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Welcome to Spring Semester 2016

January 27, 2016


Welcome back!

To our students, faculty and staff, I welcome all of you to the start of spring semester 2016. It seems out of sorts to say spring in January but on the other hand, El Niño has certainly made Rochester more spring-like than winter-like over the past few months. 

We start the new year with a new classification for RIT, one that is richly deserved and will serve the university well for the future. Moving to a doctoral university classification means that we will be ranked with the other national universities in the U.S. News College Rankings and we will be compared to a number of great universities. But I do not believe our new classification means we will lose our focus on career education, co-op and our commitment to experiential undergraduate education; these characteristics are the crown jewels of an RIT education and as such, will continue to be upheld and strengthened. 

This mid-year point is an excellent opportunity to take stock of our progress, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to review our plan of work. There are 17 lead projects that we identified to work on this year and I am pleased that all of them are well underway. Here are the highlights:

  • Middle States 10-year Accreditation Self-Study progress. Led by co-chairs Michael Laver and Anne Wahl, the cross-divisional Self-Study Steering Committee continues on schedule to its task of developing the RIT Self-Study for the 2017 Middle States Accreditation visit. Great information can be found on the RIT Middle States Self-Study website.
  • Council of Chairs formed. I felt that the time was right to create a culture by which the department chairs and directors come together and are empowered with a stronger voice on what they need to succeed. We are careful not to interfere with their relationships with the deans and that their college work takes priority. I formed a steering committee of chairs to set agendas, and so far we have had 2 very successful meetings.
  • Intersession reviewed. Early in the fall, we formed a taskforce to consider the viability and effectiveness of the intersession. I made this decision so that we might have time for broad discussions regarding the calendar in time to effect the 2017-2018 calendar. The taskforce, led by Dr. Fernando Naveda, recommended the elimination of the intersession. All three governance groups concurred and both the president and I support this recommendation. We are now in the final stages of determining a new calendar for 2017-2018. The governance groups are not in complete consensus but I expect the president will make a decision by early February.
  • Student ratings shared. The students came to faculty and administrative leadership last spring wanting to the university to share the results from the student ratings system. We formed a task force, which presented its recommendations to the Academic Senate. One of the proposed benefits of sharing ratings was to provide an incentive to students to participate in the rating system. After healthy discussion, the Senate approved a limited sharing of key questions to the students and the students quickly rallied to meet the response quota this past fall. Over time, this will be a very healthy benefit to students and their success.
  • RIT 'Greatness through Difference' strategic plan implementation started. Academic Affairs, in deep partnership with other divisions, began implementing three key difference makers from the new strategic plan.
  • On Time Graduation: Under the leadership of Senior Associate Provost Chris Licata, the University Student Success Committee formed a subcommittee to develop a full action plan to create a culture of on time graduation for our students.    We expect to begin implementation of the action plan next year.
  • T-Shape Graduate: Partnering with Student Affairs, Career Services, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we formed an RIT Tiger Team to identify the skills and competencies we want our graduates of the future to have and to be able to articulate to employers. Led by Dr. James Hall and Dr. Jodie Boita, this cross-functional team is doing background research and collecting evidence that will support their recommendations. I expect their work to take shape by the fall of 2016.
  • Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning Expansion: Increasing our capacity to support interdisciplinary teaching and learning was an important part of the strategic plan. We issued a request for proposals from faculty that would innovate on the concept of a 'course' and the ideas were rich and plentiful. Six projects were selected. I expect to launch the second round of funding later this year.
  • Budgetary flexibility advancing. For the past several years, we have worked to increase the flexibility in the budget so as to provide further resources to the colleges. This year we will be launching a process to identify a source of funds directed to cover lab and program expenses. Our summer and intercession models have introduced more tuition sharing. But our big goal is to provide colleges with more resources to cover the increasing student credit hours generated by service courses and minors. Students want to take more courses outside their program and the university needs to support those departments offering those courses. The Division of Finance and Administration has been a partner with Academic Affairs for this project.
  • Dean searches nicely progressing. The dean searches for the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences and the Kate Gleason College of Engineering are making terrific progress. Airport interviews are almost completed and I expect finalists to come to campus during the month of February - it will be a busy but exciting time! To top it off, I will be launching a search for a dean of graduate education to replace Dr. Hector Flores who will be taking on his own exciting new leadership position.
  • Study Abroad 'Pathways' identified. I have asked the deans to work with the faculty to identify curricular pathways for students seeking a study abroad experience. These pathways will be posted to the web and students will be able to work closely with their advisors to plan a meaningful experience.
  • ADVANCE advances. The ADVANCE project, now in its 3rd year, is making terrific progress in critical areas for the university, which include but is not limited to:
    • Unconscious Bias curriculum: We have formed a task force led by LaVerne McQuiller Williams, Kim Shearer, and David Schwartz to develop a university-wide framework for unconscious bias training at the university level.
    • Dual Career support: Recruiting top faculty and staff talent is complicated by the "two-body" challenge and ADVANCE is helping the university address this issue with recommendations and support.
    • Compensation and evaluation. ADVANCE sponsored an in depth study of faculty salaries and they will be reporting their findings this semester. In addition, ADVANCE will be working with my office, the deans and the chairs to help us identify ways we can improve the faculty and staff evaluation process.
  • Budget cycle preparations underway. For Academic Affairs budget requests this year, I anticipate proposing the following:
    • An increase in faculty promotion monies;
    • A post-doctoral program geared to further diversify our faculty; and
    • A program to support our veterans enrolled at RIT.

 Other progress:

  • The deans and I are fully engaged with fund-raising and I am pleased to report that 5 colleges and the Wallace Center have surpassed the 50% mark towards their fund-raising goals.
  • The launch of business programs in Weihei, China is splendid; enrollments exceed 110 students. Meanwhile, we still await the Chinese Ministry of Education for approval of the Hunan University RIT School of Design in Shenzhen, China.
  • I convened the 2nd annual campus-wide meeting of faculty serving on college tenure and promotion committees; discussion focused on unconscious bias and best practices.
  • The campus is contracting with a third-party vendor to perform a campus-wide audit of space and its utilization.
  • The modified Annual Program Review process is off to a terrific start. The Annual Program Review Dashboard, in its first implementation and pilot, contains 80 major undergraduate BS or BFA programs.
  • The second COACHE survey is about to begin. Faculty will receive emails inviting them to participate in the coming weeks.

These projects are just a few highlights of a longer list from our 2015-2017 plan of work. You can see the entire POW on my website. This semester I look forward to a number of discussions with deans and chairs including continued support for those faculty members who have been at the associate professor rank for a considerable time, addressing the needs of our lecturers and adjuncts, and advancing our compensation framework for faculty and staff. I will be visiting the colleges this semester listening for new ideas, issues and concerns.

We are making terrific progress thanks to all the wonderful faculty and staff making RIT a great university.