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Provost’s Update

May 2014 Provost's Update

Colleagues,

It is hard to believe that the end of the academic year is already upon us. It seems like it was just last week when the President was addressing the RIT community. But now we find us about to complete our first year on semesters and ready to graduate some very happy students (and even happier parents – including yours truly!).

As is my tradition, I like to summarize the focus we have had on academic affairs for the past year. 

Jeremy Haefner
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs 

Listening, Listening, Listening

To be honest, I had reservations about committing to visit every academic department and have intimate and meaningful conversations with the faculty and staff. But after visiting over 50 such units, I came away with the impression that this was one of the most delightful and helpful things I have done since becoming provost.

To be honest, I had reservations about committing to visit every academic department and have intimate and meaningful conversations with the faculty and staff. But after visiting over 50 such units, I came away with the impression that this was one of the most delightful and helpful things I have done since becoming provost. I got the chance to get to know faculty and staff better, we discussed the teaching under semesters, and I heard concerns as well as what you are proud about. I conclude that this is well worth the time and so I will continue the conversations next year, visiting departments I have not yet, and then starting over. Here are just a few of my take-aways at the campus level.

  • For the most part, people I spoke with like semesters – there is more time for student projects, discussions, and content.
  • Intersession was a great time for experimenting with new courses, doing research and scholarship, or just getting ready for the spring semester.
  • Winter was a drag.
  • Both faculty and staff feel fatigue with the conversion process and feel that time is needed to let the change settle down.
  • While the 75-minute class periods were generally well received, people were split on how they liked the 50-minute classes. Some classes are well suited for more meetings but with less time per meeting and other classes need the 75-minute time for more meaningful discussions.
  • Space is increasingly challenging.
  • Staff mentioned that the SIS system remained challenging as certain tasks requires additional steps from the legacy system (Note: ITS has begun to address many of these issues.)
  • Faculty were concerned about expectations for tenure and promotion.

 

Of course, there are many other comments and many were at the specific college level. I take these comments seriously and while many issues were addressed over the course of the year, I expect the deans and I will continue working on them next year as well. Above all, I thank the faculty and staff for taking time to meet with me.

Satisfaction

We started the year with a sharp focus on the COACHE survey and we made a strong commitment to share the data widely. We identified areas to celebrate such as the RIT benefits, collegiality, and personal/family policies but we spent most of our energy tackling the top three concerns – promotion expectations, tenure policy clarity and recognition.

We started the year with a sharp focus on the COACHE survey and we made a strong commitment to share the data widely. We identified areas to celebrate such as the RIT benefits, collegiality, and personal/family policies but we spent most of our energy tackling the top three concerns – promotion expectations, tenure policy clarity and recognition. There were town hall meetings, college meetings, focus groups and we even hosted Todd Benson from Harvard to speak with us about the COACHE survey.  And all the information is posted to my website where you can see the executive summary, the NTT data, and a presentation to Directors and Chairs. The COACHE taskforce (or should I say the FABULOUS COACHE taskforce?) provided terrific support and leadership throughout the process. And great progress was made – we have begun discussions with Academic Senate in clarifying promotion expectations (a revised policy E6.0 will come to Academic Senate early next year); the campus approved a much-improved tenure policy (E5.0) which supports, among other things, a better way to extend the probation period for family care issues; and we have much better understanding of how we can recognize the work of our faculty and staff. Of course, the work is not finished and so you can expect us to continue our focus on the COACHE data next year. In the meantime, I invite you to read more about our COACHE work on my blog under the May 7 post “COACHE Redux”.

International education

We have worked hard this past year to advance our goals for international education. Dr. Jim Myers, associate provost for global programs and international education, has been leading many discussions with faculty, trustees and the community about our strategic direction.

We have worked hard this past year to advance our goals for international education. Dr. Jim Myers, associate provost for global programs and international education, has been leading many discussions with faculty, trustees and the community about our strategic direction and the work of the strategic planning taskforce incorporates the input from these discussions. There has been a lot of activity in building our partnership with Malmo University in Sweden and in building new partnerships with Chinese universities. You can read more about our efforts (as well some nifty work of our students at RIT Dubai) at my on the April 15 post “RIT Dubai Innovates”.

Diversity

While we have made progress at diversifying the faculty, there is much more work to be done. As a result of input from the community, we charged a taskforce co-led by Dean Harvey Palmer and Senior Associate Dean Twyla Cummings to review our commitment and practices for diversifying the faculty

While we have made progress at diversifying the faculty, there is much more work to be done. As a result of input from the community, we charged a taskforce co-led by Dean Harvey Palmer and Senior Associate Dean Twyla Cummings to review our commitment and practices for diversifying the faculty. Their report is forthcoming and will be shared with the community.

By the way, Michael D'Arcangelo, director of diversity education at RIT, has done extensive research about the case for diversity at RIT and you can read more about it on the RIT Diversity website

AdvanceRIT advances

This has been a terrific year for the AdvanceRIT team. In addition to a campus-wide ‘launch’ of our AdvanceRIT efforts, the team has been instrumental in our COACHE survey, developed and distributed the CONNECTIVITY grants, provided leadership behind our dual career efforts as well as revamping our tenure policy, and so much more. You can read more about their accomplishments on my blog or visit their website

This has been a terrific year for the AdvanceRIT team. In addition to a campus-wide ‘launch’ of our AdvanceRIT efforts, the team has been instrumental in our COACHE survey, developed and distributed the CONNECTIVITY grants, provided leadership behind our dual career efforts as well as revamping our tenure policy, and so much more. You can read more about their accomplishments on my blog or visit their website

The Innovative Learning Institute

The ILI has also had a very productive year establishing new business framework for graduate online education, new products, and renovated classrooms. The man in black (no, not Johnny Cash) Neil Hair has led a terrific team dedicated to supporting faculty and departments in using innovative classroom technology and rolling out new online programs.  You can read more about their year here

The ILI has also had a very productive year establishing new business framework for graduate online education, new products, and renovated classrooms. The man in black (no, not Johnny Cash) Neil Hair has led a terrific team dedicated to supporting faculty and departments in using innovative classroom technology and rolling out new online programs.  You can read more about their year here

Academic Affairs Activity

Of course there has been so much more activity across academic affairs that I could not possibly list everything. I am appreciative of my colleagues...

Of course there has been so much more activity across academic affairs that I could not possibly list everything. I am appreciative of my colleagues:

  • Dr. Chris Licata for her continued efforts to focus on student success and provide leadership with our academic program management;
  • Dr. Fernando Naveda for his leadership with the semester conversion and the intersession;
  • Dr. Lynn Wild and her team in the Wallace Center supporting our library, faculty career development and scholarship;
  • Graduate Education Dean Hector Flores for his leadership behind the Graduate Education 2020 plan;
  • And of course the deans who have led and advocated for their colleges so aptly.

 

Finally, I welcome suggestions for sharing information and increasing the communication flow. As many of you know, this past January I started a blog to do exactly that and I am always interested in making improvements.

 

Next year will bring a new strategic plan for the campus and I am confident that academic affairs will play a central role. I look forward to working with all my colleagues – you – next year as we continue to build a GREAT university.