Margaret Miller -- State of the Association
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From the September 1999 AAHE Bulletin

State of the Association

By Margaret A. Miller

This is the first installment of a regular Bulletin feature, the fall letter from the president to the membership. In it, the president will bring you up to date on what your Association has done in the past year and what it intends for the coming one.

Welcome to the new academic year. I hope that summer brought you, as it did us in the AAHE offices, a renewed energy for the work that faces us in the year ahead.

Our Established Projects Evolve

Through its New Pathways II project and in cooperation with Harvard University, the AAHE Forum on Faculty Roles & Rewards has sustained its attention to changes in faculty employment arrangements and careers, departmental evaluations, the tenure process, and post-tenure review. Such themes will be highlighted at the Forum’s 2000 annual national conference February 3--6 in New Orleans. With the theme "Scholarship Reconsidered Reconsidered," the conference also will celebrate (and critique) the legacy of that seminal report on the 10th anniversary of its publication by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The AAHE Teaching Initiatives, building on previous work, are now focused on a joint program with the Carnegie Foundation, called the Carnegie Academy for Teaching and Learning. AAHE’s part in the undertaking is the Teaching Academy Campus Program, a national network of colleges and universities committed to promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning. More than 120 institutions are beginning to make practitioner knowledge about teaching and learning publicly accessible, open to peer critique, and available for reuse. Later, a selected set of institutions will connect for further work and dissemination of their results.

Asked on a recent AAHE member survey what were the most important issues in higher education, more than 90 percent of you who responded picked "assessment of student learning." Assessment’s growing importance is verified by attendance figures at our annual national Assessment Conference, which for the past two years have been increasing (to more than 1,600 people in 1999). In the coming year, AAHE will be rethinking the AAHE Assessment Forum’s work, and we would appreciate suggestions you might have on how to make what we do in this arena more useful to you.

In addition to those conferences on faculty roles and assessment and our flagship National Conference on Higher Education, AAHE also runs a Summer Academy: "Organizing for Learning." An evolution of AAHE’s project on quality, the Summer Academy brings institutional or cross-institutional teams to the Rockies for a week’s work on projects that require an intensive design period or on new plans to enlarge successful initiatives. AAHE staff and others present plenary sessions and workshops on organizational change, serve as coaches to the teams, and otherwise support their work. The fourth Summer Academy, held in Snowmass, Colorado, was a critical success.

For several years AAHE has worked to promote service-learning as a pedagogical strategy, most prominently through our Series on Service-Learning in the Disciplines publications. We believe service-learning is one of the most effective ways to engage students’ hearts, as well as their heads, in a way that leads to deep learning. So, as the Series heads toward the last of its initial 18 volumes next spring, we will continue our work by means of a partnership with Campus Compact and a grant from the Corporation for National Service.

Service-learning is not just a powerful pedagogy, though — it is also a means by which the civic capacities of students can be fostered. AAHE will be building on its service-learning program by developing a new initiative in the area of civic engagement. We will begin by taking over from the American Council on Education leadership in coordinating the efforts of a number of associations and institutions in the area of civic responsibility, while AAHE develops its own substantive contribution to the field. Here, too, we welcome your ideas about options; for instance, we might explore and disseminate strategies for teaching civic capacities, or help define and support the scholarship of engagement.

Enriching AAHE’s Agenda With Partnerships

One of my particular goals as president is to increase the number and strength of the partnerships by which AAHE meets is mission and goals. The most important of these partners is The TLT Group, our teaching, learning, and technology affiliate. On the same member survey that identified assessment as an important issue, you also singled out educational uses of information technology ("important" or "very important" for 92 percent of respondents).

The work that The TLT Group does meets member needs on several fronts, by supporting technology roundtables on campuses, through the AAHESGIT listserv, and at its annual Summer Institute. Its Flashlight Project combines the two concerns of technology and assessment, in providing evaluation tool kits and instruments through which institutions can assess technology’s impact on learning. And its Student

Technology Assistants program has more than 20 campuses training students to provide technical support for technology.

Another partnership — with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) — produced Powerful Partnerships, a publication describing principles that should guide student-affairs and academic-affairs cooperative efforts to foster student learning. The text of the report, and information on how to order printed copies, can be found on AAHE’s homepage (

Several other partnerships further strengthen the resources AAHE can offer you as a member. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, last fall the Association mounted a conference on reform in the SMET disciplines (science, mathematics, engineering, technology). Armed with laptops, attendees built a website live as the conference progressed. You can see the results in the "Programs and Partnerships" section of AAHE’s homepage under "Program for the Promotion of Institutional Change." This winter, all AAHE members will receive an executive summary of the conference proceedings, plus several commissioned papers on science reform.

Another line of partnership work that is making use of technology is the Urban Universities Portfolio Project. In this Pew-funded project, AAHE has teamed up with Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to bring together six urban public universities (California State-Sacramento, Georgia State, Portland State, University of Illinois-Chicago, and University of Massachusetts-Boston) for a conversation about what it means to be an effective urban university, and how that effectiveness can be documented through electronic portfolios. You can find more about that project, too, plus a link to the project’s own website, on the AAHE homepage under "Programs and Partnerships."

Lines of New Work

One of AAHE’s top priorities for new work is in the area of diversity. We have proposed an as-yet-unfunded project to develop, publish, and distribute a series of publications on diversity akin to those on service-learning in our Series on Service-Learning in the Disciplines. The useful, practice-oriented books would focus on how to promote the success of students of color in gateway courses in several key disciplines.

Complementing this publication project on diver-sity is next spring’s National Conference on Higher Education (March 29-April 2, 2000, in Anaheim, California), whose theme, "To Form a More Perfect Union: Diversity and Learning," is described more fully in the Call for Proposals in this Bulletin.

Our Bottom Line

On the financial side, the association is healthy and stable. Of some $4 million in annual revenue, about 40 percent comes from conference registrations and workshop fees; 25 percent from membership dues; another 25 percent from grants; and the remaining 10 percent from sales of publications. AAHE finished its last fiscal year (July 1998-June 1999) with a surplus, as we have for a decade; and we were able to contribute once again to the association’s unrestricted reserves, which are at about $1.5 million — about right for a nonprofit of our size.

We think that AAHE does a lot of good work with a staff of 25 people, and of those of you responding to the member survey, three-quarters found AAHE to be "responsive to higher education’s interests." But we can always do better, with your help.

As you look toward the future, where is higher education headed? What issues occupy your time and attention? Which should? Are there strategies for change that work? How can we better equip you with the knowledge you need to do your work?

Share your insights, experiences, successes, challenges, and suggestions with your fellow members/readers and with AAHE staff. Visit the Discussion Forum on the AAHE homepage ( to post comments and also to read and react to comments from others. I’ll be looking for them!

Margaret A. Miller is president of the American Association for Higher Education. To contact her directly, send email to

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