|Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Long-separated universities seek to rebuild relationship
|Talks are in the early stages, but Virginia Tech and Radford could hire faculty members to teach on both campuses.
By Kevin Miller
Radford University and Virginia Tech students could soon find themselves sharing professors or even classrooms under several proposed collaborations between the two neighboring institutions.
Ever since Radford College officially split away from Virginia Tech in 1964, the two universities have maintained an academic and administrative separation. Many faculty and administrators at Radford - then an all-women's school - believed such a separation was necessary for the college to develop its own name and reputation, officials at Radford said last week.
Forty years later, however, administrators are hoping to bridge the remnants of that psychological gap by collaborating in such areas as foreign-language instruction, teacher education and some sciences. If negotiations are successful, Radford and Tech could hire faculty members to teach on both campuses and the two schools could agree to assist each other in recruiting.
"There's just no reason not to have more cooperation between the two universities," said Warren Self, Radford's vice president for academic affairs.
Self met in early May with Tech provost Mark McNamee and several deans and department heads from both universities to discuss areas for additional collaboration. Talks are still in the early stages, but department heads are exploring those possibilities further. And officials at both universities are optimistic.
"What we decided at that May meeting was we would allow these discussions to go on as long as we're kept informed," Self said. "Our role would be to minimize the bureaucratic obstacles that sometimes get in the way of faculty at the two universities working together."
"It was a very positive meeting," McNamee said. "I think the feeling was it's too bad that we didn't do this years ago."
Self and McNamee said preliminary discussions began when they realized that Tech and Radford had both hired the same person to teach Mandarin part time. Interest in Mandarin, the predominant Chinese dialect, is on the increase at both universities, but neither school could justify hiring a full-time professor or instructor just yet.
Under a tentative agreement between the two institutions, Radford will hire a full-time Mandarin instructor who will either teach separate classes on both campuses or teach classes composed of students from both schools. In the latter case, the class could be taught via distance learning with the instructor splitting his or her time between the campuses.
In return, Tech would likely grant Radford students access to some language classes not offered at Radford. Students would still pay tuition to their own school, and no money would likely change hands between the universities. Instead, the schools would seek a "reasonable balance of trade," Self said.
Because they are working with existing programs, McNamee said he hopes they will not need state approval for the collaborations.
University officials also said joint appointments are possible in other increasingly popular languages, such as Arabic.
"I would say that, from my perspective, the door could be opened to almost any area where there would be efficiencies of economy and scale," said David Ford, Virginia Tech's vice provost for academic affairs.
The two universities already collaborate in some areas. For instance, chemistry students can earn a bachelor's degree from Radford in three years and then immediately transfer into a two-year master's program at Tech. Officials from both schools say there is likely enough interest to create similar collaborations, known as "3+2 programs," in other fields.
Self also sees the potential for collaboration between the two universities' teacher-training programs. Radford, a former teachers' college, is well known for its undergraduate teacher-preparation program, whereas Virginia Tech is restructuring its education school to focus exclusively on graduate-level teacher education.
In a Nutshell
n Radford University would hire a full-time Mandarin instructor who would either teach separate classes on both campuses or teach classes composed of students from both schools.
n Virginia Tech, in return, would likely grant Radford students access to some language classes not offered at Radford.
n Students would still pay tuition to their own school, and no money would likely change hands between the universities.
n Future collaboration may be between the universities' teacher-training programs.
The Roanoke Times