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Graduate commission discusses 'citizen scholars'

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 08 - October 13, 1994

Should non-degree students be allowed to enroll in individual courses at Virginia Tech? The Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies began to discuss that possibility at last Wednesday's meeting.

Commission chair Joe Merola said Virginia Tech has no mechanism to allow an individual citizen to take an individual course. Larry French, interim director at the Northern Virginia Graduate Center, said the center had just turned away four executives from the World Bank who wanted to take a technology-transfer course.

Ed Bunce wondered "Why have we denied it all this time." Ron Johnson responded, "In business, we have accreditation concerns. People whose credentials are not reviewed sitting in our courses detracts from our accreditation."

John Eaton said UVa does require enrollees to have bachelor's degrees. Then admission is allowed based on space and the faculty member's approval.

Bruce Chaloux added that courses taken in this manner at UVa don't count toward a degree, should the individual enroll later. "It would be my hope that if you take a Virginia Tech course, it counts toward a degree." Also, he said, "If our graduates return for additional courses, I'd like to say, `If you were good enough to get in before and got a degree, you're good enough to take additional courses.'"

In response to a question about why someone who doesn't want a degree wants to take a course for credit, Chaloux explained that some companies reimburse employees a percentage of the cost for a course based on their grade. If they are auditing a course, there is no grade.

Merola said, "Taking courses and doing well does not assure admission to a degree program."

The discussion will continue at the next meeting.

On a somewhat related topic, Chaloux, associate dean of the Graduate School with specific responsibility for expanding for-credit, graduate distance-education programing, discussed extended-campus graduate programs. "I'm excited about the potential for expanding our activities away from Blacksburg, and not just at existing centers," he said. Funding would come from tuition income above a baseline reflecting the last three years, he said.

"The initial challenge is to educate the campus community regarding the importance of this activity," Chaloux said. Part-time students are only 20 percent of the enrollees at Virginia Tech, which is out of step with the national trend, he said.

"We need to extend programs to meet demand. For example, Marriott Corp. has asked that the hospitality program be offered in Northern Virginia." He said new programs are also part of the initiative.

Chaloux assured the commission members, "We want to be sure that whatever we do there is not a question regarding the quality of students. Good faculty members will teach good courses....We will work with the commission regarding policy and to `fast-track' initiatives."

"What are the rewards going to be for what initially appears to be more work?" Dean Stauffer asked.

"It is going to get more difficult to recruit good graduate students, and many are going to want programs away from Blacksburg," Chaloux explained.

Eaton added, "We've been told not to expect more funds for graduate students, so the only way to fund graduate students is through research, or attract students who can afford to pay their own way."

Chaloux said that university researchers have not taken full advantage of the research lab capability of corporations and governments in the D.C. metropolitan area. He invited people to visit the Northern Virginia Graduate Center. "It is a thriving mini-campus."

Membership of the extended-campus graduate programs planning and coordinating committee is: William Camp, William Brown, Sean Arthur, Ron Johnson, David Alexander, Michael Vorster, Gerald Cross, Vera Wall, John Lee, Joanne Eustis, Tom Head, Ted Settle, Doug Strickland, and Larry Hincker.

Merola reported that the University Advisory Council for Strategic Budgeting and Planning will take a resolution to the Board of Visitors in November that the College of Education restructuring go forward, but the plan will be changed to exclude privatization of adult and continuing education. However, the program will be slated for removal. A second resolution may be written proposing that a study committee determine where the adult and continuing education program should go.

In other business:

* Merola encouraged departments to establish a page on the World Wide Web. Chemistry has such a page and he has received many requests for applications.

* A committee was named to monitor the Instructional Fee Scholarship program and make recommendations for implementation in the spring. Ron Johnson will chair. Other members are Robin Hohauser, Ed Bunce, and Don Mullins. Additional members will likely be added to represent other colleges.

* There was no action on a resolution from former graduate-student representative Ken Kahn that "the administration itemize each dollar that graduate students pay for research hours."

Merola explained that Kahn was frustrated that he used his own computer working at home and paid the same as a student who used a lab on campus. Johnson said tuition is not a user's fee, and Bunce pointed out "part of what the student gets is validation by the faculty member of the student's work."

Merola suggested the Degree Requirements Committee look at whether research hours over the summer could be applied in a modified version over the year, and what other universities do.

Eaton suggested that a continuous-enrollment policy "with teeth" requiring tuition until a degree is granted would address the issue of inconsistent policies across the campus regarding summer enrollment. That issue was also referred to the Degree Requirements Committee.