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UT may re-establish center to aid teachers

A center to improve teaching at the University of Toledo, disbanded last year by the administration of former president Vik Kapoor, is on the verge of a comeback.

William Decatur, interim president, said yesterday he will request $200,000 from the UT Foundation to create a Center for Teaching and Learning. His announcement came during the last scheduled meeting this year of the UT board of trustees.

The foundation's executive committee meets at 3:30 p.m. today. The full foundation board will meet Dec. 14.

“We are a university that has always taken our undergraduate mission seriously. To improve our success in undergraduate teaching and learning, this kind of operation is essential,” Mr. Decatur said.

In its last incarnation, the program was called the Center for Teaching Excellence. It was formed in 1993 and terminated in June, 1999.

The center provided professional development for UT faculty, sponsoring orientations for new instructors, offering seminars and workshops, and funding the development of new courses.

The goal of the proposed center would be similar, though faculty will be able to improve and reinvent it. The university is creating a task force to work on the matter, Mr. Decatur said.

Dr. Bernard Bopp, professor of astronomy and director of the former center, said administrators last year decided its activities could become the domain of individual colleges. That never happened, he said.

“The [center] stopped, but nothing really arose in the individual colleges to really take its place,” he said. “There's been a real hole here.”

Dr. Andrew Jorgensen, who chairs the faculty senate, cheered the effort to restore a center for teaching. Its end signaled a “stagnation of the teaching mission at the university,” he said.

Mr. Decatur's announcement came during his review of the last six months at UT. In June, Dr. Kapoor was forced to resign after 17 months in office and an interim administration was appointed.

Mr. Decatur touched on other strides as well, including increased collaboration with faculty and students through committees and open forums, filling more than 100 faculty and staff positions, and plans to tackle the challenges of decreasing enrollment.

The teaching center proposal is an important part of the process of rebuilding UT's infrastructure, James Tuschman, chairman of the UT trustees, said. “As we reviewed what all had happened, it became clear that some of these things were so important to the university that they had to be put back in place,” he said.

In other business, trustees approved:

  • The formation of a Precision Micro-Machining Center in the engineering college. The center organizes research under way at the college on precision finishing of manufactured components like computer and automobile parts and making the process cost-effective. Its research is supported by state and federal funds, as well as by UT and industrial firms.

  • An honorary degree for state Auditor Jim Petro. Mr. Petro will be the commencement speaker at the university's Dec. 16 ceremony, where he will receive an honorary doctorate in public administration.

  • Renewed several contracts with health-care vendors for one year as part of the university's insurance program.

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