Call to Order and Roll Call
Thethird meeting of the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, September 13, 2010, at 10:30 AM, in the Auditorium Stage at South Warren High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair; Representative Leslie Combs, Co-Chair; Senators R.J. Palmer II and Ken Winters; Representatives Jim DeCesare, C. B. Embry Jr., Jim Glenn, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, and Addia Wuchner.
Guests: Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools.
Approval of Minutes
Representative Siler made the motion to approve the minutes of the August 9, 2010, minutes and Representative Combs seconded the motion. The minutes were approved by voice vote.
Applied Research and Technology Program, Program of Distinction
Ms. Robbin Taylor, Vice President of Public Affairs, Western Kentucky University (WKU), said the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997 challenged Kentucky’s public universities to be engaged in their communities and to promote economic development within their regions. The comprehensive universities were also directed to become nationally recognized in at least one program of distinction or one applied research program.
WKU has created an academic program of distinction and an applied research program. She said the 21st century media program at WKU’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting is one program of distinction. The WKU School of Journalism and Broadcasting has consistently been recognized as top in the nation by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Ms. Taylor introduced Dr. Gordon Bayliss, Vice President of Research, WKU, to inform members about the Applied Research and Technology Program (ARTP), which is WKU’s other program of distinction.
Dr. Bayliss said there is a high value associated with a college education. He said higher salaries are correlated to achieving higher degrees and people with college degrees are more likely than less well educated individuals to remain employed during periods of economic turndown. High school dropouts account for the highest percentage of the unemployed.
Dr. Bayliss said WKU is aspiring to be a new comprehensive university. A new comprehensive university consists of teaching content (traditional), teaching process (research experience), and the teaching of evaluation (current research issues). He said these approaches will prepare WKU’s graduates for a society with rapidly changing information.
Dr. Bayliss said the Applied Research and Technology Program (ARTP) is comprised of 13 centers and institutes: Advanced Materials Institute; Agricultural Research and Education; Applied Physics Institute; Architectural and Manufacturing Science; Bioinformatics; Biotechnology; Biodiversity; Engineering Services; Environmental Research; Institute for Astrophysics and Space Science; Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology; and Kentucky Climate Center. He said the Applied Physics Institute (API) is a very dynamic part of the ARTP and research and teaching are completely integrated. He said graduate and undergraduate students learn cutting edge research techniques and learn to evaluate and take part in state of the art research. Dr. Bayliss described numerous projects within the API and a detailed list can be found in the meeting folder located in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
Dr. Bayliss said the Department of Homeland Security has been mandated the enormous task of checking all incoming shipping containers that arrive in the United States. A variant of the non-destructive testing approach can be used to “scan” shipping containers. He said it is currently unknown if this is even possible because scanners such as those using neutrons produce data that is hard to interpret. WKU is working on a prototype alternative.
In response to a question from Representative DeCesare, Dr. Bayliss said the piece of equipment currently does not produce real-time results, but within API, a faculty member has developed a new approach that may automate (or semi-automate) the scanning of shipping containers and gets very close to real-time results. He said WKU has begun the process of filing a patent on this potentially very valuable invention and most information is deemed classified.
Dr. Bayliss said API is working on another defense project called cyber-defense. He said cyber warfare is a term for attacks on computers from other countries and is cause for national and commercial security concerns. He said students are involved in research that involves daily internet traffic in the exabyte range. He said there is real need to respond to attacks in near real-time in order to prevent losses, identify attackers, and find attackers. He said these problems can be very difficult because senders can hide where they send the messages from.
Dr. Bayliss said classified research is being conducted in retrospective analysis to develop new algorithms based on machine-learning and to test new algorithms. He said this process involves human and computer assisted analysis. He said he does not have the security clearance to explain the intricate details of this process as this is a high security operation.
Dr. Bayliss said students are involved in applied research, such as that exemplified by work done in API. He said this provides invaluable learning about how new knowledge is created, and how new knowledge is assessed. The integration of research into teaching will be ever more crucial in the future as information is changing at a rapid pace. The Department of Defense is concerned that universities are not producing enough math and computer science graduates to work on defense projects.
Dr. Bayliss said a comprehensive university needs to instill in graduates that their lives should be about serving their communities, the commonwealth, and the nation. He said it is crucial that engagement with the community is integrated with teaching. He said the ARTP is making sure that students are involved in projects that directly serve the community and the commonwealth. A good example of this is the Kentucky Mesonet, built and run within the Kentucky Climate Center of the ARTP. He said students are involved in a project that provides public service to the entire commonwealth, and entails complex political interactions with communities, as well as practical skills. The project focuses on providing real-time data on the climate. He noted some of the data is utilized in local weather forecasts across the state.
In response to a question from Representative Glenn, Dr. Bayliss said WKU is including undergraduate students in the research experience. He included high school students in his research lab in North Carolina. In response to a question from Representative DeCesare, Dr. Bayliss said the Gatton Math and Science Academy students are included in the research projects. Representative Richards said the Gatton students are excited to be linked to major research and it helps their resumes when applying to universities.
In response to a question from Representative Riner, Dr. Bayliss said math and computer science graduates in Kentucky can be linked to jobs with the National Department of Defense. He said any student that has contact with the cyber-defense lab realizes the opportunity for a job upon graduation. Ms. Taylor said the cyber-defense lab is looking at WKU graduates to fill positions and 25 WKU graduates have already been hired.
Dr. Bayliss said WKU needs to integrate research with the economic development in the region. He said the Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology (ICSET) is focusing on key challenges for the commonwealth, the nation, and the planet such as energy sustainment, mercury pollution, carbon dioxide emission, and biological waste. ICSET is a world-class facility actively creating solutions to these problems. The solutions, which are typically patentable, have enormous economic value.
In response to a question from Senator Kerr, Dr. Bayliss said a problem with coal is that it contains mercury. He said federal guidelines target a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions and this is a very tough standard. He said activated carbon can be injected into flu gasses, but it is very expensive. He said ICSET has an invention that is less expensive and as effective as carbon, and a patent will be issued in about two weeks. He noted this could be a huge economic factor for WKU.
In response to a question from Representative Combs, Dr. Bayliss said the classified invention would solve the problem of mercury pollution if deployed. Representative Combs said that is good news for the coal business.
Dr. Bayliss said another problem with burning coal is nitrous and nitric oxide pollution. This pollution is a major cause of smog and contributes to acid rain. He said WKU is working on a patent to burn coal without nitrogen present.
Dr. Bayliss said a solution to climate change is to capture carbon dioxide and not allow it to be released into the atmosphere. He said carbon sequestration may be 15-20 years away, but WKU is working on generating the same power with less coal, while producing less carbon dioxide. He noted INSET is working on novel approaches to increasing efficiency.
Dr. Bayliss said WKU is not striving to be a Research I university, nor is it just a comprehensive university. His vision is for WKU to create something special and be a research intensive, or “R2” university such as schools in surrounding states. He said Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, and Tennessee have the “three types of university” model, while Kentucky and West Virginia are the two states with only two types of state universities.
In response to a question from Representative DeCesare, Ms. Taylor said the most important criteria for a “R2” university is to offer a number of doctoral programs. She noted Middle Tennessee State offers six different doctoral degrees. She suggested the Kentucky General Assembly could change the statute to allow the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to approve new doctoral programs at “R2” universities in Kentucky in order to streamline the process. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) would allow WKU to offer three doctoral programs, but the General Assembly currently does not permit that. Ms. Taylor told Representative DeCesare that WKU has already began conversations with CPE about the process.
In response to a question from Representative Richards, Ms. Taylor said WKU has been approached by a group of physical therapists from western Kentucky and has a received a $650,000 commitment to start a doctor of physical therapy program. She said the University of Kentucky and Bellermine are currently the only two universities that offer a doctorate program in physical therapy. She said WKU will be asking the General Assembly for approval for this program in the near future. If denied, WKU will be returning $650,000 in private donations.
In response to a question from Representative Combs, Ms. Taylor said SACS currently allows WKU to offer three doctoral programs in any area as long as WKU has the need and the financial means to support it. She said the state law is what prohibits offering the programs without obtaining permission from the General Assembly.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.