Driven to Discover aids mission

It is the teaching mission that makes us a research university and not just a research institution.

I write in response to the recent column by Jason Stahl, “My Thoughts on Driven to Discover” (Feb. 12, 2007).

Mr. Stahl misses the purpose behind the Driven to Discover campaign. Surveys show the public understands and values the University’s teaching mission. The University already gets high marks for its teaching and the educational experiences it offers students. It is the research mission that is not as clearly understood by all. This is what the Driven to Discover campaign was intended to address.

Student and parent interest in the University continues to grow. Since 2000, the number of Minnesota high school graduates has been flat, increasing only 1 percent, while the number of applications to the University from Minnesota high school graduates has increased by 40 percent. We could not sustain this growth in interest and applications if we did not take teaching and learning seriously.

Since 2000, students’ evaluation of the quality of instruction shows increases. Trend analysis of student course evaluations also shows a higher evaluation of instruction.

The aspirational goal of the University to be among the top-three public research universities in the world embraces all three missions of the University – teaching, research and service. Just as faculty are driven to discover, students are driven to discover new insights and ideas throughout their years at the University. The University continues to support students and faculty in their learning in and out of the classroom.

Mr. Stahl failed to mention that the University’s strategic positioning effort includes a number of initiatives to strengthen teaching and learning. With regard to undergraduates, the creation of the new Department of Writing Studies, the baccalaureate writing initiative, the creation of the new campus-wide Honors Program, plans to expand freshman seminars, expansion of undergraduate research opportunities, and new advising and mentoring programs are all efforts that will strengthen teaching and learning.

The University is not only driven to discover the next great cures and technological advances, we are driven to discover how best to educate our students. It is the teaching mission that makes us a research university and not just a research institution.

E. Thomas Sullivan is Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University. Please send comments to [email protected]