It has been a busy spring and thus there is much news to report as we bring this academic year to a close. The search for a new dean for the Coggin School of Business intensified in January and was just resolved last week with the successful recruitment of Dr. Ajay Samant, currently interim dean of the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University. Dr. Samant is an accomplished scholar and teacher, a seasoned administrator, and a most congenial person; I have no doubt that he will do an excellent job of advancing the quality and stature of the CCB.
As that search drew to a close we set in motion the steps to seek a permanent dean of the College of Computing, Engineering, and Construction. Given the critical role that college will play in contributing to gains on the metrics that are likely to accompany New Florida funding I am hopeful that we will be able to attract a strong pool of applicants who will recognize that the dean’s position represents a special opportunity for leadership.
I have of course gotten ahead of myself with reference to potential funding. The legislative session won’t conclude until the end of this week and then the governor, who has of late demonstrated his independent-mindedness, will have an opportunity to exercise line item veto authority. The good news coming out of Tallahassee is that the legislative disposition towards the SUS has improved markedly, a shift that began during President Delaney’s brief but momentous tenure as chancellor-in-residence. When the state economy improves it is highly likely that the fortunes of the state’s universities will improve as well. Until that time the university budget has been planned in such a way that should enable us to at least maintain the status quo.
As I alluded to above, New Florida funding presumably will be accompanied by accountability measures. While these measures have yet to be determined, the probability (based upon recently adopted BOG “dashboard indicators”) is that they will entail a combination of both general and discipline-specific degree production as well as measures in the area of tangible research and technology productivity. To be competitive for increased funding it is clear that UNF will need to improve its retention and graduation rates, to broaden and enhance its programs in the areas of state priorities, and to deepen its support for research.
With regard to the first of these initiatives, we are currently in the process of recruiting a new dean of undergraduate studies (to replace David Jaffee, our current Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Studies) who will oversee an office dedicated to the academic success of our students. Over time our goal will be to concentrate resources in Undergraduate Studies, including Honors, ACE, retention services, the growing Faculty Contact program, and others, and to maximize their synergy and effectiveness. Doing so will also advance the institution’s longstanding commitment to quality undergraduate education.
The development and enhancement of academic programs and the expansion of research support will have to await the acquisition of new resources, but there is pent up momentum to move forward on both of these fronts. There are a number of departments across the university that are in various stages of formulating proposals for new graduate degree programs. Their ultimate implementation, assuming the endorsement of the relevant reviewing bodies, will require an allocation of new positions, but as the university resumes its growth it is certain that these resources will become available. With regard to research we are already seeing an uptick in funded efforts which will enable the ORSP to reinvest overhead revenues in support of further activity. We have seen ample evidence on visits to our aspirant institutions—a visit to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this past January was particularly inspiring— that it is precisely this kind of self-perpetuation which will be critical to UNF’s advancement in the area of research. Academic Affairs is committed to being an active partner in this effort by maintaining the highest level of support possible for summer grants and start-up funding.
One of our colleagues who exemplifies the scholar/mentor model is Dr. Tom Pekarek of the Department of Physics, our new Terry Presidential Professor. This title, which Tom will hold for three years, will carry with it significant support to facilitate his research into the properties of ceramics using his state of the art “squid” magnetometer. I for one am looking forward to Tom’s valedictory lecture three years hence so that I can find out, more or less, just what it is that a solid state physicist does.
For those of our colleagues who engage in human subject research I am pleased to report that our Institutional Review Board continues to make significant progress in refining the process of protocol submission, review, and approval. I credit our colleagues Kathe Kasten and Chris Leone with working hard to increase IRB efficiency, an initiative which will be even further improved upon when the submission and review processes are computerized, hopefully by the end of this summer.
Lastly, I would like to let you know that our QEP management team, led by Mark Falbo and including Shawn Brayton, Lucy Croft, David Jaffee, Li Loriz, Judy Miller, and Dan Richard, are preparing an application to the Carnegie Foundation to qualify UNF as a “community-engaged” institution. As UNF always has been and only will become even more integral in the future to the advancement of the region in which it is situated, this designation will provide official validation of our institutional commitment and impact.
I will close with some advice from Marcel Proust, whose monumental novel I had the pleasure of rereading this past semester. “The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth,” Proust asserts, “would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees.” I hope that, whether you spend your summer in stillness or in motion, you have the opportunity, in one way or another, to view a few new universes so that you too can “fly from star to star.” I will look forward to seeing you back on earth at UNF next fall.
Mark E. Workman
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs