Undergraduate Education's Response to the Pandemic

A Message from the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education
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August 2020

Dear UCR Community, 

I have spent the last few months thinking about what it means to be a part of the UC Riverside community. The campus is physically closed, but much of the university’s work has continued remotely —activities such as teaching and research advances outside of the physical buildings that have been our intellectual homes. UCR has become something I carry with me wherever I go, wherever any of us go, just as we become part of the changing meaning of UCR. 
In a few weeks, UCR will grow and change again. We will be joined by roughly 4,800 first time freshmen and 1,800 transfer students. They join us during a time where words seem inadequate to the immense challenges we face. The local, state, and national economic future seems bleak. The pandemic has not been resolved and the health of our families and our neighbors are at risk. We are also confronting systemic racism and ongoing violence against Black and other minoritized people.
In such precarity, we often attempt to simplify what is complex. We too often seek solace in a false understanding that ignores or glosses the deep and fractious variability of the very real world in which we live and move. I think some of what it means to be a part of UC Riverside is to resist that temptation. That we, at our best, bravely face a world we cannot understand alone. That part of what you bring and part of what I bring is a way of understanding and being that is different from each other. That we work together, united by a mission to help each other grow in that understanding.
I hope in the stories and updates below; you see a small part of how Undergraduate Education contributes to the changing meaning of UCR. The class of 2024 joins us at a critical moment in our country, and their success is paramount to its future. The physical and experiential distances can make us stronger when we understand UCR and the incoming class of 2024 can learn from each other. We have to be open to other points of view.  UE looks forward to working with our campus partners. We are lucky to be a part of this journey that will shape history.
Our fall programming will be available soon, stay tuned.

Jennifer Brown, Ph.D.
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education

Summer Sessions

The summer quarter started smoothly on Monday, June 22nd with 30% more students than last year! We are  working hard to provide the best experience for students and faculty amidst these challenging times. With campus closed, Summer Sessions is continuing to partner instructors with XCITE to support and improve online instruction.

Working closely with faculty and department chairs, we’re pleased that all but three courses initially planned in November are still being offered. This achievement is the result of the hard work of our faculty and the XCITE team and shows our shared commitment to supporting students in their education. We know that the conversion to online for Summer was incredibly difficult. Many thanks to everyone involved.

Learn about Summer Sessions

University Writing Program

As a result of the cancellation of the in-person administration of the UC Systemwide Analytical Writing Placement Examination (AWPE), UWP offered an early online administration of the AWPE to incoming freshmen to ensure access to English placement results before the first Highlander Orientation session.  Five hundred eighty-one students took the AWPE mid-June, which is more than 90% of the total number of students the UWP tested on campus in 2019.  The UWP continued to offer online administrations of the AWPE throughout July and August to ensure students had timely access to placement information through all of the orientation sessions. As of the end of July, between the systemwide and local administrations of the AWPE, more than 3,000 incoming UCR students have taken the AWPE.

Learn about UWP 

Academic Resource Center

The Academic Resource Center (ARC) has long helped support students in achieving their academic goals. This work continues during this unprecedented time as we provide academic support, mentorship, and leadership development for UCR students.

Fortunately, we're building on the hard work and success of the Academic Partnership Programs offered during the spring quarter. The Early Assist program’s one-on-one peer mentoring worked through Zoom to assist STEM students who placed into ARC 35, UCR’s pre-college math course. Through this partnership, students finished their math and core STEM courses with tremendous success. Peer educators worked hard to build an inclusive remote environment sensitive to the home and family needs of UCR students.

Additionally, Academic Mentoring Programs continued to offer Tutoring, R’Success Workshops, Supplemental Instruction (SI), and Peer Mentorship remotely during Spring. Using iLearn, Zoom, and YouTube, SI’s innovative use of social media allowed the program to expand its reach and impact. The ARC’s Tutorial Assistance Program is certified by the College Reading and Learning Association, and tutors worked remotely to maintain their certifications. Their commitment to the educational mission of the university is inspiring. They’ve worked hard to build an inclusive community from their homes. Lastly, the R’Success Workshop series saw an increase in participation over the spring, with sessions on time management and managing stress especially popular.

For incoming students, the math placement exam transition to an online test has been helpful during COVID-19. In the past, most students had to take a single, in-person high-stakes exam (the MAE) prior to orientation to determine their math placement. Because of limited offerings around the state, many students took it prior to orientation, long after their academic terms had finished. Now, with leadership from the Math department and academic senate approval, the math placement exam is based on the ALEKS PPL test. Students take an initial diagnostic exam, then brush up on weak subject areas using adaptive learning technology, and then have several attempts to reassess before taking a final, proctored placement. More details about the analysis and impact of this change are available at the senate topics page.

The hard work and student centered approach of the ARC professional and student staff continues through the campus closure. Working together, we continue to help students achieve their academic goals. We'd love to have you visit arc.ucr.edu to learn more about how we can work together.

Visit the ARC 

Exploration Center for Innovative Teaching & Engagement

During Spring 2020, XCITE joined forces with the Library and Information Technology Solutions (ITS) to create the Continuity of Teaching Task Force. This Task Force, led by Richard Edwards and Israel Fletes, supported faculty in their rapid transition to remote teaching. Several important projects and initiatives came out of this task force:

  • The continuing development of keepteaching.ucr.edu under the supervision of Lauren Griffin;
  • The creation of a homegrown online proctoring solution under the supervision of Nate Wildes;
  • The creation of course captioning service led by library staff under the supervision of Dani Cook;
  • The creation and delivery of a summer cohort training program for faculty under the supervision and direction of Vanessa Ament, Cheryl Diermyer, and Ann Kwinn;
  • The identification and implementation of enhanced and new technology platforms, such as Canvas and YuJa, under the supervision of Israel Fletes.

Looking ahead, XCITE, the Continuity of Teaching Task Force, and the IT Task Force are collaborating to bring new instructional possibilities to the campus for Fall 2020. These initiatives include:

  • Canvas pilot – a learning management system alternative to Blackboard. Canvas offers faculty and students additional teaching and learning tools that will allow UCR to maintain its commitment to teaching excellence.  This pilot will work to upgrade existing courses and increase remote support for incoming first-year and first-generation students starting at UCR this fall.
  • Implementation of Yuja – an end-to-end video solution that will greatly complement our existing uses of Zoom.  Yuja offers new capabilities around lecture capture, video quizzing, automated captioning, and improved storage and integration with UCR’s learning management systems.
  • Continuity of Teaching Task Force – the creation of webinars and training focused on enhanced pedagogy to meet the challenges of remote education and improve the ongoing faculty and student teaching experience.
  • Building community – collaborating with units in Undergraduate Education to strengthen and extend a sense of connectedness with students who enter UCR this fall in remote-only instruction.

For more information or to sign up for XCITE webinars, please visit keepteaching.ucr.edu.

See Webinars 

Undergraduate Research Symposium
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The 2020 Undergraduate Research Symposium, originally scheduled for late April, had a record 294 students scheduled to present. When the global pandemic struck, Student Engagement successfully transitioned from the traditional two-day, in-person event to a two-week virtual event with accompanying concurrent sessions. The platform, GoReact, was adapted to allow 161 students to record and upload their presentations. Over 100 faculty reviewers provided timestamped comments and feedback to the student presenters, and over 667 family and community members viewed student presentations. Reviews of this platform were strongly positive. Most were impressed with Student Engagement’s propensity to respond quickly to the situation to afford students this valuable experience.

Alongside the conference was a series of 11 Concurrent Sessions, including getting started in research as first-generation students, securing DAAD and NSF research scholarships, and leveraging research for career and graduate school applications, among many other.

Learn about Undergraduate Research

University Innovation Alliance

The University Innovation Alliance (UIA) leverages its network to provide resources and cross-campus collaboration during the Covid-19 crisis. VPDUE Brown, liaison for the UIA, successfully submitted information to secure grant resources from the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) Foundation.  The $25,000 of emergency student aid was distributed through the basic needs group in Student Affairs.
Despite COVID-19 and social distancing orders, the UIA and the Career Center piloted a paid internship program. This summer, UCR students remotely worked on a project for the Environmental Protection Agency while receiving mentorship and career development.


Please welcome Dr. Kevin Graham as the new UIA Fellow. Dr. Graham has worked in academic, administrative, and student affairs roles within higher education for over a decade with a focus on access and equity. He served as a lecturer and research assistant at the University of Rochester’s School of Education, as well as working at the university’s medical center, where he developed programs for student success and mentorship as an HR practitioner. Most recently, Kevin developed a Domestic Exchange program for undocumented students at UC San Diego as a Doctoral Project Specialist. 
Kevin completed his Ph.D. in higher education at the University of Rochester, where his research focused on how institutions of higher education serve undocumented/DACAmented students.

New to Undergraduate Education

Please welcome a new member to the Highlander family: ScottyBot! 

What is ScottyBot? ScottyBot is a chatbot, which uses a knowledge base to answer your questions (English, Spanish, & Chinese) and guide you to campus resources 24/7/365. ScottyBot provides an easy way for students to have UCR-related questions answered, and is accessible via the web and by text. The chatbot will answer commonly-asked questions to popular offices, such as our Registrar, Housing, Student Engagement, ARC, Financial Aid, Student Business Services, Residential Life, and Summer Sessions offices.

ScottyBot knows a lot about UCR, but he is new and still learning. If ScottyBot doesn't know your answer, a real human will read your question and get you an answer. The more you use ScottyBot, the better he becomes at answering questions for everyone at UCR! If you have any questions about ScottyBot, please email us at scottbot@ucr.edu.








Visit ScottyBot


UCR was among institutions selected for the 2020-21 First-gen Forward cohort. First-Generation Student Success works across campus to educate, support, and foster the success of first-generation students. UCR boasts 58% of its undergraduate population as first-generation, compared to the national level of 34%. UCR’s first-gen graduation rate is nearly 60%, with an 88% first-year retention rate.

Academy of Distinguished Teaching
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The Academy of Distinguished Teaching (ADT) site has been updated.  Please visit the new page to learn about teaching and mentoring services and upcoming events. 

Learn about ADT

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