College of Arts & Sciences Annual Report, 2007-2008

Significant Activities in the College during 2007-2008   

Accomplishments

This year COAS worked through some important personnel changes. The Dean's Office welcomed a new dean, Dr. Barbara Hetrick who joined us from the University of Northern Iowa. Several new staff joined the Dean’s Office and new department chairs began in English, Communications, Psychology, and Philosophy. Despite these important transitions, the leadership in COAS is functioning well together and maintains collegial and non-competitive relationships.

 

A number of projects were initiated. Considerable discussion surrounded the relationships between departments and the advising center, with the result that each department is now assigned to a specific advisor. 'Group advising' sessions are already scheduled for this year and these will involve both advisors and faculty. Discussion of the foreign culture requirement and its relationship to the offering of BA and BS degrees was also initiated. This will continue into the coming year. We have also proposed an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree and will continue to move toward that goal in the coming year. This accompanied consideration of several discipline-based, and also interdisciplinary MA/MS programs, though planning for these has been delayed by the budget cuts.

The departments all completed their ALC's, GLO's, Strategic Plans, and worked hard to further regularize some of the new assessment initiatives within the lives of the departments. While assessment has been a part of the department culture for many years, this year more intensive effort was placed on 'closing the loop', i.e. making curricular changes based on the data amassed to date, and refining the assessment approaches to provide more targeted data.

 

While the college has been interested in advancing a first year program for freshmen for several years, a first step will take place in Fall 2008 as we implement the UNF Reads! program. This is a first step toward making the General Education program more coherent.

 

This year the COAS faculty received $1,421,583 in grant funding, $1,586,799 in donations, and $532,545 in state matching income. To date the College has raised $4,359,245 towards its $16,000,000 campaign goal. COAS had 11 faculty promoted to associate professor with tenure and 7 were promoted to full professor. Pat Plumlee received the Outstanding Faculty Service Award, Greg Ahearn the John Delaney Professorship, and six COAS faculty (Faiz Al-Rubaee, Peter Brown, Dale Casamatta Jr., Matt Gilg, Ping Sa, and Debbie Wang) received Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards.

 

Strengths

The greatest strength of COAS is the good will and commitment of the faculty, chairs, and support staff. The college functions well because this good will is freely offered and people do more than is or might be expected to resolve problems, meet the needs of students, and continue to strive for higher quality in our teaching and scholarship. It is evident that the good will of the faculty translates directly to their commitment to our students. This was highlighted by the Student Advisory Council members who stated that the best thing about UNF were the faculty. The collaborative spirit within the college will allow the college to explore opportunities for interdisciplinary initiatives without the roadblocks often encountered at other institutions. The expertise of the faculty is a further strength. Pockets of excellence and national or international renown exist across the college and would expand considerably were it possible to lower the service and teaching loads of our COAS faculty. For example, within the History Department alone, this year six books were published. Given that a university cannot prosper without sufficient resources and infrastructure, we are fortunate that the building projects across campus will ultimately provide space for many departments within COAS. The new biology building will allow us to move toward a university where the sciences are a strength and notable attribute.

 

Weaknesses

Certainly, the budget rescission that equaled $1,066,000 has negatively impacted the college. The college is now more thinly stretched to meet student demands. In some departments, this is evident in a reliance on non-tenure track faculty. For example, of all freshman writing classes, only 2% were taught by tenure track faculty. Similarly, only about 10% of laboratory sections in the sciences were taught by tenure track faculty. While these faculty may provide the courses needed by students, they cannot offer opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved with them in research and scholarship, placing a greater burden on the tenure track faculty to address these needs while juggling high service and teaching loads. Neither can the non-tenure track faculty contribute to the burgeoning graduate programs in many COAS departments. Again, this places greater pressure on the tenure-track faculty. The general education program, offered almost exclusively within COAS, is offered as efficiently as possible, but this efficiency too often results in larger than ideal class sizes, instruction by too many non-tenure track faculty, less coordination of coursework, and lost opportunities for the general education program to in fact be the cornerstone of our students' education.

 

Opportunities

Many of the COAS departments and faculty have reached a level of professional recognition and are poised to elevate the prominence of UNF. The Department of Music is an excellent example of this. With their recent invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall and their ongoing relationship with the city of Nantes, France, there is potential for this Department to function as an impressive ambassador for UNF. COAS faculty are devoted to UNF students and would involve more of their students in scholarship and research if time and funding were available for this.

 

Threats

The greatest threat to COAS is the weakening financial support available to UNF. Without raises the faculty face an escalating cost of living and a deteriorating economic situation. This is heightened by the very real threat that summer teaching, a source of additional income upon which many faculty rely, will be more and more limited. This budget situation encourages faculty to strive for early tenure and promotion as a mechanism to advance their salary, and these early tenures and promotions can easily lead to reduced expectations for tenure and promotion. The bylaw process may also ultimately weaken the expectations for tenure and promotion since faculty may be reluctant to establish criteria that will be difficult to meet.