We are proud to announce that Barry V. Qualls, Professor of English and the Dean of Humanities, has been appointed to a new role. Professor Qualls will serve as Interim Vice President for Undergraduate Education at Rutgers–New Brunswick/Piscataway, an important new position in the academic restructuring of the University for the future.
“Undergraduate education has been my central concern since I first came to Rutgers,” he said, “and I think it’s wonderful that we now have the opportunity to make undergraduate education a real priority at a world-class research institution.” He looks forward to the transformation, and noted, “This is the first time in a generation that we’ve been able to rethink education here. It’s very exciting.”
The main priorities of the reorganization are to strengthen the connections between students and faculty, and to make the best opportunities of this state and research university more widely available to all students. As the first Vice President for Undergraduate Education in the new structure, Qualls is charged with instituting a single school-wide honors program, creating a scholarship office for students seeking national scholarships like the Rhodes or Fulbright, improving undergraduate involvement with research, and developing programs that increase faculty-student interaction. “We’re talking about changing the faculty culture,” he said, “but also changing the student culture, helping them see the excitement of learning in a high-caliber research environment and the benefits of getting to know the faculty who teach them.”
The reorganization will unite parts of Rutgers that previously were separate, helping the University run more smoothly overall. Students are often frustrated by Rutgers’ complicated bureaucracy, and will benefit from a more centrally organized administration with clearer connections to faculty. “For a research university, Rutgers already has a remarkably high level of teaching, along with excellent mentoring programs for various groups of students within the colleges,” Vice President Qualls explained. “Now we need to work on extending those kinds of resources to all students.”
The biggest step of the reorganization is also one of the most controversial: uniting Rutgers’ separate colleges. Although the faculty is already unified and students are allowed to take courses on all campuses, the undergraduate college system (including Douglass, Livingston, Rutgers, and University College) has led to different requirements for admissions and graduation, and different sets of available opportunities.
Under the new model, a student’s choice of campus will no longer determine academic requirements, and all students will receive their degree from a unified Rutgers. Instead, the separate campuses will be living areas designed to support students academically, occupied by learning communities with different emphases. For example, Douglass will become Douglass Residential College, a community for women who want an education in the arts and sciences that includes a curricular and co-curricular focus on women’s issues and women’s leadership.
As part of the planning process, Vice President Qualls participated in dozens of community-wide discussion groups, soliciting feedback about how to preserve the best Rutgers traditions while instituting improvements. “The discussions about the future have lead to many important changes in the plan,” he acknowledged, “though they’ve never challenged the fundamental principle of greater faculty involvement with undergraduate education, which is something everyone wants.”
The future of Douglass College was and is one of the most contested issues, for Vice President Qualls as much as anyone. “I’ve been a strong supporter of Douglass and of women’s education at Rutgers for many years,” he said, “and I believe that the Douglass Residential College will help us advance even more opportunities for women’s leadership, while continuing Douglass’s history and traditions.”
Vice President Qualls has a long record of exceptional service to the University. In 1971 he began as an Assistant Professor, specializing in Victorian literature. His popularity earned him the prestigious Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1985, the first year it was created. His administrative role grew as he served as Director of the Graduate English Program and then as Chair of Rutgers English. Since then, he has been the Dean of Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Rutgers’ largest academic unit. FAS oversees 75% of all undergraduate instruction on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus, so the challenge of being an FAS Dean has well prepared him for his role as Vice President
Such dedication and experience made it the natural choice for President Richard L. McCormick to appoint him as the first Vice President for Undergraduate Education. “Professor and Dean Barry Qualls is one of Rutgers’ most respected faculty members and among the university’s most vocal champions of undergraduate education,” said President McCormick in his 2005 annual address to the University community. “Well, because I never say no to anything, I knew that if they offered me the position I would take it,” Vice President Qualls joked. “But I still intend to teach, every semester. I’m not giving up teaching Victorian novels.”
With all of his experience, Vice President Qualls knows the road to reorganization will not be easy. “The challenge is in creating something new, in making the vision into something concrete,” he said. We here at Rutgers English wish him the best of luck, and feel confident with the future of undergraduate education in such good hands.
Transforming Undergraduate Education at Rutgers