First L &S Colloquium on Undergraduate Education

A presentation on the report and recommendations of the Commission on Undergraduate Education

By Susan Hagstrom
October 3, 2000

The first ever L & S Colloquium on Undergraduate Education, sponsored by the new Undergraduate Division in the College of Letters and Science, was held October 3, 2000. Professor Paul Licht, Chair of the L & S Deans, served as moderator and Vice Chancellor Genaro Padilla and Professor Catherine Koshland presented on the recent report and recommendations of the Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE).

CUE was formed two years ago after Chancellor Berdahl and E V C P Christ asked Professor Carolyn Porter and V C Padilla to take a closer look at areas of strength and concern within undergraduate education at U C Berkeley. V C Padilla presented a context for the Commission's deliberations, by illustrating the ways in which the student body has changed over the last decade. Data on the increased selectivity of the admissions process and on steady improvements in performance measures bring home the fact that today's undergraduate is both more demanding and more rewarding to teach.

According to Professor Koshland, Chair of the Commission's sub-committee on Academic Enrichment Opportunities, CUE members agreed that as a research institution, U C Berkeley should not attempt to create a small liberal arts atmosphere but should instead build upon its primary strength, research-based discovery and inquiry. The Commission recommends that this be accomplished through encounters with faculty and academic curriculum, and through shared academic experiences.

The Commission spent a significant amount of time envisioning the ideal undergraduate education, both in terms of the skills and abilities a student should acquire at Berkeley and in terms of the academic phases students pass through as they pursue an education here. They have included an explicit statement of these ideals in their report, the full text of which can be found at This vision underlies recommendations they have made in the following four general categories:

  1. Integrate inquiry-based learning into every phase of the undergraduate education.
  2. Ensure that all undergraduates have the opportunity to become literate and numerate across a broad range of disciplines by the time they graduate.
  3. Improve the availability and quality of advising for both declared and undeclared students.
  4. Regularize the institutional assessment of undergraduate education on the Berkeley campus.

The soon-to-be-appointed Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education is expected to convene a Council on Undergraduate Education to discuss these recommendations and implement them where possible.

Following the presentation of findings and recommendations, presenters and participants discussed such topics as the high quality of faculty advising, how to encourage more students to take advantage of advising, and the need to choose a more descriptive word than "advising" (such as "mentoring") to describe the role that faculty play in students' intellectual development.

The L & S colloquia, which take place once or twice each semester, provide opportunities to learn about and discuss the overarching issues affecting undergraduate education at U C Berkeley. For more information on upcoming or past programs, contact Alix Schwartz at or (510) 642-8378.

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