UC Merced is one of only seven universities nationwide to receive a grant from the Council of Graduate Schools to develop new approaches for enhancing graduate student skills for assessing undergraduate learning, and to help prepare students for future careers as university faculty members.
In addition to being the only UC campus to receive a grant, UC Merced is among prestigious company.
Other grant recipients are: Harvard University, Cornell University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The grants, $50,000 for each institution, come from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Teagle Foundation. The money will help each institution integrate learning assessment into programs that prepare graduate students for faculty careers.
"It's really great to see UC Merced joining this cohort of awardees to develop new educational opportunities for our students," said Chris Kello, acting dean of graduate studies at UC Merced. "I look forward to seeing how the curricular and pedagogical outcomes of this project enhance our undergraduate and graduate programs alike.”
In a press release, the council said the project is designed to identify effective institutional models for improving the preparation of future faculty across all fields, while also examining issues specific to science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM), social sciences and humanities.
UC Merced has 329 graduate students this year, 237 who work in STEM fields and 92 who work in humanities and social sciences.
The institutions will work with the council to develop their findings into guidelines for integrating assessment into faculty-professional-development programs such as the Preparing Future Faculty program, launched in 1993. The universities are considered partners in the project, and will contribute to a web‐based clearinghouse of resources on learning assessment. Another 19 universities will be affiliate partners.
UC Merced’s award builds on work initiated through a Department of Education grant received by the Center for Research on Teaching Excellence  (CRTE) in 2010 to engage graduate students in course and program assessment, with a focus on attending to the needs of first-generation college students.
The new research partnership extends the CRTE’s guidebook project to include more campus partners and establish a national model for graduate education in assessment.
“CRTE offers many professional development opportunities in the scholarship of teaching and learning to all UC Merced graduate students,” said Mike Truong, the center’s associate director. “Through the Teaching Matters Workshop Series and the Instructional Internship Program, graduate students get hands-on training on effective pedagogical practices, including outcomes-based learning, assessment of learning, among other topics. The CGS grant will allow our center to train graduate students to apply the latest research in assessment to improving student learning at course, program, and institutional levels.”
“Graduate students play such a significant instructional role at research universities; it is important to involve them in the formal processes for evaluating student work and cultivating shared instructional goals for student learning at the program level,” said Laura Martin, coordinator for institutional assessment and a co-author on the proposal with Graduate Division and the CRTE. “Not only does this project prepare them as professionals, it benefits undergraduate education at UC Merced.”
The Sloan Foundation has invested in the enhancement of introductory and gateway courses in STEM fields, which are vital to U.S. student persistence in science majors and the cultivation of domestic STEM talent, according to the CGS.
“Sloan is committed to assisting future STEM faculty to attain the tools and skills they will need to become highly effective faculty — attuned to how their students are learning and what they, as faculty, can do to maximize the learning potential of all their students. I expect that the institutional participants will greatly enrich the graduate community’s understanding of best practices in this area,” said Elizabeth S. Boylan, program director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Projects to prepare future faculty in the humanities and social sciences are supported by funding from the Teagle Foundation.