campus photo at Spieth Hall

Undergraduate Education to offer student success-focused courses

The division’s new academic status allows for an expanded role

April 19, 2024
Author: Imran Ghori
April 19, 2024

UC Riverside’s Division of Undergraduate Education is putting together plans to expand the types of courses offered to students now that it has academic status.

The department became an academic division following the Feb. 27 approval by the UCR Academic Senate of its bylaws.

The new status represents a significant achievement for the division, allowing it to create course offerings designed specifically to guide undergraduates in their educational journeys, said Louie Rodríguez, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education.

Louie Rodríguez

“A significant focus will be on student success,” he said. “Moving forward, all courses that we propose will have some kind of theme around helping students navigate the campus, identify opportunities, and propel students forward so they can thrive at UCR. It is vital that students recognize the opportunities that exist at a Research 1 university and Undergraduate Education is poised to help deliver that message to students.”

Undergraduate Education had previously only been an administrative unit, offering a variety of programs and working to support schools and colleges who provide courses and have their own faculty. It already oversees the University Writing Program, which help fulfills the UCR writing fulfillment, but those courses are approved and mostly taught by other departments.

With its new status, Undergraduate Education will be able to design its own courses and offer academic credit. UCR is now the only campus in the University of California system that has such a division with academic status.

Rodríguez said the courses will fill a void, teaching students skills that will help them advance in their studies. Among the topics that are being considered are courses on developing academic and navigational skills to be college ready; research ethics including the use of Artificial Intelligence; and developing skills to be ready for the workforce and/or graduate school.

“We’re hoping to be able to provide an opportunity for undergraduates to be able to enrich their toolkit and their experiences so they’re getting what they need while students here at UCR and continue to thrive to graduation and beyond,” he said.

Gaining academic status was one of the priorities for Rodríguez when he began his current role a year ago. He continued a process started by his predecessor, Associate Provost Ken Baerenklau, who served as interim dean. When Rodriguez started last April, he created a faculty bylaws committee made up of faculty members from across the campus.

Last fall, Rodríguez also appointed a course experience workgroup led by faculty, Undergraduate Education staff members, and writing program colleagues. The workgroup already conceptualized two to three courses that will be submitted to the Academic Senate for review. Undergraduate Education is also in conversation with the Rivera Library leadership to offer a course in information literacy. The goal is to have one or two available for the winter or spring 2025 quarter.

The division has two professors who are teaching faculty members but Rodríguez said he hopes to grow that number. Likewise, the division will start with a handful of courses and build from there. The initial focus will be on student success and the scope may broaden to other areas of campus life.

Rodríguez cited a course at UC Berkeley called “Brilliance of Berkeley” that could be used as a model. The class, led by UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ, seeks to deepen students’ connection to their campus by exposing them to a wide variety of faculty members and paths of study.

Rodríguez said he’d like to do the same for UCR, teaching students about the campus’ history and its unique character.

“I think it’s going to be a big plus to be able to provide students with additional experiences, expose them to knowledge, and have the opportunity to build community with one another in these classes,” he said.