However you chose to spend it, I hope you had an enjoyable summer and that you are returning to UNF rejuvenated for the year ahead. I had the good fortune to travel both to one place high above sea level (Switzerland) and another place several feet below (New Orleans).
While the pace of life did slow down, there was much activity in Academic Affairs over the summer. Our two new associate provosts, Bobby Waldrup and Newton Jackson, joined the office and immediately assumed their new duties. Bobby’s center on matters related to programs and budget, Newton’s on matters pertaining to chair and faculty development, collective bargaining, and personnel issues, but as many of their duties intersect they will both be broadly instrumental in carrying out the responsibilities of the office. Our new dean of undergraduate studies, Jeff Coker, also joined us over the summer, and he has immersed himself in becoming familiar with UNF and exploring ways that his office can coordinate efforts that will contribute to the enhancement of undergraduate education and the advancement of student success. Finally, in addition to overseeing the Graduate School, Len Roberson has been very active in his new capacity as the assistant vice president for academic technology. With the implementation of a new distance learning fee this fall, we will have resources to significantly expand our distance learning support infrastructure; in preparation for this investment, Len and Deb Miller from CIRT have visited a number of SUS institutions that are further along in this area than we are so that we can learn from and emulate best practices.
The junction between pedagogy and technology also will figure into our efforts to promote the principles of course redesign promulgated by the National Center for Academic Transformation. You might recall that this issue was at the forefront of the work undertaken by the Provost’s Task Force on Academic Redesign that I convened last year, and that culminated in the informative visit of an NCAT consultant. As a result of the task force’s work we now have course redesign projects underway in the Departments of Biology, Criminology, and Mathematics and Statistics, among others. I will reconvene the task force this fall, along with Jeff Coker, Judy Miller, and others, to determine how we can sustain this effort and measure its impact upon student learning.
I would like to remind you, in case you missed the announcements at the end of the spring semester, of several honors that were conveyed upon our colleagues. On the basis of his sustained record of excellence in scholarship, Professor of Philosophy Andrew Buchwalter was selected to be the new Delaney Presidential Professor, joining the ranks of other presidential professors David Courtwright, Greg Ahearn, Gary Smart, and Tom Pekarek. And Drs. Michael Lufaso and Sherry Shaw, associate professors, respectively, of chemistry and exceptional student and deaf education, were named as our new Munoz Presidential Professors based upon a gift provided by our Board of Trustee member Oscar Munoz. All these awards provide significant support for the research activities of these distinguished faculty members. In addition, assistant professor of graphic design Vanessa Cruz was awarded a Fulbright to pursue research in Ireland this coming spring.
Two of UNF’s academic programs also were singled out for distinction. As President Delaney announced early in the summer, the departments of Music and Nutrition & Dietetics were selected as the university’s two new Flagship programs. Each department put forward a compelling proposal that received the endorsement of the Flagship Program Selection Committee, constituted of a number of department chairs and faculty from across the five colleges. Music and Nutrition & Dietetics join the four existing Flagship programs—Nursing, International Business, Transportation and Logistics, and Coastal Biology—as programs that have or will receive some special funding to develop programs of the highest quality and reputation.
That the university could afford to confer this designation on two additional programs attests less to the health of the Florida economy than it does to the prudent budgeting of the president. This is also evidenced by the fact that we have just welcomed to the university, through a weeklong informative and occasionally festive New Faculty Orientation, approximately 25 new tenure-track faculty members who are joining UNF from institutions across the country. It is important to note, however, that these new colleagues are filling lines heretofore occupied by visitors, and their numbers don’t quite bring us back to the level of staffing that we had achieved prior to the start of the recession. Nevertheless, barring any significant offset resulting from potential reductions in state support, as we continue to realize incremental revenue from rising tuition the university can look forward to new resources with which to further increase the ranks of the faculty and thus to enhance and expand academic programs.
The process by which we plan for such enhancements and expansions is currently the subject of scrutiny by the staff of Academic Affairs and the deans as we take into consideration the likelihood that our resources will be at best measured for the foreseeable future and that there will be a continuing emphasis by the legislature and Board of Governors on the New Florida initiative. While UNF will remain true to its comprehensive mission, at least for the immediate future it might behoove us to be very focused in selecting the programs towards which we will target finite resources so that we can demonstrate to the State an unambiguous return on its investment and a tangible contribution to meeting SUS goals.
While it is never untimely to be deliberate in one’s allocations of resources, if there is anything that is clear about the changes that are taking place in higher education resulting from diminished funding, the proliferation of distance learning as a viable means of curricular delivery, ever-increasing expectations regarding retention, accountability, and assessment, and shifting social values, it is that academic institutions should not expect to return to business as they once conducted it. Consequently, our planning will have to be as prescient as possible as we adjust to an emergent paradigm whose contours we can still only guess at.
In other words, we are living in interesting times in higher education. While we await what Thomas Pynchon referred to, in the parlance of the auction hall, as the revelatory “crying of Lot 49,” permit me to wish you an intellectually enriching semester ahead, and to invite you to call upon me or any of my colleagues in our now more robust Office of Academic Affairs to assist you and your students in achieving that goal.
Mark E. Workman
Provost and VPAA