With the first round of proposals for the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates approved last week, students are beginning to see where the substantial increase in their tuition dollars is going.

With eight of 29 proposals being approved, $3.8 million of the total $10 million available for the next two years was allocated.

Faculty hire-related proposals

A proposal coming from the College of Letters & Science will fund the costs associated with 17 new faculty hired this year, equating to $1,777,030 each year. According to the proposal, the faculty members will aid in access to high demand majors and reduce bottleneck in courses.

Another proposal from L&S will provide additional staff members in the Chemistry Learning Center and Physics Learning Center, accommodating an additional 125 students in the centers each semester and drawing about $200,000 from the initiative funds each year.

The business school submitted a third approved proposal regarding faculty hires that will provide a new faculty member in finance and marketing.

Additionally, the school will create interdisciplinary positions with other departments and additional academic advisors, and the business scholars and honors programs will be reworked.

These changes will cost $1,089,000 a year.

Campuswide shared advisor notes system

Submitted by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, this $150,000 dollar proposal will establish an electronic system allowing academic advisors from across disciplines to share notes on students’ previous sessions with different advisors.

The lack of such a program has long been identified as a serious shortcoming of the University of Wisconsin’s academic advising programs, said Tim Walsh, assistant dean and director for Cross-College Advising Service and co-chair of the Council on Academic Advising.

“This has been talked about for the last 10 years, but there have always been impediments,” Walsh said.

He added most students always assumed something like this existed.

Students often come to advisors for “promises and assurances” regarding “high-stakes” concerns like course substitutions, requirement satisfaction and academic progress, the proposal explains.

“Students trust that they have received accurate information, that determinations are officially documented and that there will be followthrough,” the proposal says.

This shared notes system will provide a way to ensure this is the case.

Aiming to have a pilot program established this spring, Walsh is hopeful the system will be ready to go before the next academic year with MIU funding going toward startup and initial development costs.

A request for a permanent yearly transfer will be made next fall.

Online interactive international student e-tutorial

With at least 1,400 international students coming from hundreds of different countries to begin their studies at UW each semester, the transition process can be tumultuous and frightening, said Laurie Cox, international student services director.

The $8,370 initiative from the Offices of the Dean of Students will develop an interactive e-learning tutorial accessible in real time from around the world.

The tutorial will be accessible in multiple languages and will aid incoming international students in everything from securing visas to understanding new academic and social customs, Cox said.

She added the tutorial program will also feature online videos starring current UW students, welcoming the incoming international students with advice on adapting to UW life and extending greetings before they even step foot on the campus.

Internationalizing internships and globalizing undergraduate education

Two other proposals also focus on keeping UW connected to an increasingly globalized world.

An International Internship Program proposed by the Division of International Studies was approved for $260,000 to develop international employment opportunities for UW students.

By connecting students with oversees employers, the initiative seeks to prepare students to succeed in an international work environment while matching employers’ needs for culturally and technically competent graduates, the proposal says.

While DIS has been pursuing this type of international employment opportunity for UW students and graduates for some time, the MIU funding has allowed this pursuit to become an institutional program, something that would not have happened any time in the near future, according to Marianne Bird Bear, DIS assistant dean.

Bird Bear projected at least a 25 percent growth rate per year, though she added with the way the world seems to be moving, growth could be even more accelerated.

Another proposal submitted by CALS will also increase international internships as well as short-term study abroad opportunities for UW students.

At the cost of $364,400, this initiative will also seek to improve instructional quality by integrating international curriculums in the classrooms and address the fact that male undergraduates go abroad half as often as females.

Expansion of First-Year Interest Groups

More than 600 freshman enroll in First-Year Interest Groups every year, but with the passage of this L&S proposal that number will double.

Authored by Director of FIGs Greg Smith, the initiative will be rolled out over the course of the next four semesters.

Next semester, freshmen will be offered five pilot FIGs. Four of these will be for students unable to participate this semester or who are enrolling for the first time. The last will be offered to second-year students and revolve around career exploration, according to the proposal.

In fall 2010, the number of FIGs offered will expand from 30 to 45. While FIGs have traditionally had an exploratory nature, many of these will include FIGs that revolve around a major or profession. Come fall 2011, the number offered will further increase to 60.

The initiative also preserves stipends for participating faculty members and funds to fill holes in departments their participation might create.

When fully implemented, the 60 FIGs will cost the campus $127,690 each year.

Future proposals

The next round of proposals are due Nov. 15 and the university will go through a final selection process in the spring, according to Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Aaron Brower, who works closely with the MIU proposal and funding process. Proposals will be solicited in the spring of the following two years as well.

Each year of its implementation, an additional $10 million is generated by MIU — $5 million goes directly to financial aid, but the remaining $5 million goes to new projects proposed.

After the four-year implementation period ends, $20 million will go toward financial aid each year and an additional $20 million will go toward the proposals approved over that period.