Reinventing undergraduate education

The Reinvention Center was established in April 2000 as the only national organization to focus on undergraduate education exclusively at research universities. The catalyst for its creation was the Boyer Commission Report, Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities (1998), which offered a vision of undergraduate education at research universities that builds on their unique assets and is synergistic with their research and graduate missions.

The Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University was funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Soon after the report’s release, Shirley Strum Kenny, who served as chair of the Commission and was President of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, concluded that the work of the Commission could best be implemented by creating a national network of American research universities committed to strengthening undergraduate education. She volunteered to host the aptly named Reinvention Center at Stony Brook. Dr. Wendy Katkin, Associate Provost for Educational Initiatives and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook, was selected as the Center’s first director. An Executive Board was formed to provide overall direction and policies.

In its first six years, the Center developed programmatic initiatives to encourage research universities to inventory, implement, and evaluate the impact of the Boyer Commission’s original recommendations. During this period, the Board and the Director also worked to find the best ways in which the Center could support and institutionalize cross-university collaborations and initiatives. This led to the initial biennial National conferences, collaboration in the development of grant proposals for initiatives designed to improve undergraduate education, and a series of publications, including: Reinventing Undergraduate Education: Three Years after the Boyer Report (2002);  and Eight Years after Boyer: Ten Indicators of Excellence in Undergraduate Education (2006). In addition to these publications, the Center began the practice of highlighting significant issues and innovations in its Spotlight page on the website; it also developed an online catalog of relevant resource materials. The companion institution-building focus led to the first set of by-laws in 2003.

In November 2004, Judith Smith, Professor of Physiological Science at UCLA and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (as well as Dean of Honors and Undergraduate Programs), made a suggestion that would change the evolution of the Center and create a new organizing principle for its collaborations. The suggestion was to create a network composed of faculty who had all-university (or all-college) administrative responsibilities for undergraduate education. This network soon came to be called the UVP Network. A series of regional meetings were held in 2005 to assess interest, and the first national UVP meeting was held in conjunction with the 2006 National Conference.

The UVP network has become, in conjunction with the Board and the Executive Director, the backbone of the Center’s activities. People who hold the UVP role on their campus have a unique perspective on how one can best translate all-university educational initiatives into actual practice. That perspective makes them, in turn, the best connecting point for inter-university collaboration.

The UVP network has played a central role in identifying the topics for the regional and National meetings in the Center’s two-year meeting cycle. The UVP network became even more critical in 2007, when the Center became a member-owned, fee-based consortium. The UVPs were the key institutional spokespersons for the value of participating in the Center’s work as 65 public and private research universities agreed to become Charter Members in 2007.

Since the creation of the UVP network, the Center has experimented with the creation of additional networks in areas such as STEM Education, Writing to Learn, and Assessment. The Writing to Learn Network  resulted in, among other initiatives, 3 NSF grants and a TUES 2 grant led by Professors Leslie Schiff at the University of Minnesota, Julie Reynolds and Bob Thompson at Duke, and Jeff Sekelesky at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There was considerable momentum building behind the initiatives promoted by the other networks when the impact of the 2008-2009 financial crisis led many universities to pull back and focus on the internal challenges occasioned by widespread budget cuts.

At the time when it became a fee-based, member-owned consortium, the Center was fortunate to have the support of Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami. President Shalala volunteered the University of Miami as the new institutional home for the Center. The hand-off from Stony Brook to Miami was effected by Wendy Katkin, who continued to serve as director from her New York base, and William Scott Green, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education at the University of Miami.

In November 2010, Patricia Turner, then Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at UC Davis, was named Executive Director. Wendy Katkin, who had served as founding director for over a decade, was named Director Emeritus.

Dr. Turner served as Executive Director until January 1, 2013 when she moved from Davis to become Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at UCLA. Her appointment followed the retirement of her Reinvention Center colleague, Judith Smith. At its 2012 National Conference, the Board of the Reinvention Center awarded Professor Smith the inaugural Reinvention Center Award for Distinguished Service in Undergraduate Education to honor both her 17 years of leadership at UCLA and her 12 years of involvement with the Reinvention Center.

On January 1, 2013, a new Executive Director, Alan Lamborn, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs at Colorado State University (CSU) and a new chair of the Board, Claudia Neuhauser, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Minnesota Rochester were named. At the same time, the University of Miami handed-off the responsibilities of being the host institution for the Reinvention Center to Colorado State University.

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In 2016 the Board decided to change the name of the Reinvention Center to the Reinvention Collaborative. Several considerations led to this decision. First, the organization has not been a true “center” since its initial years at Stony Brook. With the move to the University of Miami and the beginning of a membership-based funding model, it ceased being a center and became a consortium. The consortium’s emphasis on collaboration grew at the same time with the development of the UVP Network. The emphasis on collaborative networks has expanded considerably since 2014 with the founding of four “Specialized” Networks: (1) Curricular and Co-Curricular Engagement and Integrative Learning; (2) The Science of Learning/Pedagogical Innovation; (3) Student Success/Learning Analytics; (4) Advising and Academic Guidance. Unlike the UVP Network (where membership is restricted to a particular administrative role and the topics include any issues or initiatives that affect undergraduate education), the Specialized Networks are focused on a specific topic and open to faculty, staff, and administrators across member universities. Taken together, the activities of the UVP network and the Specialized Networks put our focus squarely on collaboration. Hence, the decision to change the name.

Currently the Reinvention Collaborative is launching a multi-year set of staged initiatives, inspired by the Boyer Report and entitled RC 20/20, to articulate and implement a vision for student-centered undergraduate learning experiences that fully leverage the distinctive capabilities of research universities to meet the educational needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students.