Reinventing undergraduate education
Vice provost lays groundwork for innovation and Internet-savvy teaching in years ahead

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs



Christina Maslach
Peg Skorpinski photo

22 August 2001 | Her agenda is to make undergraduate education crisp, relevant, engaging and personable. A tall order, it might seem, but not in Christina Maslach’s mind. Her plans entail nothing short of reinventing undergraduate education.

As Berkeley’s vice provost for undergraduate education — a newly created position — Maslach is laying the groundwork for a new organizational structure to improve the quality of undergraduate education. A psychology professor who assumed her new position the first of this year, she has been paving the way for developing teaching innovations and promoting contact between faculty and students.

New initiatives
“I’m designing this new office from top to bottom,” she said one afternoon in her second-floor office in California Hall. “One focus will be on enhancing retention and student success here at Cal. I will be overseeing various programs that provide advising, academic support, research and academic service learning opportunities. We all know that faculty-student interaction is at the heart of a quality education, so I’ll be trying to develop more ways for that to happen — such as a faculty mentor program and more lower division seminars.”

A variety of ideas and proposals for improving undergraduate education have crossed Maslach’s desk or percolated from her own brainstorming sessions. But the first program to be implemented is the Faculty Fellows program. Debuting this fall, the program will support nine post-doctorates in two-year teaching positions. The instructors will teach high-demand undergraduate courses, bringing fresh perspectives to their students. The Fellows will benefit from the services of an expanded Office of Educational Development, which helps faculty develop their teaching skills.

Maslach has also created a new Educational Technology Services unit, which is responsible for supporting faculty teaching, both in the classroom and on the Web. And she plans to support research on the effectiveness of these teaching innovations.

“Berkeley is a leading research institution, and we ought to use that expertise to assess how well we’re doing in our educational enterprise,” she said.

Commitment to education
Maslach is no stranger to this line of work. Recognized as both an excellent teacher and a leader in her academic field, she released a report on undergraduate education, the “Maslach Report,” 10 years ago after chairing Berkeley’s Commission on Responses to a Changing Student Body. She then watched some of her own recommendations come alive in classrooms across campus.

In 1987, she was awarded the campus’s Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1997, she was named Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. And this spring she received the campus’s Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Graduate Student Instructors.

Maslach’s new job completes a restructuring of the administration that began last fall. With the new Undergraduate Education office, Berkeley will have a fresh opportunity to examine its undergraduate curricula and experiment with new teaching models and educational technologies.

“We’re heading into a new century, and this is a time for change and new visions, a time for asking questions about what we do and what else is possible,” she said. “At the same time, technology is transforming our world, and we really have to think about how we can unlock the potential out there.

“ My main goal is to enhance the quality of teaching and learning here at Berkeley,” Maslach noted. “We get the best students coming to Cal, and we need to make sure they get the kind of top undergraduate experience that they deserve. And that will require rethinking our teaching methods in a major way.”


Home | Search | Archive | About | Contact | More News

Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

Comments? E-mail