Inside Illinois concludes its presentation of updates - begun in the March 17 issue - on the progress of the work groups involved in the long-range campus-planning process known as the Academic Plan for the Year 2000. Work groups are to provide Chancellor Michael Aiken and Provost Larry Faulkner with draft reports by May 15. Reactions to the reports will be solicited among selected campus policy groups; after consideration of such input, work groups will issue revised draft reports by Sept. 15. These reports will be widely distributed for campus reaction, and after further discussion, final reports are expected by Dec. 15. Public image of the UI at Urbana-Champaign This work group was charged with considering ways to enhance the public image of the campus - in the state, in the region, nationally and internationally. Carrying out the assignment are members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate's Committee on External Affairs, along with faculty members and campus professionals who work in public information. Specific topics the group was asked to examine include assessing the campus's present image, identifying ways to improve public perceptions of the campus, defining ways to better inform significant constituencies about programs, and exploring better ways to disseminate information to the public. "With increasingly keen competition among public institutions and services for limited resources, the need to ensure that the public is well- informed about UIUC has become especially important," said the work group's chair, David Swanson, professor and associate head of speech communication. "But the context in which we strive to be understood is made difficult by an erosion of public confidence in higher education and questions about the accountability and effectiveness of this and other universities." Recognizing the complexity of its subject, the group spent a great deal of time gathering information and building expertise, Swanson said. The group collected surveys concerning perceptions of higher education nationally and of similar universities around the country, and studied available information about perceptions of UIUC, he said. Members of the group also met with representatives of the units within the Office of Public Affairs and examined the organization, resources, activities and effectiveness of current campus-level public-information activities. For comparison purposes, information was gathered concerning the public-affairs efforts of other universities. "The Office of Public Affairs is only one among the many voices through which the campus speaks to the public every day," Swanson said. Therefore, subcommittees were formed to study the public-information efforts of a variety of other university- and campus-level units. These included the UI Foundation, the Alumni Association, Continuing Education and Public Service, the UI Press and the university's legislative liaison, as well as large-scale information activities of colleges and departments across the campus. The work group also met with representatives of additional programs that are not controlled by Public Affairs but have significant influence on perceptions of the campus, such as Sports Information and the summer- orientation program. Additionally, the work group solicited opinions and suggestions from every member of the faculty and met with representatives of several faculty committees and groups that have been involved in issues concerning the campus's public image. Throughout its work, the group endeavored to recognize that the campus itself is the most important determinant of perceptions of UIUC. "Repeatedly, our discussions have gone beyond 'public relations' to consider particular aspects of the campus that shape the public's perceptions of us," Swanson said. The work group now is in the process of formulating its conclusions and recommendations. "The goal," Swanson said, "is to offer a realistic and informed assessment of how we might do better, given the difficulties and challenges that always will be with us." An example of these difficulties is that UIUC is one of only a handful of top-quality universities located more than 120 miles from a major media market, Swanson said. "Every peer university in a similar location reports frustrations with the amount of news coverage it receives. We have had to work harder and more effectively than most of our peers just to keep pace with them," he noted. Historically, the university has found ways to confront such challenges, he added. "The university has a long tradition of creativity and innovation in getting its message out," he said. "Now that we hope to take our efforts to a new level, we must have a knowledgeable view of what we can expect to achieve and a realistic plan for achieving it." Academic information/Library environment As rapidly emerging technologies begin to radically change the way people use libraries and gain access to information, the UI is recognizing the need not only to keep pace with these developments, but also to stay a few steps ahead of the pack. "Our goal is to establish the UI as one of the nation's leading institutions for networking information technology by the year 2000," said university librarian Robert Wedgeworth, the chair and liaison to the working group considering issues related to the marriage of library-information systems and computer network technologies. In its report, the group plans to endorse present strategies for the continued development of the campus's information-technology structure. That plan, which emphasizes local creation and distribution of services, is aimed at enabling the university community to take full advantage of opportunities to connect services to colleagues here and on other campuses, and in ways that support teaching, learning and research. "The report will place great emphasis on emerging capabilities to integrate audio and video components to computing on the campus and will emphasize the need to do whatever is required to exploit these technologies," Wedgeworth said. To gain a comprehensive picture of where the campus is and where it hopes to be in the next decade with respect to emerging information technologies, the group split into three sub-groups. One looked at administrative considerations, another investigated technological implications, and the third focused on faculty and student applications. Wedgeworth said a great deal of attention has been directed toward determining the best means for guiding future development in a controlled, yet decentralized, fashion. "The group looked carefully at the idea of creating some central position, such as chief information officer," he said. "But we have not seen that carried out successfully." One of the group's major proposals, however, probably will be a recommendation to establish a small campuswide coordinating committee that would integrate academic and administrative computing activities and would report to the vice chancellor for research. The group probably would include the university librarian, the directors of the campus's academic and administrative computing offices, the director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the chair of the campus's Networking and Computing Committee. The possible inclusion of an independent faculty member in the coordinating group may be recommended, Wedgeworth said, to ensure that faculty interests are represented at the highest level of policy-making. Another major recommendation expected is a push to establish a Center for Applications of Network Information Systems at the UI. Wedgeworth said the group envisions the center as being a place "where faculty could get access to technologies and personnel support for sophisticated research that wouldn't be feasible to replicate in every college." Wedgeworth noted that the group also recognizes the need for closer involvement of the University Counsel in planning strategies for production of intellectual properties and the use of intellectual properties on campus. By establishing formal connections with the University Counsel, the university could stand to gain on two fronts. "First of all, we expect that many of the outcomes of research in the future will be products and services that have some market value, and the university should be prepared to deal with that ... to consider what benefits could flow back to the university." The other half of the equation is that as copyright licenses are becoming increasingly restrictive, the Library and other colleges could benefit significantly from assistance by legal counsel in general contract negotiations involving patented and copyrighted materials. While the work group is indeed focusing much of its attention on the implications of electronic storage and distribution systems, Wedgeworth noted that the lifeblood of any library - its printed materials - is not being ignored in the planning process. "We have to recognize that printed material will continue to be the key information source for most people. But we have to make sure we're on top of emerging technologies as well." Wedgeworth added that the charge to formulate a strategic plan to incorporate new technologies "in no way represents a diminution of the library's commitment to acquire and make available the most important printed materials in support of teaching. What it does recognize is that we've always had a mix of technologies for storing and retrieving information." In carrying out its charge, Wedgeworth said the work group did uncover "one major caveat - one area too great to be considered in our work. That is the production and distribution of multimedia instruction, both classroom instruction and research. We think that needs to be a separate effort. We're simply not in a good position to assist faculty with that." Maintaining and Improving the quality of graduate and professional education To a large degree, the tasks charged to this work group dovetail with continuing efforts of the Executive Committee of the Graduate College as well as those of the Graduate Fellowship Committee, appointed last fall by Chester Gardner, the college's dean and vice chancellor for research. In assessing current practices, procedures and trends in graduate and professional education, members of those committees also sought input from the Graduate Student Advisory Council. Representatives from the campus's professional schools also participated in the process. Gardner said a draft report is nearing completion and is under review by those who have contributed to it. Among the points that he expects will be emphasized in the final report is a recommendation that "in assessing the enrollments, units begin to develop strategies and plans to look at diversity not only in terms of gender and ethnic considerations, but domestic versus international as well." Such plans, he said, should assess the market for master's and doctorate recipients in the respective disciplines, assess departmental resources for graduate education and research, and establish an enrollment goal that balances demand and resources. He also expects the group will make strong recommendations concerning the need to increase financial support available to graduate and professional students through fellowships and assistantships. Enhanced support would impact another closely related concern of the work group: the need to reverse the trend of graduate students taking longer times to complete degree requirements. These and other issues also have been incorporated in a report circulated last month for campuswide comment by the Graduate Fellowship Committee. Among the significant changes recommended in that document: * Establishing a Graduate Fellowship Board, with broad faculty representation from across the campus, to manage the graduate fellowship funds and programs. * Changing the way the existing University General Fellowship funds are distributed. * Providing several new fellowship programs. Among the issues expected to be addressed later this month in the report issued by the full group: * The need to emphasize - and reward - strong advising, both at the course-work and dissertation stages. * The establishment and dissemination of clearly stated guidelines and information on curriculum requirements. * The possible need to offer certain required graduate courses on a more regular basis. * The need for units to review the extent of comprehensive and qualifying exams, to ensure that their intended goals are being accomplished. In addition, Gardner expects the report will include a substantial section outlining new strategies for recruiting and retaining greater numbers of minority students. Specific plans include targeting sectors of the population who have not been as aggressively pursued in the past, such as students from metropolitan colleges with large minority enrollments. Furthermore, he said, the work group plans to recommend that the campus continue its strong support of recruitment and retention efforts that are currently successful. Those include the MAPP program initiated by UI President Stanley O. Ikenberry in 1989 to guarantee support to UI minority undergraduates admitted to a Ph.D. program leading to an academic career, and the Summer Research Opportunities Program, which matches students with faculty members who direct them in individualized research projects. Gardner said the report also will address the special needs of professional students, which include early and high-quality academic and career counseling as well as avenues for pursuing financial assistance.