Minutes of October 27, 2003

3:30 p.m., Holmes Student Center – HSC 505

Present: Bose, Cassidy, Deskis, Dillman, House, Isabel, Legg, Miller, Musial, Payvar, Prawitz, Reynolds, Schoenbachler, Seaver, Thompson

Guests: Donna Askins, Research Associate, Office
of the Provost; Craig Barnard, Coordinator, Assessment Services; William
Blair, Chair, Department of

Mathematical Sciences; Sudhir Gupta, Director, Division of Statistics;
Frederick Kitterle, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Alan Polansky,

Associate Professor, Division of Statistics; Jamie Rothstein, Assistant
to the Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and John Wolfskill,
Assistant

Chair, Department of Mathematical Sciences

The meeting was called to order at 3:30 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of October 20, 2003, as distributed, and the motion passed unanimously.

Legg introduced William Blair, Chair, Department of Mathematical Sciences; John Wolfskill, Assistant Chair, Department of Mathematical Sciences; Sudhir Gupta, Director, Division of Statistics; Alan Polansky, Associate Professor, Division of Statistics; Frederick Kitterle, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Jamie Rothstein, Assistant to the Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Legg turned the meeting over to Isabel for the discussion of the subcommittee report. Isabel thanked the subcommittee members who helped put together this report, and she also thanked the college and department representatives who met with the subcommittee.

The strengths of the department include its multidisciplinary and service nature, faculty teaching a wide range of courses to majors and non-majors, and the women’s outreach program. Cassidy asked if this was the women in mathematics project. Wolfskill replied that the project was called Women in Calculus. This is a grant project that was put together by Diana Steele and Amy Levin, which is now in its third year. The purpose of this project is to recruit entering freshmen women and place them into specific sections of calculus and UNIV101, with the goal to improve the retention of women in mathematics and science areas. We think it is a good program. Prawitz asked what the class size was in these courses. Wolfskill replied that it was 20. Legg asked how many other programs are there like this in the country. Wolfskill responded that he didn’t know. Blair added that a faculty member was interviewed about this project on National Public Radio, and Kitterle stated that there was a write-up about the NIU program in a recent NSF program announcement. The program has received a lot of attention, and especially noteworthy is its multidisciplinary approach between mathematics and women’s studies. Isabel said that other department strengths were the strong relationship of the departmental goals to curricular design and the innovative way that the department has dealt with the loss of hard-copy library serials. Electronic journals are now available. Deskis asked about how browsing in on-line journals has worked out. Blair responded that it is too early to say. We took as positive a response as we could on a situation not of our own choosing. There is a list of journals that have been switched over to electronic copy. The sooner we made the move to electronic journals, the larger the base of the journals we were able to keep. The browsing issue is the single biggest issue. The junior faculty who are used to using electronic formats seemed to be less concerned over this new approach than others. Isabel stated that another strength of the department is the faculty recognition for teaching and research. The department has faculty members who are or have been Presidential Research Professors, Distinguished Teaching Professors, and who have received undergraduate teaching awards.

The discussion points for the departmental context section of the review are that assessment practices need improvement, and the assessment of service courses needs to be done. Kitterle said that many of the service courses are assessed at the general education level. There is already a mechanism in place to assess this component of the department’s work. Schoenbachler said that the subcommittee was not aware of this. Cassidy added that for the general education program there is a course review conducted by the General Education Committee (GEC). These courses are also resubmitted every five years and the committee looks at how faculty assess the outcomes of the courses and how this feeds back into the general education program. Miller added that it might be appropriate to include this information in the report. Schoenbachler said that assessment wasn’t really mentioned, and how the department evaluates the program was not talked about in the review. This department spends a great deal of time providing service courses. Blair said that this is a program review, not a department review, and I am reluctant to add on to the reporting burden. We do reply to the GEC on their responses. A streamlined process to report this would be good. Rothstein added that we could mention in the text of the review that the general education courses go through the assessment mechanism. Cassidy asked how the departments were notified about the outcome of the review. Seaver responded that they are notified through correspondence. Cassidy said it might be helpful for the subcommittee to have that information as background for program review. Blair stated that these reviews are on different cycles. Cassidy replied that the letter from the GEC that these courses were reviewed would supply enough information. Kitterle said that there are a number of departments that play a substantial role in providing general education courses, and we have not in any of the reviews singled out service courses this way. The assumption that I have always made is that the process was that the GEC handled this. I was wondering if this is a suggestion for all the programs that provide service courses. Cassidy replied yes. Kitterle said that this is a policy change. Cassidy stated that she was thinking of a way to get information to the subcommittees about general education courses wherever the reviews occur, but maybe a notation about courses having gone through the GEC review would be enough. Wolfskill added that there are seven courses that fulfill the mathematics core and two additional courses for the mathematics area of study. Dillman added that the subcommittee was just asking for some information.

Isabel turned to the review of the B.S. section of the review. The strengths of the program are that the curriculum structure allows for flexibility and the faculty teach 100- and 200-level courses.

Isabel turned to the discussion points for the B.S. program. The review stresses the importance of maintaining high standards, and this shows the commitment the faculty have toward rigor and high achievement. The subcommittee felt that the review failed to tell about its attempts to meet undergraduate student needs as a whole. There are 194 majors and 60 percent are in mathematics education, and of the 44 faculty only 6 are designated for the mathematics education emphasis. The concern is that focusing on the commitment of the discipline of mathematics left some of the majors behind. Schoenbachler added that students had some issues. Deskis asked for an example. Schoenbachler stated the mathematics orientation was a good example: there needs to be improvement in what faculty or students thought it should be. Students aren’t getting what the mathematics department feels is an essential outcome. Musial mentioned that this was also talked about in the last review. There is a large percentage of students not making it through the program at the 400 level. Payvar asked what the 430 course was. Blair replied that it was a proof-based advanced calculus course, which is required of all mathematics majors. Some business and engineering students also enroll in the course. Tying the success of students in 430 to the number of faculty members in mathematics education is confusing. The required courses in mathematics education are 410 and 412 and a clinical course that is done with supervision. The service courses for College of Education students drive the number of mathematics education faculty. We have tried to address the concerns about 430 with a bridge course, but we have not required this course, and maybe it should be required. This is also a problem nationally. We address this in our 240 course too. Mathematical education students also take a 300-level course in geometry that plays a big role in their program. This is hard to get at an early level because of meeting certification requirements. In reality we should say this is a five-year program. Musial said that she didn’t think that the subcommittee had an answer for this problem. We just know that it has been a problem over a period of time. We would like to see you consider something to solve this issue. Dillman said that we discussed about how this affected graduation. Wolfskill replied that they didn’t have specific evidence for or against this, but one might speculate that this affects graduation. Blair said that we have more evidence with transfer students who take longer to graduate. Kitterle added that he thought the discussion of a five-year program is not productive, especially when we are considering an M.S.+ program for teacher certification. I don’t think the legislature would be on our side for a five-year program. There are two issues here. One is serving students in a particular sub-area of a department and the other is the performance of students hitting a wall. I don’t think that these are joined. Class sizes do not seem out of line. We have even looked at senior people in making hires. Wolfskill explained that the undergraduate program is one major with five emphases. One is mathematics education. The mathematics courses taken by any students are very similar. It is not the case that we need a large cadre of faculty to serve the students in mathematics education. We expect our faculty to be generalists as far as teaching is concerned, and most faculty at the undergraduate level teach most things. The program should look at other ways to expose students to mathematical proof at an earlier level.

Isabel turned to the M.S. part of the review. The strengths of the program are the flexibility of the curriculum and the interaction of graduate students with undergraduates in recitation sections.

Isabel stated that the recommendations for the future are to continue recruitment efforts and to implement the assessment plan. Another recommendation is to look at offering foundations of mathematics courses off campus. Cassidy asked if the recruitment efforts apply specifically to minority students. Schoenbachler said that the discussion was based on a number of specializations, but there are not a large number of students in the program. They should continue to work on recruiting women and minorities. Cassidy said that graduate programs have specializations under the umbrella of the degree program, which provides economies of scale. Enrollments in the specializations vary, and this doesn’t affect the productivity or costs of the degree program. We do not need to worry about the distribution of students. Kitterle said if you looked at the 2002 fall enrollments, we have more students than UIUC and one student less than the University of Chicago. We see that there are 19 women in the program. This is low, but it is low nationally too. Blair added that this year there are two minority students in the program. Another important point is that the University of Illinois, Champaign only accepts Ph.D. students. This is not true of NIU. Wolfskill said that very recently our director of graduate students has worked hard recruiting students to obtain a second master’s degree, and enrollments are recovering. Blair added that nationally enrollment in mathematics programs has declined during this period. Our curve runs parallel to the national curve.

Isabel turned to the Ph.D. review. One of the program strengths
is the Applications Involvement Component (AIC). The doctoral program
requires the AIC to expose students to industrial mathematics work performed
in businesses, industries, and governmental agencies. Students are
required to enroll in a seminar that provides material commonly used in
the application of mathematical concepts and presentations from individuals
in the business. Students go out for a

3-6 months internship and then give a presentation describing the nature
of the experience. This is modeled after the Institution for Mathematics
and Its Applications in Minneapolis. It is looked at as a national
model to follow. Legg asked if this was promoted strongly when the
department recruited graduate students. Wolfskill replied absolutely.
Thompson asked how the internships were found. Wolfskill responded
that a person in the department contacts possible internship sites, which
take a lot of time to develop. Legg asked about the percentage of
individuals who work in industry vs. academics. Blair replied that
about four to one go into academic careers but we have some traffic in
both directions. Some industries have held positions for interns
until they graduate.

Bose said that he was pleased to know how strong a department you have. In other institutions with doctoral status the review is linked to publications and external funding: there are many funding opportunities in the mathematics area. I was disappointed to learn about the lack of funding in your department. Blair asked if the question was about the number of people who have grants or the amount of external funding awarded. Legg said we were referring to the number of grants, and Bose said both. Legg added that the important point is not the quantity as much as the activity. Blair said that grant applications play a big role in the promotion process, and about 80 percent of our recent promotions have had grants. Bose asked that if you compare yourself with other institutions of the same size, where are you in comparison to them. Blair responded that they tried to do comparisons but most grant organizations do not provide this information. NSF has the most information. Kitterle added that it is hard to get a benchmark. The department obtained $962,000 in external grant money over the review period. We need to look at the mix of the department, and we do need to look at benchmarks. If you look at MAC schools, we do bring in more money. Bose said that not all of these schools have doctoral status. NSF is encouraging new ways in teaching mathematics and science, and they have a lot of opportunities. Legg said that you need to define the playing field. The real answer comes in looking at total faculty make up, how many have funding, where the money comes from, and then the quantity. We don’t have this data though. Bose said he was not here to criticize the department; he just wanted the department to know there are opportunities for funding.

Isabel turned to the strengths of the M.S. in Applied Probability and Statistics. The strengths include the expertise and devotion of faculty to students and the preparation of graduates for employment.

Isabel said that one discussion item is that assessment is weak. The program asked for some suggestions, and we made some suggestions for employer feedback. They could look at the companies employing their graduates or look at the use of an advisory group. They also have assessment exams from which they might be able to get results. Polansky said that this is the actuarial exam and very few students take it; right now I don’t think we can get data on this. Kitterle added that the anecdotal information is good. He said that in terms of strengths the department has done an excellent job in working with the Career Planning and Placement Center in placing their students. Over a three-year period all the faculty in statistics have published three or more articles. This is a highly productive department that cares about undergraduate students.

Deskis said that the division is thinking about changing the name of the degree program and asked if the specializations in the program were changing. Polansky replied that a specialization was never developed. Gupta added that there is an applied portion of the program, but not many students opt for it. We thought we would emphasize what is being done by students. Legg said this is a good decision. Cassidy said in the review you made the point that students are not required to take applied courses. Gupta explained that there are four required theory courses and a set of courses depending on students’ interests, and they can choose applied if they want to.

Cassidy asked what the relationship between the division and the department is. Does the division have a separate graduate director? Polansky replied that it does, and we are actively involved with the department. Gupta added that the Ph.D. in Mathematics has required course work in statistics and the undergraduate program has an emphasis in statistics. Cassidy said the work of the department and the division are interrelated and the department representatives agreed.

Cassidy said there is a strong point made about the need for math application software and site license so more students can have access. What would the cost investment be to meet this need? Blair replied that it would probably be on the order of $10,000. This would apply to the whole campus. We talked to engineering and physics about investing in this software, but this would be a change from what they have already purchased. We would have to go with whatever we wanted to as a department. It has been several years since we have looked into this. Cassidy asked if a campus site license was necessary. Blair responded that a site license for the department limits the number of machines you can install the software on, so our preference would be a campus-wide site license then students could use the software in all the laboratories on campus. This would be ideal, especially for MATH 232 students, and this would have a major impact on this course.

The meeting adjourned at 4:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Carolyn A. Cradduck