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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Experts to discuss why a 'champion for change'
is needed for higher education
Presentation part of events to honor former URI President Frank Newman

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 24, 2002 -- Russell Edgerton, director of the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning, The Education Trust, will present opening remarks for a panel discussion on the real need for champions within higher education. Free and open to the public, the discussion will be held on Monday, Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on the University of Rhode Island's Kingston Campus.

The presentation is part of the University's celebration to honor one of the nation's leading education champions, URI President Emeritus Frank Newman. The discussion will be followed at 4:15 p.m. by the dedication of the University's renovated admissions building on 14 Upper College Road as "Newman Hall."

Joining Edgerton on the Edwards Auditorium stage will be Newman, URI President Robert L. Carothers, the state Commissioner of Higher Education Jack Warner, and Provost Swan who will moderate.

"Main Street America has only one big concern about college -- how to afford it. The quality of the undergraduate experience is not at issue," explains Edgerton. "Surveys also show that the students who attend are generally satisfied with their experience.

"My thesis is that this widespread complacency about the quality of the undergraduate experience stems from the fact that our expectations for what the experience should be are simply too low. We are settling for a level of performance that is below what it needs to be to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

"For example, in the majority of undergraduate classrooms faculty teach by lecturing about their subjects," Edgarton continues. "Yet the last 25 years of research has produced an overwhelming body of evidence to the effect that students who simply listen to lectures and read textbooks forget much of what they have learned, are unable to use in a new context what they do remember, and retain fundamental misconceptions that are inconsistent with what faculty are trying to teach. Lecture courses, in short, rarely produce learning with understanding. Yet they persist as the predominant teaching method."

Following the conversation, Newman Hall will be officially dedicated. A prototype plaque bearing Newman’s likeness will be unveiled in the front entrance.

"We are delighted to honor President Emeritus Newman in this way," said M. Beverly Swan, URI provost and vice president of academic affairs. "Improving undergraduate education has always been central to Dr. Newman’s work. It’s fitting that we name the building in which undergraduate students have their first contact with the University after him."

Newman, a Jamestown resident, served as president of URI from 1974 to 1983, navigating the University through troubled waters, reversing the tide of declining enrollment.

He was the lead author of the Newman Report, an influential document filled with innovative ideas that served as a national blueprint for federal legislation related to public education.

His influence continued during his 14 years as president of the Education Commission of the States, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that helps governors, legislators and other state education leaders develop and implement policies that improve education.

He has authored numerous books on higher education, including Choosing Quality: Reducing Conflict Between the State and the University (Education Commission of the States) and Higher Education and the American Resurgence (Carnegie Foundation Special Report).

Currently he is the director of the Futures Project, a higher education think tank funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts based at Brown University where he is also visiting professor of Public Policy and Sociology. He is also a visiting professor at the Teachers College at Columbia University.

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