Questions and Answers on Academics and Athletics at the University of Michigan

Independent Study/Department of Psychology

Q: What is the University of Michigan’s approach to Independent Study?

A: U-M encourages teaching and learning opportunities for undergraduates outside the traditional classroom setting. Sometimes referred to as “informal teaching,” these opportunities include Independent Study, practicum, and laboratory—and research-based teaching. Use of this direct faculty-to-student teaching model is increasing rapidly throughout American higher education because it is proven to support student success and to encourage undergraduates to pursue graduate studies. Optimally, all undergraduates would have this opportunity.

Independent Study provides opportunities to teach significant knowledge that is not covered within a department’s standard curriculum. In many instances, Independent Study course work leads to development of new curricular offerings.

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Q: What sort of oversight does the University maintain for Independent Study?

A: The parameters and conditions of Independent Study are set by the faculty of each of the University’s 19 schools and colleges. In 2006, the University undertook a comprehensive review of Independent Study within its schools and colleges as due diligence to ensure the continued integrity and quality of the model. The University and its faculty are committed to ensuring that Independent Study in all academic disciplines meets the high standards expected of all education at the institution.

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Q: Did the Department of Psychology do well in the 2006 review?

A: Yes. The Department of Psychology’s Independent Study protocol meets and exceeds that of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and of the University as a whole.

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Q: Regarding the U-M Department of Psychology…

A: The Department is consistently ranked as one of the top two departments of psychology in the country, and has been in the top three since 1965. The Department has pioneered improving teaching and learning at the college level for more than 50 years. A team of Psychology faculty, led by Professor Emeritus Wilbert J. McKeachie, did the seminal ground-breaking work in establishing educational psychology as the appropriate academic base for research on teaching and learning. Both the Department and undergraduate teaching throughout the University have benefited from this approach.

The Department of Psychology accounts for the largest number of undergraduate degree recipients at the University of Michigan each year since 2001–2002.

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Q: Why are Independent Study grades generally higher than non-Independent Study grades?

A: Independent Study grades throughout the University are higher on average than those for traditional classroom-based coursework because the course content is of personal interest to the student, and the student is more vested in the coursework and goals of the class, because s/he has developed the coursework in collaboration with the professor. Additionally, learning is enhanced by the direct one-on-one faculty-to-student teaching relationship, which engenders excellence.

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Q: Can an Independent Study course be taken more than once?

A: Yes. Within the Department of Psychology, for instance, all Psychology students can take certain classes with the same course number repeatedly for up to 6 credits, typically spread across 2 semesters (but could be more). Students who become very interested in continuing research experience can take a course (including senior thesis) for up to 6 terms with the same faculty member. Although they may share the same course number, each of these repeated classes is distinct from the other. They may focus on work that is somewhat different in content, or a substantive progression forward into a topic.

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Q: How many Independent Study credits can be applied to the number of credits required for graduation?

A: The number of Independent Study credits that may be applied toward graduation requirements is determined by the individual school or college. In the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts—which includes the Department of Psychology—the maximum is 30 credit hours.

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Q: How many students overall take an Independent Study course at any U-M school or college?

A: In academic year 2006–2007, 3,939 undergraduate students enrolled in one or more graduate- or undergraduate-level Independent Study course in 11 of the University’s 19 schools and colleges. In Fall 2007, the number was 2,307.

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Q: Do Psychology faculty offer less, the same amount, or more “informal teaching” than faculty in the University’s other academic departments? If more, why do they do so?

A: As a whole, Department of Psychology faculty offer more of these courses than others. In recognition of the enormous academic benefits of this teaching model, specifically within the discipline of psychology, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts agreed with the Department of Psychology faculty’s request to adjust their classroom-based teaching load to allow for increased opportunities, such as Independent Study, practicum, and laboratory- and research-based teaching.

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Q: Is Independent Study valued as highly among other Psychology departments around the country?

A: Most universities have research-related Independent Study courses. In some small schools a final research course of this type is required for graduation in Psychology. U-M may be unusual in the sheer number of students to whom we offer this type of ongoing opportunity, but not unusual in having such opportunities built into the curriculum.

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Q: Who is John Hagen?

A: Scholar and researcher John Hagen is a U-M Professor of Psychology and Chair of Student Academic Affairs in the Department of Psychology. His work and its role in advancing the field of developmental psychology have been recognized broadly, including in the Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science (2005). On all measures—including teaching, research, and confidential individual student evaluations—Professor Hagen stands among the best faculty in this University.

Effective learning among adolescents and college students has been Professor Hagen’s focus for more than 20 years. He is nationally known for his scholarly work on learning and achievement in adolescents, and especially those with factors that may contribute to learning difficulties. He is also a recognized champion of students, who expects, inspires, and encourages all to excel. His eclectic and innovative approach to working with students to become effective learners has made his courses popular among students throughout the University.

A large body of scholarly work by leaders in the field of effective learning has documented the existence of different styles or patterns in learning, some of which relate to those students who excel in specific areas. Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner’s work on Multiple Intelligences documents this phenomenon. One such pattern of learning style—a focus of Professor Hagen’s work—occurs in those who regularly perform at peak physical capacity, such as those in dance or athletics, who perform in the most competitive environments.

Additionally, Professor Hagen has led efforts for many years to establish programs for students with diagnosed learning disabilities at U-M/Ann Arbor. In 1986, 6 such students were identified on campus with a diagnosed learning disability; in 1992, there were 60, a number that has grown to 500 in the current year, due to an increased capacity to recognize and support learning disabilities, and a greater willingness among students to step forward.

Professor Hagen’s work with student-athletes began in 1985, when he was appointed director of the Reading and Learning Skills Center. The Center worked with several schools and colleges around the University—such as the U-M Ross School of Business, the Law School, and the Athletics Department, among others—to provide academic services to students.

Professor Hagen’s research on college students with situations that might place them “at risk” (e.g., health conditions or learning disabilities) was extended to student-athletes at that time, and he has worked in this area ever since—in both basic research and in the development of curricula and courses that address related issues. The approach and materials that have resulted from his work are proven to facilitate academic learning among students. Some of his learning/teaching findings contributed to the design concept of the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center, which opened in 2006 on the University’s South (Athletic) Campus.

Recognition of Professor Hagen’s distinguished career and substantial contributions to his field includes:

  • Charter Fellow of the International Academy of Research on Learning Disabilities
  • Member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Children, Youth and Families
  • Member of the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ Professional Advisory Board
  • Executive Officer of the Society for Research in Child Development (1989-2007)
  • Invited presenter at major professional conferences such as those sponsored by the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) in November 2007
  • James Neubacher Award (1997); conferred by the University of Michigan Council for Disability Concerns

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Q: How is it determined that Independent Study with Professor Hagen is academically valid?

A: The faculty of the Department of Psychology—for 40 years, among the top-ranked academic psychology departments in the U.S.—has established quality control guidelines and procedures that specify and monitor the academic standards of all instruction within the Department, including Independent Study. Like all Department faculty, Professor Hagen adheres to these standards and maintains thorough records of the learning expectations for each Independent Study arrangement, the students’ work, and grades. Departmental- and College-level review has confirmed that Professor Hagen has the highest expectations of excellence among his students and works closely with them to ensure their success.

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Q: Has the University looked into this?

A: Yes. Both the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts [PDF], and the Department of Psychology [PDF] have reviewed Professor Hagen’s Independent Study practices and found that he adheres to exemplary standards in teaching, including Independent Study, and that his grading is entirely consistent with that of other Department faculty. In some cases, his grading, including in Independent Study classes, trends lower than Department averages on a 4-point scale.

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Q: Has anyone checked with students to see what they think of Professor Hagen’s teaching?

A: Yes. There is considerable anecdotal evidence—including student comments in final semester reports—that describes the nature of their Independent Study experiences, which in some cases are key in providing them insight in planning their careers.

Additionally, Professor Hagen’s most recent course evaluations have received scores of the highest order from his students, especially in terms of knowledge gained, learned-ability to apply that knowledge to other circumstances, accessibility and time spent with the students. Note: All course evaluations are administered using the standard University-wide process that assures anonymity for the students.

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Q: How does Professor Hagen determine what the lesson plan is for his Independent Study?

A: Professor Hagen’s Independent Study lesson plans are established in accordance with the guidelines established by the Department of Psychology faculty.

At all levels of Independent Study in the Department, the academic component is expected to include reading material related to the topic, as well as a final product.

For 200- and 300-level Independent Study classes, the professor issues permission to take the class (known as an override) after the student submits an application that includes the student’s reasons for taking the Independent Study and a general plan. The syllabus is developed by the student and professor at the beginning of the class.

Independent Study classes at the 400-level require a contract with a good deal more data about the project, which is approved by the undergraduate chair. The final product must include a final paper of 15–20 pages for a 3-credit course. The contracts are filed in the undergraduate office, and a copy of the final paper is turned into that office. A grade is posted after the paper is received.

The Psychology faculty take these course requirements seriously. Project expectations are tailored to the student’s level of preparation, as is the final product. If they do not live up to their work expectations, grades are adjusted accordingly. Because Independent Study students approach faculty wanting to work on something they have a particular interest in, we find that they work harder than in most other classes, and enjoy doing so.

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Q: Are U-M students required to dedicate 3 hours of work each week for each hour of course credit? Is it a violation of University or Department rules or policy if they don’t?

A: There is no time requirement for course credit. All students, including student-athletes, work at different paces. The guideline of 3 hours work per week for each credit hour is precisely that—a guideline. Some students require far more, while others require somewhat less time to complete their course requirements, in Independent Study or in any other teaching model. The 3-hour guideline helps the faculty estimate the amount of work that is appropriate to the class, and gives the student some help in estimating his/her time commitment. The bottom line, the real “ruler,” is the amount of knowledge gained. Our only hard and fast rule is that the student learns what the course promises. Has s/he mastered the subject? Has s/he learned new principles and methods for applying them within this subject and beyond? Has s/he experienced personal, as well as intellectual growth?

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Q: How are grades determined in an Independent Study with Professor Hagen?

A: Grading for all courses within the Department of Psychology is based on the Department’s standards of academic achievement and excellence. In Independent Study with all Psychology faculty, including Professor Hagen, grades are based on completed work and knowledge gained, as evaluated by the requirements established at the beginning of each Independent Study course.

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Q: What is the grade spread for Professor Hagen’s Independent Study?

A: The grade spread for Professor Hagen’s Independent Study has been confirmed in independent reports by the Department of Psychology and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts as appropriate to the quality of work completed and knowledge gained by his Independent Study students. Professor Hagen’s Independent Study grading is at—and in some cases, slightly below, on a 4-point scale—the Department average.

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Q: Why are there more athletes than non-athletes in Professor Hagen’s Independent Study classes?

A: Independent Study coursework frequently corresponds to the professor’s particular area(s) of research and scholarly activity, and much of Professor Hagen’s scholarly work addresses learning styles and skills among college students who excel in physical attributes and performance.

Frequently, groups of students, who share similar characteristics or interests, seek out professors who are working in areas of interest and value to them.

For instance, numerous students from units like the Ross Business School seek him out because his teaching approach has been found to be especially useful and relevant to them over the years.

Students choose coursework for many reasons: to fulfill degree requirements, to advance their own personal growth, and to prepare more generally for their anticipated career plans. Data show that, following graduation, significant numbers of student-athletes go on to teach and/or coach student-athletes at the high school and college levels.

Professor Hagen’s research findings on risk factors, learning skills and difficulties that occur more frequently, but not always, among persons in peak physical condition (eg, student-athletes) is important knowledge for students who plan to teach and/or coach student-athletes.

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Q: What is the number of students in Independent Study with Professor Hagen per semester and the number of athletes vs. non-athletes in Professor Hagen’s Independent Study courses?

A: These numbers, stratified across the full spectrum of 200-level to 400-level Independent Study courses, vary continuously. In some, but not all, cases, the ratio has been two-thirds student-athletes and one-third non-athletes. Generally, fewer student-athletes take the upper-level courses.

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Q: Are Athletic Department academic counselors sending students to Professor Hagen?

A: No.

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Q: Has any athlete been forced to take an Independent Study with Professor Hagen?

A: No.

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Q: What is the procedure that a student must go through to take an Independent Study course in Psychology? Does Professor Hagen follow this procedure?

A: To take an Independent Study course in Psychology, a student must approach the faculty person with whom s/he would like to study and request permission. The student cannot enroll in the course without the professor’s permission. Yes, Professor Hagen follows this procedure.

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Q: Has Professor Hagen ever turned down a student/student-athlete who wanted to do an Independent Study with him?

A: Yes, in both Independent Study and traditional classes. Because his courses are very popular, Professor Hagen has to turn down many requests from students each semester. In traditional classes, he feels the quality is compromised if there are more than 25 or so students enrolled. In the current Winter 2008 term, he has had to deny requests from more than 30 students.

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Q: Do student-athletes take Independent Study from other professors?

A: Yes.

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Q: Are there guidelines for the appropriate number of students a professor should work with on Independent Study per semester?

A: For all Independent Study courses, faculty request permission (aka, an override) for the student. Beyond that, this question is left to the discretion of individual faculty members within the guidelines of his or her department.

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Q: How many Independent Study courses are taught by Psychology professors?

A: That number varies broadly from less than 20 to 60 or more each semester. In recent semesters, Professor Hagen ranks generally the thirteenth-highest among Psychology faculty in number of Independent Study.

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Q: How can a single professor, including Professor Hagen, provide adequate instruction to as many as 40 or more Independent Study students in a single semester?

A: The Independent Study teaching model is very flexible. For instance, the professor has the option of convening periodic small-group discussions among Independent Study students who are doing similar coursework.

Apart from the structure of the course, itself, faculty such as Professor Hagen make themselves available to students overall. In anonymous student evaluations, he scores extremely high in accessibility and time spent with students. As part of their Independent Study, many of Professor Hagen’s students report that they value the opportunity to pursue scholarship and research that actually is incorporated in presentations at professional conferences and meetings.

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Q: What percent of other Psychology professors’ Independent Study are with student-athletes?

A: The proportion of student-athletes in Independent Study courses taught by other Psychology faculty is 0 percent to 60 percent. This number varies from semester-to-semester, depending on the students’ interests/availability and the professor’s research focus.

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Q: Who stands in for Professor Hagen when he is not available to teach or meet with students? Are these people qualified to do so?

A: In all such instances, an appropriately credentialed and qualified member of the Department’s instructional staff stands in for faculty on the infrequent occasions when they cannot teach a class or meet with a student. In Fall 2007, this occurred twice for Professor Hagen who, like all U-M Psychology faculty, is prominent in his field, and has national obligations which occasionally take him away from campus. This sort of national engagement is good for the faculty, the Department, and the students. Assignments and coursework are adjusted appropriately in those rare instances.

Academic Standards & Support/Student-Athletes

Q: Why did the University Auditor conduct an audit of the Intercollegiate Athletics Office Academic Success Program?

A: Provost Teresa A. Sullivan initiated the recent audit of the Athletic Department Academic Success Program as due diligence at the time of a change in the Program’s management structure. The Provost typically requests that a unit be audited when there is a change in management. No serious wrong-doing was found, but there was definitely room for improvement, and recommended actions have been implemented.

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Q: The audit found that the Athletic Success Program staff were making changes to students' enrollment and class schedules. How often did they do that?

A: This was an extremely rare occurrence, done only at the student's request, and has since been discontinued.

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Q: How many student-athletes are enrolled at U-M in how many team sports?

A: In the current academic year (2007–2008), we have 716 student-athletes (under 3 percent of all U-M undergraduate students) who play in 25 varsity sports. 471 (66 percent) of those student-athletes receive some type of athletic grant-in-aid.

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Q: Does U-M adhere to NCAA and/or Big Ten admissions and academic rules and guidelines?

A: Yes, at every level—in NCAA and Big Ten review, and in review by peer our institutions—the University of Michigan’s admissions and academic procedures have been found accessible, transparent, and fully in compliance with all rules and guidelines.

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Q: Does the University care about academic achievement among its student-athletes?

A: Academic achievement—in teaching, learning, and research—is the first priority at the University of Michigan, and the academic success of all our students, including our student-athletes, is key to the University’s success.

We ask a great deal of our student-athletes. They are expected to compete at the highest levels, which requires investment of significant time, and physical and emotional energy. In recognition of their outstanding service on the court and field, we make sure they have the opportunity to take advantage of the full academic benefits of the University.

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Q: What academic support does U-M provide its student-athletes?

A: In recognition of their service to the University community, and of the extraordinary demands placed on their time and energy, the University provides a comprehensive framework to support academic success among student-athletes:

  • Each of our student-athletes is provided the same high caliber academic guidance provided to all Michigan students.
  • We also provide academic guidance and support unique to our student-athletes. For example, the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center, which opened in 2006, is a major resource on the Athletic Campus, where our student-athletes take advantage of a full array of academic support offered by the Academic Success Program. (Note: The design of the Ross Center was favorably influenced by the teaching/learning principles developed by the research of U-M Psychology Professor John Hagen.)
  • Additional academic support services are planned for the future, but already the Ross Center
    • Hosts
      • regular meetings between student-athletes and their academic advisors (academic advisors are staff from the University’s schools and colleges) to discuss academic requirements for graduation, major or distribution, or topics regarding their academic standing with the University
      • academic tutors available at both scheduled and on-call hours in more than 27 subject areas
    • Houses
      • 8 supplemental academic counselors who collaborate closely with the academic advisors to help student-athletes navigate the demanding path between their athletic and academic responsibilities. Academic counselors are Athletics Department staff with a dual-reporting structure to the Athletic Director and the Provost.
      • satellite offices of the LS&A Advising Office, and of the University’s Math Lab, Language Resource Center, Sweetland Writing Center, and Career Center
  • Additionally, the NCAA has established GPA and programs-toward-degree criteria, and the Athletic Department’s compliance officer ensures those criteria are strictly followed. Moreover, our Academic Performance Committee—a faculty body appointed by the University President and reporting to the Provost—examines all issues related to the academic success of student-athletes.

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Q: What is the result; do they do well in their studies?

A: Yes, overall, U-M’s student-athletes do succeed at their studies, and several have earned recognition for excellence. Some highlights:

  • 296 (41%) U-M student-athletes have cumulative GPAs at or above 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in the current academic year.
  • In 2006 – 2007, 146 U-M student-athletes won the Academic All-Big Ten Conference Award as letter-winners with cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or above.
  • Also that year, 19 of our 25 varsity teams had a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above.

UPDATE ON 10/14/09: The university doesn’t routinely track a cumulative team GPA figures for academic purposes. The Academic Success Program focuses on addressing each student’s individual needs, and monitoring academic success at the individual rather than team level. The ASP staff on occasion has calculated actual cumulative team semester GPA figures at the request of coaches. This information is sometimes — but not always — retained as a record because it is solely used for motivational activities.

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Q: How about the bottom line: do they get their degrees?

A: The graduation rate among U-M’s student-athletes has risen since 2000, from 68 percent to 72 percent in 2007. ( (In that same time period, graduation rates among all U-M undergraduates has grown from 82 percent to 87 percent. The national average college graduation rate is in the range of 50–55 percent.) At U-M, the graduation rate for all African American undergraduate males is 68 percent. It is 71 percent for all African American student athletes on the football team.

The graduation rate of student-athletes at U-M is among the best in the Big Ten Conference, as measured by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) scale on which they stand 3rd highest in the Big 10 in football APR.

Significant numbers of our student athletes, who leave campus before graduation, return in subsequent years to successfully complete their baccalaureate. These completions are captured in the APR.

A 5-year glimpse at the entering football class of 2002–2003:

  • 21 total entering student-athletes
  • 6 left the team prior to exhausting eligibility (4 transferred; 2 quit)
  • 15 exhausted their eligibility
  • of those 15, 13 have graduated (86.6%)
  • 8 out of 10 African American students in that same class, who exhausted their eligibility, graduated (80%)

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Q: Is the University satisfied with these data?

A: By most measures, our student athletes do well, overall. But they can do better. Academic success is a priority at the University, and we are proceeding intentionally to encourage their continued success.

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Q: Do U-M student-athletes have a say in their academic goals? Do they get to choose their majors, classes? If yes, can the procedure be documented?

A: Yes. The development of academic goals, and decisions about which classes to take and what major to choose, are personal decisions that rest entirely with the student. This has always been the case with Michigan’s student-athletes. To support this process, beginning in September 2007, newly enrolled student-athletes are required to complete a personal academic goal-setting form, and continuing students will complete them throughout the 2007–2008 academic year, as they meet with their academic counselors.

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Q: What degree programs are U-M’s student-athletes allowed to pursue? Are they encouraged or required to take a non-demanding course of study to make it easier for them to maintain eligibility? Are they receiving a less rigorous education than non-athletes?

A: Student-athletes, like all students at the University of Michigan, choose their own degree programs. This is a personal and unique decision that each of our students makes by his/her own choice.

At U-M, there are no special courses or academic or degree programs open only to student-athletes. To illustrate this point: 107 student-athletes graduated in 2006–2007 in 30 different degree programs/concentrations. The 25-member Michigan football senior class of 2006–2007 graduated with 11 different academic majors/degree programs. Clearly, there are no restrictions on the academic choices our student-athletes can make. Each of our student-athletes is provided the same high caliber of academic guidance provided to all Michigan students. This guidance assists the student as s/he makes the very important decision of choosing a degree program or academic area of concentration. This decision is uniquely personal and absolutely of the student’s own making.

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Q: How are course “drop/adds” processed and dated?

A: The student will typically begin work in the incoming course as soon as the incoming professor agrees to the “add,” because the paperwork processing can take a number of weeks. For instance, it is not unheard of for Fall Term drop/adds to be entered into the database the following January and February. That January or February date, then, would be the date on the student’s record.

The drop/add process is fairly complex because it reflects an important academic decision. The student must first obtain permission from his/her academic unit to drop a course, providing a substantive reason for the drop. The student must also gain permission of the professor whose class s/he would like to join. Once that permission is received, the student is required to obtain permission from his/her academic unit to officially add that course. The later in the term it is, the more complex the process becomes, including an additional paperwork step like the “late-add petition.”

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Q: Have the staff in the Athletic Department’s Academic Success Program taken the lead in determining the student’s course selections?

A: No. Like all U-M students, U-M student-athletes meet regularly with academic advisors in their respective school or college and participate actively in establishing their individual academic goals, course selections and programs. This is a requirement for all U-M students.

Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP)

Q: What is the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP)?

A: The Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) is a Michigan Learning Community that is an academic unit within the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and which offers a variety of academic support services, including the Summer Bridge Program, academic year course instruction, academic advising and peer advising, tutoring, and freshmen interest groups. CSP works closely with a wide variety of academic departments, offices and programs throughout the university, including offices in the various schools and colleges, the Undergraduate Admissions Office, the Office of Financial Aid, and the Division of Student Affairs.

CSP’s mission is to support, academically enrich and retain its students within and beyond the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. CSP faculty and staff are dedicated to supporting students who have the determination, dedication, and willingness to work hard toward achieving their academic and career goals.

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Q: How many credit hours do students earn in CSP classes?

A: CSP classes are identical to other entry-level classes at U-M. The only differences are in the smaller class size and in the required number of class meetings--usually an additional day. Students earn the same number of credit hours in CSP classes, as in comparable entry-level classes. For instance, first-semester Spanish is a 4-credit-hour course, in CSP, as it is in other first-semester Spanish courses.

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Division of Kinesiology/Admissions/Cross-Campus Transfers

Q: Regarding the Division of Kinesiology…

A: Under the direction of Dean Beverly Ulrich, the academic and research programs in Kinesiology have grown in scope and quality. Nearly 800 students are enrolled in one of the four undergraduate majors. Movement Science is one of the premier majors at UM for students interested in a career in the health sciences, such as medicine or physical therapy. Athletic Training prepares students for careers in sport medicine clinics, with amateur or professional sports teams, or to pursue a graduate degree. Physical Education prepares students to be teachers and exercise/fitness specialists. Sport Management prepares students to work in the business and industry of sport, at community, professional and educational levels, or to go on to law school or an MBA. Three of the four majors require competitive, second-level admission. Kinesiology undergraduate majors are increasing in popularity, at Michigan and across the U.S. Demand for admission at the freshman and cross-campus transfer levels exceeds available spaces. The Kinesiology graduate program is growing rapidly, and more than 50 students are pursuing Masters or Ph.D. degrees. External funding for research in Kinesiology has grown tremendously in the past 10 years, providing many opportunities for Kinesiology students to engage in research.

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Q: Is the Division of Kinesiology a new unit at the University of Michigan?

A: No. The Division of Kinesiology’s origins at U-M begin with establishment of the Department of Physical Education in 1921 as an undergraduate course of study, and expanded to include graduate-level studies in 1931. The Department was the site of the first and second national studies on the physical fitness levels of American youth in 1957 and 1965, respectively. In 1972, Physical Education became a department of the School of Education. During the 1970s, the department quickly expanded from its root physical education professional preparation to move into the more broadly defined field of Kinesiology. In September 1984, it gained independence as the Division of Physical Education, renamed the Division of Kinesiology in 1990.

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Q: Is it true that the Division of Kinesiology reserves space for 60 student athletes?

A: Student athletes frequently have chosen this area of study, throughout the Division’s many decades, regardless of its name or place on the University’s organizational chart. In acknowledgment of this broad and unwavering interest, the Division has agreed to ensure available space for incoming student athletes who seek admission and meet Kinesiology’s admissions requirements, even as the discipline, itself, has evolved in the intervening years.

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Q: How are Kinesiology’s admissions standards set?

A: Requirements for admission to the Division of Kinesiology are determined by the faculty of the Division. As with admissions requirements throughout the University, Kinesiology’s requirements are set at a level that will ensure that incoming students are prepared to succeed.

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Q: Do admitted student athletes meet those standards? Are they qualified to be there and capable of doing the work?

A: Yes, all admitted Kinesiology students, including student athletes, meet the Division’s admissions standards. And, yes, every admitted student, including student athletes, is qualified to be at the University of Michigan and judged capable of succeeding in their course of study.

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Q: What is the process for admitting student-athletes to the University of Michigan?

A: All applications, including those for student-athletes, receive multiple, comprehensive reviews to ensure individual and thorough evaluation. Additionally, our admissions staff meets with most student-athlete applicants; and ultimately, only students, including student-athletes, who have shown the ability and motivation to succeed academically at Michigan are admitted.

U-M’s incoming student-athlete academic qualifications are as strong or better than most other universities around the country in part because our holistic review process allows us to consider everything we know about the student that can help us identify those with the skills and potential to succeed at Michigan.  For instance, a 3.0 student-athlete may have demonstrated solid academic skill, potential, and motivation in high school, and also made significant contributions to the school community in athletics. If he or she successfully carried an academically challenging course load, in addition to practice sessions, games or matches, and in many instances, community service and part-time work—that 3.0 student-athlete has demonstrated the kind of academic skill, motivation, and discipline that sends a strong signal of potential success at Michigan. Considering that individual applicant as a whole, she or he may be fairly judged equally as impressive as a 3.8 or 3.9 student who is not an athlete.

Freshman-level student-athletes are admitted to 6 different U-M schools and colleges. Student-athletes beyond the freshman level can be admitted to all 12 schools and colleges that offer undergraduate degree programs.

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Q: Does the University force student athletes to choose a particular degree program?

A: No. It is entirely up to the student, athlete or non-athlete, which degree program they pursue.

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Q: Who decides which academic department an incoming student will enroll in?

A: All prospective students apply to a specific school or college within the University, and every incoming student is admitted to a specific school or college within the University, rather than to the University overall. Prospective students choose the school or college to which they will apply based on the subject they are most interested in pursuing. In making their choices, prospective students also consider admissions requirements, because admissions requirements vary among the University’s school and colleges.

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Q: Why do so many student athletes enroll in Kinesiology instead of other parts of the University?

A: Historically, many student athletes have applied and been admitted to the Division of Kinesiology, which offers courses and areas of study that are of interest to them. Prospective students choose the school or college to which they will apply based on the subject they are most interested in pursuing. In making their choices, prospective students also consider admissions requirements, because admissions requirements vary among the University’s school and colleges.

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Q: Then why do they transfer out of Kinesiology in their first year or two?

A: Many times, students discover they do not like their original area of study, or are not as successful as they thought they would be; so they seek a more satisfactory alternative via a cross-campus transfer. First- and second-year students at the University have broad access to a variety of entry-level courses outside of the school or college into which they are formally enrolled. These opportunities expose students to different subjects and help clarify their choice of major or degree program.

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Q: What are LS&A’s requirements for cross-campus transfers? How does that process work?

A: Each cross-campus transfer request is considered individually and holistically by the academic advisors of the LS&A Advising Office, who meet personally with students who request the transfer, ascertain the student’s goals, area of interest, and eligibility for transfer. The academic advisor reviews the transfer applicant’s academic achievements, from high school through completed U-M undergraduate work, to answer questions such as: Does this student have the ability and desire to succeed in LS&A? Has this student built a record of achievement that will support success? The admissions decision is made individually for each cross-campus transfer applicant. Customary requirements include completion of two semesters in the student’s original school or college, and a cumulative GPA of 2.0, although exceptions are considered as deemed appropriate, based on full consideration of the student’s academic achievements, goals, and potential for academic success in a specific area of study within LS&A.

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School of Education Courses #362 and #462/Service-Learning Teaching

Q: What is Education 362?

A: Education 362 is a long-standing service-learning class that incorporates community service in ongoing academic coursework. An assortment of specialized sections of Education 362 are offered each semester, typically including topics like “The Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation: Political Reality in the Classroom,” “International Poetry Guild: Building Bridges via Creative Expression,” “Earth Odysseys: The Electronic Field Trip,” “Michigan Student Caucus: Active Engagement with State and Local Politics,” “Michigan Matters: A Virtual Tour of Michigan History,” and “Partners in Authentic Leadership in Schools (PALS).”

Over the years, the PALS section of Education 362 has become popular with student-athletes, spreading by word-of-mouth among the students themselves. Along with other requirements, such as regular class meetings, PALS requires 60 hours of direct K-12 tutoring and mentoring.

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Q: What is Education 462?

A: Education 462 has two sections, each of which engages U-M students in serving as mentors through web-based simulations involving middle school and high school students around the country and, in some cases, around the world. Education 462, Section 001 is the mentor seminar for the "Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation," which has been taught at U-M for more than twenty years. High school student participants in this class portray actual stakeholders in the Middle East conflict, and U-M students in this class facilitate the simulation. This facilitation/mentoring work consists of supporting, critiquing and vetting student work in terms of their writing, their effectiveness at framing arguments, and their connections with the strategic goals of the character and country that they're representing. U-M students receive an integrated experience, deepening their knowledge about the Middle East and the nature of diplomacy, while engaging in hands-on experience (and reflection on that experience) with academic mentorship.

Students in Education 462, Section 002 serve as mentors for the "Place out of Time" simulation, in which upper elementary, middle and high school students choose an historical or a contemporary figure whom they learn about and ultimately portray in a simulated "trial" connected with a current issue. Recent trials have focused on the plight of refugees from Darfur, and questions about the nature of service to one's country. U-M students portray characters, themselves, and help the younger students construct a bridge between historical times and the present day, to encourage a heightened appreciation for other worldviews, and to Once again, the course itself attends both to exploring the nature of mentorship, and to exploring and engaging with the ideas of that term's trial, so that U-M students can help the student participants to grapple with some interesting questions in a way that we hope will deepen their learning about history and their own connection to the world of ideas.

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Q: Why do many student-athletes choose to take Education 362 and 462?

A: Many student-athletes express an interest in teaching careers; however, their practice and game schedules may prohibit them from meeting all Education degree requirements, such as student-teaching. While this would disallow them from completing a degree in Education at the baccalaureate level, 362/PALS and 462 provides an important opportunity to acquire direct knowledge of the principles of teaching and learning, to see if this is really something they would like to pursue in the future. The courses also give them a chance to “give back” through community service, an opportunity for which they frequently express appreciation.

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Q: How many students are involved in service-learning courses in an academic year?

A: In 2006–2007, 4,139 graduate and undergraduate students were enrolled in about 100 courses involving students in the community. While service-learning is a form of experiential education normally associated with undergraduates, "learning by doing" is also instrumental in graduate-level mental health, dental, nursing, engineering, and social work education, as well as other graduate professional educational programs, such as law and business.

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Q: What is service-learning teaching?

A: Service-learning teaching is an experiential teaching model that enhances academic learning by intentionally integrating relevant and meaningful community service in academic coursework. Service-learning also is successful in building students’ civic learning, including knowledge, skills, and values, as well as civic aspirations. This model is consistent with the core concepts of John Dewey, the nation’s foremost educational philosopher, and other leading educational theorists.

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Q: Who benefits from academic service-learning? Is this just credit for community service?

A: No. In service-learning, grades and credits are awarded for demonstration of learning from service experience. Substantial benefits accrue to the students, the University, and the communities served:.

  • Enhances academic learning, motivates students to learn, and facilitates cross-disciplinary learning.
  • Offers learning opportunities unavailable in the classroom.
  • Provides students the opportunity to consider career paths such as education, social work, or public policy.
  • Builds student capacity to work with others different from themselves.
  • Provides learning experiences that enhance students’ potential for admission to future (ie, graduate-level) studies.
  • Enables students to contribute to their communities in ways congruent with their values.
  • Prepares students for active citizenship/social responsibility.
  • Provides the University an opportunity to apply existing knowledge and develop new knowledge

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Q: What are the principles of good pedagogical practice in service-learning?

A: Service-learning is guided by a national association of university presidents who have taken this field under their wings. U.S.News and World Report recently began ranking universities for their service-learning programs, and in its first year of doing so, ranked the University of Michigan among the top programs. These are the basic service-learning teaching principles, all of which are followed by the University and its academic units:

  • Academic credit is for learning, not for service.
  • Maintain academic rigor.
  • Establish academic and civic learning objectives.
  • Establish criteria for selecting service placements.
  • Provide educationally sound learning strategies to harvest community learning and realize course learning objectives.
  • Prepare students for learning from the community.
  • Minimize the distinction between the student’s community learning role and classroom learning role.
  • Appropriately adapt the faculty instructional role.
  • Be prepared for variation in, and some unpredictability with, student learning outcomes.
  • Maximize the community responsibility orientation of the course.

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Bachelor in General Studies Degree

Q: How did the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) degree come into existence?

A: The BGS degree was formally approved by the faculty of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LS&A) on May 1, 1969, following more than a year of close consideration and discussion. It was created in response to encouragement from students and some faculty, who sought an update of graduation requirements, a curriculum that was more relevant to modern times, as well as a baccalaureate option that did not include a foreign language requirement.

The 1969 faculty proposal to establish the BGS degree read in part: “Whereas students of this generation seek to take greater responsibility in planning their education; it is appropriate that the faculty of the College of LS&A take cognizance of this by providing the opportunity for students to assume such responsibility by offering an undergraduate degree program that would allow greater flexibility than is presently available.”

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Q: How is the BGS curriculum developed and overseen?

A: Like all degree programs at U-M, the Bachelor in General Studies (BGS) curriculum was developed by the faculty, and its content and quality are continuously monitored and periodically updated, also by faculty who stand, nationally, among the best in their respective fields of study.

Any member of LS&A faculty may recommend changes to the BGS curriculum. All such recommendations are approved or denied by the faculty body, as a whole, who convene quarterly.

The LS&A faculty body, as a whole, has assigned student advising and daily oversight of the BGS, the Individual Concentration Program, and of General Advising to the professional staff of LS&A’s award-winning Student Academic Advising unit. SAA reports regularly to faculty, who retain ultimate control of the programs.

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Q: What does LS&A faculty think of the BGS degree?

A: LS&A’s more than 1,000 faculty members can change any course of study with which they are not fully satisfied. Not one member of faculty has undertaken the steps to initiate any change to the BGS degree in any way, even after highly publicized allegations about the BGS degree appeared in local and national media in the past few months.

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Q: What are the basic requirements of a BGS degree?

A: No two BGS degrees are precisely the same. Each reflects the unique interests and goals of the student. To earn a BGS degree, students must complete at least 60 upper-division credit hours—twice the average number of upper-division credit hours required in the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs. The BGS graduate also must satisfy other general LS&A degree requirements, such as successful completion of first-year and upper-level writing, quantitative reasoning, and race and ethnicity coursework. There are no special courses which only BGS students take. BGS students are responsible for combining upper-level courses in such a way that the degree has coherence and depth. Appropriate academic advising assists them in this pursuit.

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Q: Why do so many student-athletes opt for the BGS degree?

A: The BGS curriculum provides a path to a solid interdisciplinary liberal arts baccalaureate degree while giving the student a unique level of flexibility in scheduling classes. Scheduling is a priority to many student-athletes because of their demanding practice/game schedule.

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Q: Is the University concerned that so many student-athletes opt for the BGS degree?

A: No. The BGS degree program was developed to be flexible in curriculum and—when needed—in scheduling for all students who need or want to take advantage of that opportunity.

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Q: Does the BGS amount to an easy degree program for students who don’t want to work hard, or to help student-athletes maintain eligibility?

A: No. There are no easy degree programs at the University of Michigan. Every Michigan degree program is developed by the faculty of the University to be academically substantive and to prepare students for their futures. In particular, the BGS degree program requires almost twice as much upper-level course work as the B.S. and B.A. degrees. This is not a requirement a student can “skate through.”

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Q: Does the University in any way coerce student-athletes to choose the BGS degree program, or tell them which courses they have to take? Are there courses offered only to student-athletes?

A: No. At U-M, there are no courses or academic concentrations or degree programs open only to student-athletes. The choice of a degree program is a profoundly personal decision, unique to each individual student, including student-athletes. This choice is entirely of the student’s own making. No pressure of any sort is applied to any student regarding this choice.

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Q: How many student-athletes are declared BGS students? How many football team members?

A: As of Fall Term 2007, there were 176 declared BGS students, 87 of whom were student-athletes; 29 of those 87 were football team members.

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Q: Is the BGS degree unique to U-M?

A: No. Many of our peer institutions offer academic programs with similar flexibility, including Indiana University and the University of Iowa, among others.

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Q: What can you do with a BGS degree after graduation? Is it meaningful/useful in developing a career or going on to graduate school?

A: Like every degree granted by the University of Michigan, the BGS is academically solid and viable in the years after graduation. The BGS helps students prepare for a world of increasing change, a world in which the broad knowledge base, transferable skills, and the overall rigor of the BGS program will serve them, our state, and nation well.

After graduation, the BGS is as marketable as any other non-pre-professional liberal arts degree. Our alumni who hold BGS degrees go on to productive and prosperous careers in all sectors around the country… law; medicine; education; solid careers in media, public relations and other communications fields; business and the greater corporate world; arts administration, public service, and more.

Real people, thousands of individuals—U-M alumni who have earned the BGS degree in the nearly 40 years since its inception, as well as current BGS students—are impacted by this discussion. The University celebrates their academic achievements and contributions to society, and encourages the media to do likewise.

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