In this week's edition, efforts to enact campus sexual assault legislation are revived, UIC advocates for NSF on the Hill, and Rep. Hultgren visits Urbana's College of Engineering.
Renewed Push for Campus Sexual Violence Bill
With Sexual Assault Awareness Month coming to a close, a bipartisan group of sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) held a press conference earlier this week to urge action on the legislation, which was originally introduced in July 2014 and reintroduced in February 2015. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill, two of the bill's primary proponents, led the presser, which also involved the co-founders of End Rape on Campus. The bill has the support of 36 Senators, but consideration has stalled due to interests in folding CASA into the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).
Ed Encourages Differential/Risk-Based Accreditation
Late last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance to federally-recognized accrediting agencies. The guidance follows up on an announcement last November and a January 2016 memo about the Department's efforts to improve the current accreditation system by increasing focus on student outcomes and transparency. In the letter from ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, it provides clarity on the flexibility that accreditors have in differentiating their reviews of institutions and programs. It specifically encourages accreditors to use that flexibility "to focus monitoring and resources on student achievement and problematic institutions or programs." Our associations—ACE, APLU, and AAU—have been pushing for this.
UIC Showcases Innovation Strengths
UIC Vice Chancellor for Research Mitra Dutta was in DC this week for the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) annual exhibition and reception. Similar to a science fair, universities and professional organizations filled the room with posters and gadgets demonstrating the impact of National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. This year's theme was “Investments in STEM Research and Education: Fueling American Innovation.”
VCR Dutta spent a full day on the Hill promoting the importance of NSF funding. She met with staff from the offices of UIC's local member—Rep. Danny Davis—and all of Illinois science committee members—Reps. Dan Lipinski, Bill Foster, Randy Hultgren, and Darin LaHood.
Two UIC faculty members—Bioengineering Department Head Thomas Royston and Associate Professor Ying Liu—joined later in the day for the CNSF event. UIC's exhibit focused on how numerous UIC faculty have been recipients of the prestigious NSF CAREER award, a Foundation-wide activity that supports junior faculty. Many UIC CAREER award recipients have gone on to develop innovative applications that include everything from artificial intelligence to mobile sensing and network security to the use of polynomials to make credit cards more secure. Staff from the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Lipinski, and Rep. Hultgren came by UIC's booth, as well as officials from NSF, including EHR Directorate AD Joan Ferrini-Mundy, MPS AD Fleming Crim, GEO Deputy AD Margaret Cavanaugh, and several division heads.
Global Academy Cohort Takes DC
Early-to mid-career faculty members from Urbana who are part of ACES' 2016 Academy for Global Engagement were in DC as part of the Academy's annual visit to the nation's Capitol to connect and interact with agencies which facilitate and support international academic engagement. They participated in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Food Security Symposium, which focused on how the U.S. government and international community can better collaborate on addressing the problem of food insecurity. They also met with OGR to hear about the federal landscape and how Urbana can leverage its International Food Security Initiative (IFSI).
Rep. Randy Hultgren recently spent a couple of hours on the Urbana campus to learn about the cutting-edge research that's underway within the College of Engineering. Led by the College's Assistant Director for Research Don Takehara, Rep. Hultgren's visit began with a discussion with MSE Professor Taher Saif about the miniature biological robots "bio-bots" that Bioengineering Department Head Rashid Bashir and his team of researchers have been building with muscle cells to respond to complex environmental signals. Following a meeting with Dean Andreas Cangellaris, Rep. Hultgren was briefed on two big national research centers that Urbana is leading. First, ITI's David Nicol and ARI's Magdi Azer filled him in on the $20 million DHS-funded Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI). Then he learned about POETS, an $18.5 million NSF Engineering Research Center, from its Director, Andrew Alleyne.
Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations