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Interview of William H. Halverson by William J. Studer

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Title: Interview of William H. Halverson by William J. Studer
Creators: Halverson, William H.
Contributors: Studer, William J., 1936-
Keywords: UVC-100
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.: Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Abstract: Dr. Halverson, after earning both an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University, and a degree in theology from Princeton Seminary, briefly considered a career as a clergyman, but chose instead to serve as Professor of Philosophy at Augsburg College from 1959 to 1967. In that latter year he accepted an appointment as Associate Dean of University College at Ohio State, in charge primarily of academic advisement, and served until 1987. He chose to relocate since he considered the future of higher education lay primarily with the large University rather than with the small private church-related college. Halverson was appointed by Richard Zimmerman, the first Dean, but served mainly with Dean John Mount, and briefly with Acting Dean, Tom Willke, and Dean Michael Curran. The appointment of John Mount happened “rather suddenly,” and evidently was not the result of a national search. He remembers Zimmerman as a “stickler for academic rules” with a “very, very hands-on style” who personally, for example, wrote all seventeen advising manuals for the various degree-granting units, an enormous writing task. John Mount, on the other hand, was “very much a delegator.” In 1968, as the goals and functions of University College were still evolving, it was given the mission of serving as the college of enrollment for incoming freshmen students. Academic advising was always the central mission of the College, but this task involved various levels. At its loftiest level, it consisted of helping students clarify their values, aptitudes, and interests, but it also includes helping students select courses quarter by quarter, advising them on institutional resources, such as the Library, and helping them learn to negotiate the bureaucracy of a large university Halverson credits Dean John Mount with assembling “a very, very strong staff.” Halverson’s primary staff function was to serve as Associate Dean for Advisement. A major organizational innovation that he introduced was creation of the Coordinators of Academic Advisement, a program that divided the 19 curricular academic programs into related groupings, so that, for example, all medical related areas were linked together to facilitate better advisement. There were five or six of these coordinated areas, each overseen by a coordinator to whom individual advisors would report. Within their specialty, advisors could develop greater expertise, and cultivate better ongoing relationships with the degree-granting units. Support for the College varied over time depending who was in charge of the central administration. The College of Agriculture, which worked very hard at recruitment, felt some resentment that such students were not immediately enrolled in Agriculture. Provost Jack Corbally was a very strong supporter of the College. Among the Presidents, Harold Enarson was the top supporter, and it was under his term that University College reached its zenith. Great emphasis was placed on recruiting first-rate people, and putting new hires through a rigorous training program. All advisors also helped teach UVC-100, the University Orientation course. Full-time advisors were assigned about 400 advisees, a large number, but one that was necessary to stretch scarce dollars as far as possible. Autumn Quarter, when most new students enrolled, was always the busiest. Ohio State developed its own model for advisement, and did not consciously copy models from other institutions. Halverson had overall responsibility for hiring UVC student advisors. This meant that on average he needed each year 15 to 20 new advisors. Typically about half could be considered “excellent,” with a similar number of “pretty good ones.” Only rarely did an appointee not measure up to expectations. The argument was made that full-time advisors would be preferable to the largely part-time workforce at the College, but Halverson believed that considering the huge workload of the College – typically 14,000 to 15,000 students – and the budgetary constraints of salaries and benefits that the part-time model worked best. Great care was taken to identify and train advisors, and he believed the part-time model worked “remarkably well.” At its peak the College offered as many as 19 separate curricular academic programs, all of which were planned in coordination with the needs of the respective degree-granting units. Ideally a student would be ready to transfer to his or her chosen degree-granting college after one year at University College, but for various reasons many failed to make normal progress. Overall the College made a demonstrable, significant contribution to the lives of many students. There was a fairly dramatic decline in the drop-out and flunk-out rates. One of the very finest achievements of the College was the Summer Orientation Program. Many students and parents approached initial enrollment at a large university with fear and trembling, but the Orientation Program helped humanize the University, and explained to newcomers how to master the complexity of a large bureaucracy. As Associate Dean, Halverson faced certain specific issues related largely to minority students. During the student demonstrations of 1968 he was essentially held prisoner by minority students in his own office for three or four hours. Later he helped conceptualize, and in time administered, the Higher Education Opportunity Program, a predecessor of the program for minority students within University College. On balance, despite some failures, Halverson believes that “Ohio State has gone out of its way to be helpful to minority students.” For most of its existence University College was located on the somewhat isolated West Campus, and students were bussed back and forth to the central campus. This inconvenience made advisors, and the excellent West Campus Library, somewhat less accessible to students. By the time in 1988 when the College was moved to the main campus Halverson had already retired. The required orientation course for incoming students, UVC 100, included units on the idea of a liberal education, the organization of the university, and the University Libraries. The units offered in UVC-100 were not standardized, however, but were tailored to the specific needs of a particular curricular academic program. For example, representatives from the College of Business would be brought over to lecture on topics relevant to business students, engineering people talked with pre-engineering students, and so on. There was a standard textbook for UVC-100, the University College Guidebook, which was adaptable to all curricular academic programs. Although initially UVC-100 was a one-hour, non-credit, ungraded course, it soon became a graded, one-hour credit course, a change that was significant in terms of funding for University College. Halverson believes that one of his most important personal contributions to University College was assembling an excellent staff, including Virginia Gordon, Sig Stokker, Margo Voltz, Fred Coggin, Lance Shreffler, and Joe Weaver. Among his disappointments were the facts that he did not have a faculty appointment to the Department of Philosophy, and the geographic isolation of West Campus, which made the College something of an academic orphan, not always well understood or appreciated. During its thirty-five year existence University College did have an enormous, generally positive, impact on many, many students. It was also very helpful to minority students. Since Halverson retired in 1987 he was not on campus when University College was rather suddenly terminated in 2001, but he considers the decision “unfortunate.” Since its demise the advising function must now be carried out by the individual colleges, some of whom will do an excellent job. Since his retirement, Dr. Halverson has continued his life-long interest in Norwegian language and culture, and, among several projects, wrote the definitive translation of the standard biography of the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. Major Topics Mission, goals, and achievements of University College (1965-2001) Contributions of various administrators at University College Challenges and achievements of the Advisement Program at UVC Interaction between UVC and Main Campus Role of UVC-100, the required Orientation course for incoming students Overall impact of University College on student life at Ohio State
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1811/570
Other Identifiers: SPEC.RG.32.A
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