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Academic Affiliates Program: Five fruitful years

by Carol Rasmussen

The UCAR Academic Affiliates Program (AAP) has had an active and fruitful first five years. This was the conclusion of the UCAR Membership Committee, which recently completed a full evaluation of the program.

The AAP was designed to enable North American colleges and universities that do not offer a Ph.D. in atmospheric or related sciences (and thus do not qualify to become UCAR members) to participate more formally in and contribute to the UCAR community's scientific and educational activities. Like the International Affiliates Program, the AAP encourages collegiality, communication, and collaborations among scientists and educators with common interests in research, policy, and education. To join the AAP, institutions must offer a B.A. or B.S. degree or higher in the atmospheric or related sciences and be regionally accredited. The AAP institutions each appoint a representative who attends UCAR members' and other meetings; a number also serve on UCAR governing and advisory committees. UCAR particularly seeks out qualifying minority institutions.

When the program was initiated, a five-year review was part of the plan. As part of this milestone review, a survey was mailed out to AAP member institutions; all 18 responded, and the results were discussed at the annual AAP meeting in October. Representatives of 13 of the AAP institutions were present at that meeting. Later that day, Melanie Wetzel (University of Nevada Desert Research Institute), who chaired the subcommittee in charge of the evaluation, reported on it to the annual meeting of UCAR members. Among the findings:

  • Affiliate representatives consider UCAR meetings one of their best means of keeping up to date in their field and sometimes brief other faculty and students directly after returning from a meeting. Besides offering interactions with the atmospheric sciences community, the meetings may alert affiliates to opportunities for collaboration and funding.

  • Faculty in the affiliate institutions are quite active in attending UCAR-sponsored training meetings, workshops, and symposia and also in hosting UCAR and NCAR visitors. They perceive that such interactions have gone more smoothly since the establishment of the program.

  • Participation in UCAR has augmented the affiliates' use of educational modules from COMET (Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training) and the Global Change Instruction Program and of instructional opportunities such as the COMET-sponsored summer faculty mesoscale courses and workshop.

  • Unidata and other NCAR and UOP groups have enhanced the members' access to computing resources and training.

  • Eight of the 18 affiliates reported research collaborations and publications with NCAR and UOP scientists.

  • Affiliates use the information they gain from the program to establish directions for their own curricula and to prepare their students to seek advanced degrees.

    When asked to describe specific benefits they had received from their participation in the AAP, the affiliates frequently mentioned the training and resources available through Unidata, Project Skymath, COMET, and the University of Michigan's BlueSkies. Others cited enhanced credibility for their department and improved clout with their institution's administration. One representative credited "the good influence and support of the meteorological community, and in particular our membership in [AAP]" with keeping the department alive during an institution-wide budget cut in which eight other departments were terminated.

    In fact, when asked how to improve the AAP, the affiliates' only request was for more: more information on UCAR programs, more partnerships between affiliate and member institutions, more visits from NCAR and UOP scientists, and more involvement in educational outreach.

    There was overall very high praise for the program and for the UCAR members for adopting it. One affiliate commented, "We feel that the informal interactions with other UCAR member representatives are most valuable to the continued ability of our faculty to present current information to our students." Another remarked, "We . . . are especially proud of being a member."

    For more information on the AAP, contact Harriet Barker (303-497-1657 or harriet@ucar.edu).

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    Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
    Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
    Last revised: Tue Apr 4 09:13:34 MDT 2000