“When we started that,” Jacobs said, “I mean under 10% of our students had some kind of international experience in engineering, and because of that QEP right now, we have over 50% of our students have some kind of international experience.”
Additionally, UROP established the President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA), a research grant to fund undergraduate research, and several other programs to enhance undergraduate research experience at Tech, such as adding research options to several different degree programs and establishing research symposiums for undergraduates at the Institute.
While the goals for the new QEP are yet to be concretely defined, there are already ideas for what it might mean for campus.
“I think that as we flush out what this looks like and what the plan is, it’s really rooted in thinking about Georgia Tech’s focus on experiential learning,” Steven Girardot, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and the other co-chair of the Topic Selection Committee, said. “We connect [experiential learning] with students learning in the classroom in a more direct experience in a more direct way.”
They came to this topic after considering various perspectives from the selection committee and campus stakeholders. They narrowed down the 47 initial ideas to three final options they could present to the community, focusing on enhancing advising opportunities, experiential learning and progress and service. They then held “town halls” in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons to survey students and ask them about their opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each topic. Afterwards, they continued the discussion and identified the current topic and the one that could provide the most opportunities for improvement.
To implement their ideas for the QEP, Jacobs highlighted that the next steps for this initiative depend on gathering voices from the Tech community to help decide the specific goals of this plan.
“We love committees and so we’re [going to] have a series of committees… we want to include the student voice. We want to include the faculty voice… so we’re trying to get the people that understand those parts to participate in this decision making process.”
One of the ways Jacobs and Girardot plan to include the community is through the Student Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB is composed of undergraduate student representatives drawn from multiple student and institutional organizations such as the Student Government Association. Girardot said that the SAB was consulted through topic selection and will continue to be used as a resource to understand how to improve experiential learning and student leadership on campus.
Additionally, Jacobs emphasized that any changes need to be made carefully. For example, he mentioned that he wanted to make sure that the opportunities provided by the QEP can be integrated into a student’s regular curriculum, considering the effect of these opportunities on graduation time. He also mentioned the importance of maintaining ambitious dreams while setting realistic and measurable goals for student outcomes.
Moving forward, Jacobs and Girardot plan to start putting together a committee to discuss QEP specifics in the beginning of the Fall 2023 semester. Ultimately, the QEP proposal has to be submitted to SACSCOC by December 2024, at which point the plan should be much more mature. Ideally, they expect the implementation of the finalized QEP to begin in the Fall 2025 semester.