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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Letter to Recipients

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Letter to Recipients

December 8, 2006

Dear IPESL Grant Recipients:

It is with great enthusiasm, excitement, and pride that I congratulate you on sending a proposal and receiving funding for that proposal through the IPESL initiative at MSU.  Those of us who have worked closely on this project since early summer have had to deal with tight timelines so it is with some satisfaction that we already know who will be on the IPESL staff and who will be receiving the awards, before our self-imposed deadline.

In this letter I hope to explain IPESL briefly and also provide some dates you should be aware of as we move forward.  As you know, your letter of agreement needs to be signed and brought or sent to the CETL office at MH267.

I will be your Project Manager for Communities of Practice.  You can contact me with any questions or concerns about timelines, workshops and meetings.  Questions concerning assessment of projects should be directed to Tracy Pellett, Project Manager for Assessment. 

 Here is a brief explanation of what has happened up to now with the MSU-IPESL project--from my perspective.

Early this summer MSU was contacted by Minnesota State that $304,000 was available for faculty development activities.  This money came from the MN state legislature for merit pay to faulty but has been adjusted greatly through the work of IPESL.  Each state university was given a general prospectus and asked to develop their own plan on how to spend the money allocated to the campus.  Each campus received different funding based on number of full-time faculty.  No two plans are alike and to my knowledge ours is very different from the other state universities.

There were a few meetings during the early summer of a large group to discuss how to proceed to develop the MSU plan.  After two meetings, a smaller task force was asked to work on a detailed prospectus that could be sent to Minnesota State for approval.  That task force included Dean Fagin, Brenda Flannery, Tracy Pellett and Stewart Ross.  We meet periodically over the summer to develop a plan that soon became focused on infusing critical thinking into courses through the use of grants for faculty who would apply for funding.  We also added the concept of workshops and faculty meeting in small cohorts during the spring semester as we continued to work on a plan.

In late August, the FA executive committee selected 5 faculty from their ranks to create the IPESL committee.  This group then started meeting to fine tune the plan as developed over the summer.  Brenda, Tracy, Stewart and Wayne Sharp joined the committee as non-voting members.  Dan Cronn-Mills was elected chair of the committee at an early session. 

Ultimately the plan was sent to Minnesota State and was approved quickly (actually Minnesota State was very impressed with the MSU plan and stated this in their response to the committee).  Once Minnesota State approved our IPESL plan we worked quickly to send out the announcement to faculty (we had already sent out an earlier announcement so faculty knew this was coming soon).  The timeline since the beginning of work on IPESL has been incredibly tight.  Faculty were not given much time to respond to the deadline but there really was no choice since the committee had to make selections prior to the end of the semester.  Within one week of receiving 90 proposals from well over 100 faculty (no one expected this type of response) the committee made awards for grants and letters were sent immediately to those who applied for the grants.  At the same time, faculty who applied for various staff positions were also selected (no one expected the amount of applications for positions either).

The MSU-IPESL staff includes three project managers.  They are Brenda Flannery from Academic Affairs (the only administrator), Tracy Pellett, Executive Director of Assessment, and Stewart Ross, Director of CETL.  These three individuals were the ones who worked on the talk force with Dr. Fagin during the summer to develop the plan.  Tracy will deal mainly with assessment issues related to IPESL and Stewart will deal with the workshops and communities of practice (COPs) which will soon be formed.  The plan also calls for two faculty fellows who will assist the project managers.  They will be Karen Boubel and Chuck Lewis.  The two faculty selected to give critical thinking workshops and be available for one-on-one advising are Marge Murray-Davis and Richard Liebendorfer.  Wayne Sharp was hired to aid faculty with IT needs.  Finally, three facilitators were selected to work with the COP's.  Those faculty are Linda Duckett, Ron Nickerson, and Ann Quade.

The plan for spring is to have a few workshops on critical thinking offered at the end of January-early February. We will send this information as it is available. There will also be a workshop on course design on January 12th from 1-4 p.m. in CSU 284 for the 16 faculty who received CETL minigrants.  As an IPESL participant you are invited to attend.  We are excited that Stephen Brookfield, the author of five books and one of the leaders in critical thinking in higher education will be the keynoter for the CETL conference scheduled for February 28th.  Dr. Brookfield has agreed to spend time with the IPESL participants after his keynote!  Please put on your calendar February 28th from 9-noon.  These will be valuable sessions with Dr. Brookfield, so valuable that we ask you to consider making arrangement for any class you might be teaching during that time period.

During the spring semester each COP will meet 5 times with their facilitator.  Each COP will be interdisciplinary, based on when faculty are available to attend the 90 minute sessions.  These sessions will be equally spaced throughout the semester.  At these sessions it is hoped faculty will meet one another (maybe even bond), share ideas and plans for infusing critical thinking into their courses, and continue to learn together.   We will send you next week, the group you are in and the days and times set for that group and where the group will meet. We have selected terrific facilitators for each group.  During the summer, assessment work will continue so that the final evaluation of the program can be sent to Minnesota State in August. 

Because Minnesota State expects each campus to use IPESL as a leverage to continue teaching and learning efforts, our plan is particularly well suited to a long term approach.  In the fall of 2007, CETL plans to continue this work by forming Critical Thinking COP's.  Our hope is that many who receive awards will continue to attend sessions together as you assess and research the changes made in courses.  Our goal is to actually begin measuring student learning based on the critical thinking development in courses, created by faculty involved in the IPESL grants.  We expect public presentations through various forums including a dedicated space on the CETL website which can also be shared with the five colleges involved in the Carnegie Project for the next three years.