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UCS to focus on strategic planning

The Council will also work to improve the advising experience and student-alum relations

With the first Undergraduate Council of Students meeting set for this week, leaders said the Council will likely focus its efforts on gathering student input about President Christina Paxson’s upcoming strategic planning report, improving advising and fostering student-alum partnerships this year.

Though the Council’s first general body meeting will not occur until Wednesday, its leaders have already met to discuss priorities for the coming year, said UCS President Todd Harris ’14.5.

The Council pursues different priorities each year, depending on its leadership and issues currently concerning the student body. Last year, under former UCS President Anthony White ’13, the Council focused on the University’s financial aid policies, The Herald reported at the time.

The priorities that UCS leaders outlined for this year are not conclusive and will be influenced by student feedback in the coming months, said UCS Vice President Sam Gilman ’15.

“None of this is final,” Gilman said. “The student body turns over 25 percent every year, and there are a bunch of students here who might care about different things. The agenda may change.”


Talking strategy

The Council will likely spend much of its time in the first two months of the semester gathering student feedback on the strategic planning process.

Paxson will release a draft of the strategic plan — a document expected to shape her agenda for the University over the next decade — to the community later this month. Students will have about a month to provide feedback on the strategic plan before it is reviewed by the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, at its meeting in late October.

“It’s a really quick turnaround. Students only have one month to talk about the future of Brown’s education over the next 10 years,” Harris said. “We want to make sure we get as many student voices involved in the process as possible.”

The council will sponsor a campus-wide forum to seek student feedback on the draft of the strategic plan, Harris said. The council will also conduct its campus-wide fall poll a month earlier than in past years to allow students’ responses to be incorporated into the strategic plan, he said.

In addition, members of student groups that share an interest with one of the six strategic planning committees will be invited to the council’s general body meetings for the first time, Gilman said. For example, members of Brown for Financial Aid will likely be invited to the general body meeting that features presentations by representatives of the strategic planning Committee on Financial Aid, he said.

Several student group leaders told The Herald they hope the council will help foster awareness of the strategic planning reports among undergraduates.

“I hope UCS plays a role in ensuring that the student body as a whole knows about the (strategic planning) process and is aware of how important it is,” said BFA President Alex Mechanick ’15.

“When the strategic planning report is released, I feel like a lot of students won’t know or care about it,” said Marguerite Joutz ’15, a member of the Brown Conversation, a group that aims to promote dialoge on campus about University issues. “I would hope that UCS educates people about it.”


Advising and alums

The council will also work on initiatives spearheaded by Harris to reform the undergraduate advising system and encourage student-alum interaction this year.

In his campaign for the presidency last spring, Harris said he would focus on improving advising and connecting students with alums, The Herald reported at the time.

Harris said the UCS Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee would work this year to improve first-years’ experiences with their advisors and Meiklejohns.

Several undergraduates told The Herald they would welcome improvements to the current advising system.

“I feel like my Meiklejohn and my advisor only met with me out of obligation,” said Carolynn Cong ’16, adding that she hopes the council ensures that advisors and Meiklejohns are enthusiastic about helping their advisees.

“I think anything you can do to improve advising would be good for the student body,” said Olivia Watson ’16. “I feel like that’s a big reason why I came here, to have a one-on-one relationship with my advisor and to have resources like my Meiklejohn.”

The council also has its sights set on increasing interaction between undergraduates and alums.

Gilman said council members would work with Paxson’s office to create more opportunities for students to engage with alums, such as mentorships, internships and meet-ups.

UCS Student Activities Chair Alex Drechsler ’15 said he would also work to make the student group coordination website MyGroups more conducive to connecting undergraduates with alums, adding that the council may replace MyGroups with another student group organizing software.

Several undergraduates told The Herald they supported the council’s plans for engaging alums.

“Alumni would be great if I needed a job,” said David Weinberger ’16.

“Even though we have a lot of events on campus that seem geared toward careers, like career fairs or events at CareerLAB, I think everyone could benefit from more of that,” Watson said. “Alumni could be resources outside of CareerLAB.”


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