Meeting of May 17, 2005

Held in the Poole Board Room of the Wardlaw Center



Members Present: Akins (Prof Prac); Chameau (Provost); First (Phys); Foley (CoC); Gentry (Arch); Huff (GTRI); Hughes (ECE); Peterson (ECE); Schneider (Mgt); Telotte (LCC); Warren (EDI); Andersen (U. Student); Keller (for K. David; G. Student); Alexander (Staff Rep); Abdel-Khalik (SoF).


Members Absent: Cabot (OIT); Clough (President); Evans (GTRI); Horton (GTRI); McGinnis (ISyE); Uzer (Phys); Yen (BIOL).


Visitors: Engle (Psych); Nobles (HTS)


1.      Joe Hughes (Vice Chair) opened the meeting at 3:05 PM.  He called on the Provost to comment on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech community.  The Provost offered the following comments on behalf of the President who is attending the Board of Regents meeting:


a.       The SACS on-site review of the QEP was conducted three weeks ago.  The outcome was very positive; the review team was very impressed by the Plan and no deficiencies were found.  The final decision on the SACS reaffirmation process will be rendered when the Commission meets in December.   Thanks to Jack Lohmann (Assoc. provost) and the many people from both academic and non-academic units for their efforts in shepherding the accreditation process.


b.      Budget allocations for the various campus units are being made at this time. Budget reviews and preparations for the next fiscal year (including State funds and income projections from tuition and research) have been completed.  The budget picture is “fair;” after accounting for last year’s payroll shift, the net increase in state funds is only $1.5M.  We will be able to hire a number of new faculty, and provide funding for high priority initiatives, including additional teaching assistants and reduction of class sizes for some units. 


c.       An initiative will be undertaken this summer to encourage the campus community to reduce energy consumption.  Georgia Power expects the cost of electricity during the next year to increase between 16 and 28%.  Several actions (e.g. improved temperature control in several buildings) have reduced energy usage by 5 to 15% -- [a 10% reduction in campus energy usage corresponds to ~$2M/year, which is very significant].


d.      Dr. Sue Ann Bidstrup-Allen (ChBE) has been appointed as Executive Assistant to the President (effective June 1st) replacing Dr. Gary May, who has been named Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (effective May 1st).  Dr. Roger Webb (former ECE Chair) has retired and will be working part-time in the Provost’s Office on special projects (Energy Initiative, and overseeing plans for the new Nanotechnology Research Building).  Dr. McMath (Vice Provost) will retire effective August 1st; he has accepted a position as Dean of the Honors College at the University of Arkansas.


e.       The Spring commencement was held at the Georgia Dome; it went well even though it was somewhat longer than planned.  During the next few months we will gather feedback from people who participated (faculty and students) in order to decide on what we are going to do next year.  The Coliseum is large enough for the Summer and Fall graduations, but cannot accommodate the large number of Spring graduates.     


A question was asked regarding the Governor’s veto of several budget items for the University System.  The Provost indicated that the vetoes involved several so-called “minor projects” which were not included in the Governor’s original budget; they were added by the Legislature.  Among these projects was the renovation of the Old CE building which was slated to house the Ivan Allen College; it is disappointing that it will not be funded this year.  These projects are good for the State since, in most cases, the State provides only a part of the renovation costs (last GT project of this type was the Coon Building renovation which cost $9.6M, of which the State provided only $5M).   The Swann building renovation will be completed in 6 weeks; it was done entirely with GT money (no State money) -- it will house the School of Modern Languages.  A question was asked regarding the status of our initiatives with respect to India.  The Provost stated that a faculty committee chaired by professor Vijay Madisetti (ECE) traveled to India last December to initiate contacts.  Based on the committee’s input, four different groups in India have been contacted to request specific proposals for collaboration opportunities.  We have not received any formal responses; however, other GT faculty may visit India again this summer.  The Provost suggested that interested faculty may directly contact professor Madisetti.   A follow-up question was raised regarding the nature of such collaboration.  The Provost indicated that it may include an exchange program, internships in several corporations, and may possibly lead to double degree programs.  However, none of these details has been decided.          


2.      Hughes called for approval of minutes of the March 15, 2005 meeting, and the April 12, 2005 retreat of the Executive Board.  He stated that the minutes had been posted on the web and that no further additions or corrections have been received. The minutes were approved without dissent. (See Attachment #1 below). 


3.      Hughes inquired as to whether the results of the Spring 2005 faculty elections have been reported.  Abdel-Khalik (SoF) stated that the results of the elections were approved on April 22, 2005 by an e-mail vote of the Executive Board.  They have been posted on the web (See Attachment #2 below) and all candidates have been individually notified of the outcome of the race(s) in which they ran.  


4.      Hughes called on Drs. Greg Nobles (HTS) and Randy Engle (Psych) to present an overview of the proposed undergraduate Honors Program (See Attachment #3 below).   Nobles  stated that last October, Drs. Chameau and McMath formed a committee to explore the possibility of creating an institute-wide undergraduate honors program at GT, and asked him and Randy Engle (Psych) to co-chair the committee (see committee report including membership list in Attachment #3A below).  He stated that at the beginning of the process several committee members were skeptical regarding the notion of creating such a program.  However, after numerous meetings and engaged discussions, the committee concluded that the time is right for such an initiative, and strongly recommended that the Institute support a first-class Honors Program that “will greatly benefit our students and be a source of pride to Georgia Tech.”  After examining numerous honors programs and honors colleges at other institutions, the committee concluded that we do not wish to replicate such programs, which typically skim the top 5-10% of the incoming class based on high school GPA and SAT.  Such an approach would be inappropriate for an institution such as GT, given the academic achievement of all our incoming students.  Hence, the proposed GT program will seek to identify students not just according to high school GPA and SAT scores, but according to their record (and promise) of commitment to intellectual initiative and interdisciplinary inquiry.  Nobles stated that proposed honors program is not intended to compete with the Presidential Scholars program, which has its own purpose, identity, and mission; naturally, there will be some overlap between the students in both programs.  However, the proposed honors program seeks to identify “inquisitive” students who want to pursue their education with a good deal of “self-direction.” 


Nobles stated that the program will initially focus on the first two years of study at Georgia Tech, where students take the introductory math, science, English, and US history classes.  The intent is to build on some of the efforts already underway at GT (honors sections of Math and Physics), by broadly expanding the approach across the first two years of the curriculum.  Honors sections of required introductory courses will be open to Honors Program students who choose to take them, as well as other students on a space-available basis.  Honors Program students will be required to take three “topically-oriented” Honors courses (one per semester for the first three semesters the student is on campus).  These courses define the innovative core of the Honors program with small sections to encourage inquiry-based teaching and learning.  Students will also take a one-credit hour colloquium which involves a small group of students (~10) and two faculty members from different disciplines, who meet at least one hour per week and engage each other through different forms of study on topics that invite different perspectives.  The committee will be working this summer to develop models for Honors curricula in the various disciplines.  While effort will be initially focused on the first two years, the committee would like to encourage undergraduate majors to extend the Program into the third and fourth years.  The expectation is that, in time, every undergraduate major at GT will have Honors Program activities for 3rd and 4th year students.  Nobles stated that while discussions have been organized around curricular opportunities, it is important to recognize that the main outcome of this program is not a “curricular package.”  Important activities will take place both inside and outside the classroom.  For example, it is proposed that Honors Program students be housed in a residential facility that can accommodate co- and extra-curricular activities such as faculty-student dinners, invited lectures, performances, outreach projects, and other opportunities for shared learning.  


Nobles stated that success of the proposed Honors Program will depend on the ability to attract a group of “engaged and inquisitive” students, as well as faculty members who are willing to work closely with them.  Bringing these people together will have an impact beyond the Program itself; it will profoundly impact the academic and intellectual culture throughout the campus.  Referring to the Committee’s report (Attachment #3A), and to the Provost’s draft memo to the faculty and students (Attachment #3B), Nobles stated that it is clear that we are still in the early stages of planning and development; presentations will be made to various groups around campus to seek their input and suggestions, as we proceed with the development of a detailed plan and a formal proposal for the Honors Program.  Engle stated that he was among the early “skeptics” on the committee; his early experience at other institutions suggested that most of them develop honors programs in order to capture what we already have at Georgia Tech.  He stated that he became a strong supporter of the Program after the committee’s deliberations, and that the proposed Honors Program will create a “community of scholars,” and will serve as a test bed of ideas that will enhance the educational experience of all students at Georgia Tech. 


A question was asked as to whether the program will create a “Residential Honors College.”  Nobles stated that while the proposed Program has a residential component, it is not a “College.”  Living in a designated residential facility will offer students a wide range of co- and extra-curricular activities and will allow them to reinforce each other intellectually.  A follow-up question was asked as to whether students would be expected to live in the dorm for the entire four years.  Nobles stated that, currently, it is contemplated that students participating in the Program would live in the residence hall during their first two years, after which they can move to other places (on or off campus).  Nevertheless, they can continue to participate in the cultural and extra-curricular activities taking place at the residential facility even after moving out.  A comment was made that GT undergraduates are reluctant to ask questions or “challenge” the professors; they tend to accept what professors say at face value.  The proposed Program can create an environment where students feel free to ask questions thereby enhancing the educational experience for all students (not just in Honors classes).  Engle indicated that faculty participating in the Program will, in essence, be “self selecting,” inasmuch as some faculty members like to be asked tough questions.  A comment was made that, similar to the International Plan and the Research Plan, the proposed Program will help Georgia Tech recruit and retain extremely bright and motivated students that we may now be losing to other institutions.   Nobles indicated that this is consistent with comments made by Deborah Smith (Enrollment Services) to the committee.  The Provost stated that the evidence for such an effect may be anecdotal; every year we interview students who decide to go elsewhere after being accepted by Georgia Tech – access to an honors program is sometimes cited as a part of the decision.  Outstanding students are interested in accessing a broad range of opportunities; the proposed Honors Program, together with the International Plan, the Research Plan, and the Presidential Scholars Program, will expand the opportunities available to our students, and will, therefore, help attract those students to Georgia Tech.  Hughes stated that he and Ray Vito (ME) represented engineering on the committee, and that they often wondered why we lose engineering students to places such as Duke.  Clearly, it is not because they expect to get better engineering education at Duke; instead, they want access to opportunities beyond their majors -- they want to know how their discipline impacts society in general.  They go to Duke because they view Georgia Tech as a more narrowly-focused institution.   Those are the students who will be attracted to the Honors Program, as well as the other Programs we have recently established. 


A question was asked as to how the requirements for the proposed Honors Program will “mesh” with those for other programs, e.g. the International Plan and the Research Plan, since students may be interested in simultaneously pursuing more than one program.  Nobles stated that some of the requirements for the Honors Program are still being worked out, which gives us the opportunity to look at the requirements for the International Plan and the Research Plan, so that we can build that possibility into the Program.  A comment was made that it is relatively easy to combine the Honors Program and the Research Plan, since the requirements for the Research Plan fall mostly into the third and fourth years.  Engle stated that he has compiled a booklet of curricula and mission statements for 30 different honors programs and colleges across the country; international experience plays an important role in virtually all of them.  Combining the Honors Program and the International Plan will be “difficult but doable.”  Nobles stated that “creation of opportunities for students” has been a recurring theme during the committee’s discussions.  So, the emphasis is not on creating another set of requirements; instead we want to do something imaginative and create a framework for students to avail themselves of the opportunities we offer.  A question was asked as to whether there will be a degree designation associated with the Program.  Nobles stated that this has not yet been worked out.  A question was asked as to how this Program will impact diversity on campus.  Nobles stated that the expectation is that as we offer more opportunities, a wider range of students will apply to Georgia Tech.  This program will make Georgia Tech more intellectually-diverse, and will, hopefully, also enhance other measures of diversity.  Engle noted that the nature of the selection process among applicants to the program will likely lead to a greater diversity.  A question was asked as to how students will be selected for admission into the Program, especially since GPA and SAT scores will not be the main criteria.  Nobles stated that the selection process is an important issue that the committee will be working on over the course of the next year.  It will be the focus of the next committee meeting with the Admissions staff (June 6th).  He stated that while high school GPA and SAT scores are important, we want to include additional measures, such as letters of recommendation, nomination letters from high school teachers from different disciplines, etc. We will have to rely on the people who know the students well, namely the councilors.  We will also provide an “entrance ramp” for students who are already here at Georgia Tech, since we will have a good idea about their capabilities.  They will also know about the Honors Program by enrolling in honors classes (honors classes will not be limited to honors program participants); if they like those classes they will apply to be admitted to the program.   


A question was asked regarding performance requirements to remain in the program.  Nobles stated that students’ concern with grades should not be paramount; however, the Program is challenging and some students may elect to leave it if they cannot keep up their grades.  A question was asked as to what the program will be called since the name “Honors Program” may be interpreted in a “traditional” manner (top 5-10%) which is inconsistent with what we are trying to do.  A comment was made that it is hoped that the nature of Program will be sufficiently well defined so that people who want to participate in it will “self-identify.”  A suggestion was made that the word “interdisciplinary” should be included in the Program’s name.  Nobles stated that some students may wish to combine majors in a manner that we had not thought of; many of the leading honors programs and colleges around the country provide opportunities for students to do things differently since they may see things that we had not envisioned.  A question was asked as to how faculty teaching the Honors sections will be selected.  Engle stated that the process will likely evolve into a “self-selection” process; the incentive for faculty is to have the inquisitive and creative students we expect to enroll in the Honors sections.  He stated that we do not wish to create a separate “honors faculty;” the aim is not to create an isolated “enclave” – instead, we hope this will be an “incubator” for ideas and an important integral part of GT life.  It is hoped that more faculty will want to participate in this program than what is needed and that there should be no barriers for people to participate.   Engle stated that there are some cross-disciplinary ideas/courses that require people from different disciplines (e.g. Psychology and Energy Systems Engineering -- how to get people to change their behavior regarding energy usage and/or sustainability).  We have to provide the means to develop those ideas/courses, which are now difficult to do.  The Provost stated that in his previous role ad Dean of Engineering, he used to talk about “Engineering the Liberating Discipline for the 21st Century.”  The idea is that you want people who are good engineers but are willing to take the time to study and address the bigger questions of how their discipline can impact society at large.  By the same token, students pursuing careers in social studies need to have a deeper understanding of science and technology; we want our students to be more broadly educated.   A question was asked regarding the resources required to sustain the program since small class sizes will likely require a large number of faculty.  The Provost stated that he purposely asked the committee not to consider the resources issue at the onset of their deliberations, since such constraints may inhibit discussions and doom a new program before it starts.  He stated that it is important to first define what we would like to do and then see how we can get the resources to do it.  The Honors program will likely ramp-up over a five-year period during which we can get the necessary resources.  Additionally, as we move forward with the Capital Campaign, the program may be attractive for potential donors, because of its student-oriented nature. 


A motion was made to encourage the Committee to move forward with the development of the Honors Program and report back to the Board at an appropriate time.  The motion passed without dissent.   Nobles stated that based on earlier discussions with the Executive Board Chair (McGinnis) and the Secretary of the Faculty (Abdel-Khalik), it was agreed that it would be a good idea to make a presentation to the Academic Senate at the first meeting in the Fall (September 13, 2005).  Hughes concurred and indicated that the Board will approve the Academic Senate meeting agenda at the August meeting.  He thanked Drs. Nobles and Engle for their presentation.


5.      Hughes called for approval of proposed appointment of four new members to the Institute Review Committee (IRC) (See Attachment #4 below).  He stated that the IRC is responsible for overseeing the process by which GT implements academic program reviews as required by the Board of Regents and SACS accreditation.  He referred to the list of proposed new members (Attachment #4) which also includes lists of continuing members and departing members, along with a list of programs to be reviewed next year.  The proposed members have been nominated by their respective deans to serve for a three-year term.  A motion to approve the appointment of the four proposed new members to the IRC passed without dissent.


6.      The Chair called on the Secretary of the Faculty, who stated that Ms. Heather Gorman (Tech Licensing) will be leaving Georgia Tech and that there is a need to appoint a faculty member to complete her un-expired term [05-07] on the Faculty Benefits Committee. In accordance with the procedure previously established by the Board, Professor Bettina Cothran (Mod Langs) has been contacted and has agreed to serve on the committee pending the Board’s approval.  A motion to approve the appointment of Professor Bettina Cothran (Mod Langs) to the Faculty Benefits Committee to complete the un-expired term [05-07] of Ms. Heather Gorman passed without dissent.   


7.      Hughes stated that Leon McGinnis (EB Chair), together with Said Abdel-Khalik (SoF), and himself (EB Vice-Chair), will examine the issues identified during the April 12, 2005 Executive Board retreat and will formulate a plan for moving forward.  Leon McGinnis will report on the outcome at the next Board meeting.  


8.      The Chair called for any other business; hearing none, he adjourned the meeting at 4:35 PM.



Respectfully submitted,


Said Abdel-Khalik

Secretary of the Faculty

May 22nd, 2005


Attachments (to be included with the archival copy of the minutes)


1.       Minutes of the EB meetings:

a.       March 15, 2005:

b.      April 12, 2005:

2.      Results of the 2005 Faculty Elections (Approved by e-mail vote of the Executive Board on April 22, 2005):

3.      Georgia Tech Honors Program

a.       Honors Program Committee Report

b.      Draft Letter from the Provost to Faculty and Students

4.      Proposed Membership list for the Institute Review Committee