

Friday, February 28

All Events will be held at Lory Student Center

10:30 - 11:45
Registration: Second Floor, Center Stairs from main Lobby in Lory Student Center. Follow signs.

Noon - 1:00 Lunch - Cherokee Park Room

1:00 - 1:30
Opening Welcome:
Gregory L. Florant
State Senator Peggy Reeves

Opening Remarks:
Dr. Joann Roskowski, Deputy Division Director, Division of Environmental Biology, NSF

Panel Presentations: North Ballroom.
Moderator: Dean Jaros

Panelists will define issues that the breakout groups will address.

Jud Harper, Vice President, VP Research & Information Technology, Colorado State University

John Hildebrand, Regent Professor & Director of Neurobiology, University of Arizona

Ron Rutowski, Professor & Associate Chair, Department of Zoology, Arizona State University

3:00 - 3:15  Break

3:15 - 4:45
Breakout Groups 

Discussion Topics

Room 203-205

  • Increased emphasis on teaching at universities; changing public perception of higher education; role of outreach.

    James McMillan, Dean College of Letters & Science
    Montana State University

Room 220-222

  • Federal funding picture; linking with industry; encouraging interdisciplinary research.

Diana Freckman, Associate Dean, College of Natural Resources and Director, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

Room 224

  • Use of teaching fellows; role of teaching and research assistants; need to broaden education of M.S. and Ph.D.s; changes in the job market.

Eugene H. Levy, Dean, College of Science, University of Arizona

5:00 - 7:00  Break - University Club. Cash Bar

7:00 - 9:30  Dinner - Cherokee Park Room

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Robert Grey
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
University of California at Davis

Tentative title: "How biology has/has not been integrated at western land-grant institutions?"

Keynote Speaker's Outline

Saturday, March 1

7:00 - 8:30  Breakfast - Cherokee Park Room
Roundtable discussions: What's new in the life sciences at your institution?


Panel Presentations: North Ballroom.
Moderator: Tom Sneider

Panelists will define issues that the breakout groups will address.

William Gern, Vice President for Research,
University of Wyoming

James R. Coffman, Provost
Kansas State University

Bruce A. Wunder, Interim Provost & Academic Vice President,
Colorado State University

10:00 - 10:30  Break


Breakout Groups

Discussion Topics

Room Senate Chambers

  • Core courses for life science majors

Rodney J. Brown, Dean of Agriculture
Utah State University

Room 165

  • Core courses for nonscience majors

Joan M. Herbers, Professor and Chair of Biology
Colorado State University

Room 166

  • Issues for interdisciplinary programs

James R. Bamburg, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,
Colorado State University

Room 222

  • Connections to high school and 2-year colleges, liberal arts colleges

Gary McCallister, Chair, Biology Department,
Mesa State College

Room 228

  • Changing science education and technology and infromatin transfer

James N. Thompson, Jr., Professor and Chair, Department of Zoology
University of Oklahoma

Noon - 1:00  Lunch - Cherokee Park Room


Panel Presentations: North Ballroom.
Moderator: Joan Herbers

Panelists will define issues that the breakout groups will address.

Robert Grey, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor,
University of California, Davis

T. Jack Morris, Director, School of Biological Sciences
University of Nebraska

John Raich, Dean, College of Natural Sciences,
Colorado State University

1:45 - 2:00  Break

2:00 - 3:30  Discussion Topics

Room 165

  • Interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs

Carol Lynch, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
and Dean of the Graduate School,
University of Colorado

Room 166

  • Integrative organization structures: Reorganization of departments
    and programs.

Robert Grey, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
University of California, Davis

Room 228

  • Organization in advising

George Becker, Chair, Department of Biology,
Metropolitan State College

Room 222

  • Relationship to outreach activities

Gary L. Cunningham, Associate Dean and Director of Agriculture Experiment Station
New Mexico State University

3:30 - 4:30
North Ballroom
Conference Summary and Recommendations.
Comments from Panelists, Session Chairs and Greg Florant



Robert D. Grey
University of California, Davis


  • The challenge of integrating biology in the Land Grant University is really a challenge of organizational change
  • Most organizations last less than half the lifetime of a human being.
  • Universities are an exception: Clark Kerr: List of all organizations in the entire world that had been in continuous existence since 1630. Only 66 on the list: Roman Catholic church, Lutheran Church, Parliament of Iceland, Parliament of the Isle of Mann; and 62 universities.
  • Why?



A. Issues faced by all colleges and universities:

Issue #1: Biology is a major intellectual force in the modern university; universities need to "get it right" to be successful.

  • Biology is in its "Golden Age"
  • Influence on other disciplines
  • Economic impact

Issue #2: Biology poses a major problem in resource management.

  • Biology has become highly technical and very expensive
  • Undergraduate enrollments are off the charts in most American universities

Issue #3: At worst, many specialized departments in several schools/colleges Balkinization--duplications, programmatic gaps, tensions.


A. Profile of the campus.

  1. Seven degree-granting colleges and schools: Letters & Science (L&S)
    • Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (A&ES)
    • Engineering
    • Veterninary Medicine (SVM)
    • Medicone (SOM)
    • Law
    • Graduate School of Managment
  2. Two non-degree granting divisions:
    • Division of Biological Sciences (DBS)
    • Division of Education
  3. Graduate education in biology is organized and delivered by "Graduate Groups"
    • campus-wide organizations
    • faculty governed
    • Number of groups = 17
    • Total number of graduate students in biological sciences (in addition to students in professional schools) = 841
  4. Undergraduate education in biology:
    • Number of students in majors in Division of Biological Sciences = 3600? (ca. 20% of total undergraduate enrollment at UC Davis)
    • Number of students in applied biology majors in (A&ES) - 1750

B. 1984 Picture: Classically organized departments, Balkanized, duplications of programs, major gaps, tensions.

  1. Basic science departments
    • Six on the general campus
      -3 inL&S: Botany, Microbiology, Zoology
      -3 in A&ES: Animal Physiology, Biochemistry & Biophysics, Genetics
    • Five in SOM
    • Three in SVM
  2. Undergraduate Offerings:
    • Six departments offered majors in both L&S and A&ES.
    • Interdepartmental major ("Biological Sciences") offered jointly; administered by Division of Biological Sciences (this was the sole function of DBS)
  3. Budget, faculty recruitment and academic personnel administered by the two colleges (three departments each).

C. 1985: Chancellor's Actions

  • Appointed a Dean of Biological Sciences to lead a coordinated, campus-wide planning effort
  • Appointed a Biological Sciences Council chaired by the Dean.

D. Products of the Planning

  1. Principles:
    • Build upon strengths.
    • Ensure that the key foundational disciplines (molecular and cell biology; evolutionary biology) are strong regardless of whether or not they are current strengths.
    • Invest in a new frontier area not currently well established on the campus.
  2. Four new campus-wide centers:
    • Population Biology
    • Molecular and Cell Biology
    • Structural Biology
    • Neuroscience
  3. Reorganization of departments in DBS

E. The Centers

  • Role: Link campus-wide faculty in a specific field; strengthen graduate programs; coordinate faculty recruiting; attract additional extramural funding.
  • Funding: $250,000/yr. X 5 yrs.
  • Role in recruitment: The Neuroscience Center example

F. DBS Reorganization

  • Reason: Outmoded departments, missing departments
  • Rationale: Pick one problem area and do it well, rather than tackle departmental organization on a campus-wide basis.
  • Major Steps:
    a. Faculty Retreat
    • 90+% support to reorganize
    • Principles to guide reorganization
    b. Appointment of a "Liaison Committee"
    • Preliminary plan: five department
    c. Appointment of a "Visiting Committee"
    • Plan: three departments
    d. Chancellor assigns responsible for final plan to Biological Sciences Council
    • "Guiding Plan" for reorganization
    e. A new building for DBS is planned and funded

G. Guiding Plan Implemented in 1984

  • Intercollege unit (A&ES and L&S)
  • Dean reports to Provost and Chancellor
  • Own budget and academic personnel committee
  • For curriculum and UG instruction, DBS is a single academic department:
    • Lower- and upper-division core courses offered by division-wide faculty;
    • Does not grant degrees (students get degrees in L&S or A&ES).
  • Sections:
    • Rationale: Easier to establish, abolish or modify than formal departments; designed to permit and even encourage further reorganization within DBS as biology and/or faculty interests change; subsequent changes in sections can occur solely by agreement within DBS.
    • Function like departments in most ways: space, academic personnel.
    • Names:
      Evolution and Ecology
      Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
      Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
      Plant Biology


A. Departmental names do matter. They shape and limit the scope of the department. In a Land Grant University (LGU), with many specialized departments, new fields of research that form at the interface between disciplines or subdisciplines can be overlooked or given low priority by dpeartments if the new field doesn't fit the prgrammatic scope denoted by the name.

B. Departmental reorganization, alone, isn't sufficient to optimize campus strengths. LGUs will continue to have specialized departments with names and programs aligned with specific components of their college's mission. Mechanisms for inter- or supra-departmental coordination of some functions (graduate education, organized research) is important.

C. Be strategic, not comprehensive. Boilogical sciences at most LGUs is shaped by many forces, some of them at odds with each other. Plans for change that are strategic, limited and focused are more likely to succeed than grnad, comprehensive plans that aspire to solve all problems

D. Agreement on principles is crucial. Get consensus on principles, goals and objectives before proceeding to reorganization. If you can't get consensus on the principles, goals and objectives, you're not likely to gain consensus on structure.

E. Planning for space and resources is crucial to the credibility of the process. Space is a coin of the realm in science and it's difficult for scientists to think about organizational change without clear and credible commitments of space to implement the plan.

F. Change requires strong leadership, both from the faculty and the administration. When the going get rough (and it always does!) faculty and administrative leaders need to provide the motive force to proceed.

G. Consult in writing. Take time to write proposals carefully, send them out for comment, and ask that comments come back in writing. Avoid town meetings: the opponents neearly always turn out in force and the supporters usually think they have better things to do and stay away.

H. Don't expect applause. The first response from most academics for most any proposal will be critical. Take time to work throught the criticism at each step, but keep moving. and expect criticism at every step.

I. Stock up on aspirin, Maalox, and a good brand of Scotch. Everyone involved will need at least one of these somewhere along the way.


Colorada State University Workshop Participants List

Amy, Penny, Professor and Chair
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Nevada

Baez, Victor A., Associate Professor
Department of Social Work
Colorado State University

Bamburg, James R., Professor
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Colorado State University

Becker, George, Chair
Department of Biology
Metropolitan State College

Binkley, Danile, Professor
Forest Science & Director
Graduate Degree Prog/Ecology
Colorado State University

Blair, Carol D., Professor and Chair
Department of Microbiology
Colorado State University

Bowman, James P., Associate Professor
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology
Colorado State University

Brodie,Jr., Edmund, D., Chair
Department of Biology
Utah State University

Brown, Rodney J., Dean of Agriculture
Utah State University

Coffman, James R., Provost
Kansas State University

Cordain, Loren, Professor
Department of Exercise and Sport Science
Colorado State University

Craig, Karen E., Dean
College of Human Resources and Family Sciences
University of Nebraska

Cunningham, Gary L., Associate Dean & Director
Agricultural Experiment Station
New Mexico State University

Dudek, F. Edward, Professor and Chair
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology
Colorado State University

Duvall, David, Professor and Chair
Department of Zoology
Oklahoma State University

Florant, Gregory, Professor
Department of Biology
Colorado State University

Freckman, Diana W.,
Associate Dean of Natural Resources
Director, National Research Ecology Laboratory
Colorado State University

Gern, William, Vice President for Research
University of Wyoming

Gloeckner, Gene, Associate Professor
School of Education
Colorado State University

Grey, Robert D., Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
University of California, Davis

Hannah, Judith L., Associate Professor
Earth Resources
Colorado State University

Harper, Judson, Vice President
Research & Information Technology
Colorado State University

Haufler, Chris, Professor and Chair
Department of Botany
University of Kansas

Herbers, Joan, Professor and Chair
Department of Biology
Colorado State University

Hildebrand, John G.,
Regent Professor & Director of Neurobiology
University of Arizona

Holt, Smith L., Dean
Arts and Sciences
Oklahoma State University

Inamine, Julia M., Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology
Colorado State University

Israel, Richard G., Professor and Chair
Department of Exercise and Sport Science
Colorado State University

Jaros, Dean, Dean, Graduate School
Colorado State University

Karnig, Albert K., Provost
University of Wyoming

Leonard, Robert T., Professor & Head
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Arizona

Levy, Eugene H., Dean
College of Science
University of Arizona

Lynch, Carol,
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
& Dean of Graduate School
University of Colorado

Martinez del Rio, Carlos, Assistant Professor
Department of Zoology/Physiology
University of Wyoming

McCallister, Gary, Chair
Department of Biology
Mesa State College

McIntyre, Gary, Professor
Plant Pathology and Weed Science
Colorado State University

McMillan, James A., Dean
College of Letters & Science
Montana State University

Mead, Robert W., Interim Dean
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Nevada

Morris, T. Jack, Director
School of Biological Sciences
University of Nebraska

Raich, John, Dena
College of Natural Sciences
Colorado State University

Reid, C. P. Patrick, Director
School of Renewable Natural Resources, Biosciences
University of Arizona

Roskoski, Joanne, Deputy Assistant Director
Division of Environmental Biology
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA

Rutowski, Ron, Professor & Associate Chair
Department of Zoology
Arizona State University

Sampson, David, Associate Professor
Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition
Colorado State University

Savello, Paul A., Associate Professor
Nutrition & food Science
Utah State University

Smith, Ralph, Associate Vice President
Research & Information Technology
Colorado State University

Sneider, Thomas W., Associate Dean
College of Natural Sciences
Colorado State University

Thompson,Jr., James N.
S. R. Noble Foundation President
Professor & Chair
Department of Zoology
University of Oklahoma

Tucker, Alan, Professor, Chair & Assistant Dean
Department of Physiology
Colorado State University

Vyse, Ernest R., Interim Chair
Department of Biology
Montana State University

Walter, Oliver, Dean
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Wyoming

Weber, Lee A.
Professor and Chair
Department of Biology
University of Nevada

Williams, Martha s., Dean
College of Health Sciences
University of Wyoming

Wunder, Bruce A.,
Interim Provost/Academic Vice President
Colorado State University


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