As I have not written a newsletter since the end of last semester there are a number of items that I would like to report upon for you.
While we have now received Governor Scott’s first state budget proposal, until it is acted upon by the State legislature its effects upon higher education will remain uncertain. While the national economy has shown signs of improvement, the economy of Florida has yet to generate the revenue that will be required to close the gap between fiscal resources and state-supported social needs. UNF continues to be positioned to absorb the loss of the federal stimulus dollars and considerably more, but of course it could not hope to escape unscathed from a truly deep or sustained cut. Consequently, our only wise course of action is to remain cautious about expenditures even as we continue to address critical needs.
One such need exists in the Office of Academic Affairs itself. As you are now aware, when Joann Campbell returns to work she will be filling a new role at the university in the division of Administration and Finance. As a result of new reporting requirements many campuses, both within the SUS and nationally, have established offices of compliance. Joann, as a consequence of her years of experience at the former Board of Regents as well as in Academic Affairs, is uniquely qualified to oversee this function at UNF.
As President Delaney indicated, I will be converting Joann’s position of associate vice president to associate provost. The internal search to fill this position will commence shortly. I have solicited input from the chairs and deans regarding the range of duties to be assigned to the associate provost. Not surprisingly the list of potential duties exceeds the ability of any one person to perform them all, so I also hope to be able to recruit additional faculty to the office to engage in special projects both to help the office address its staffing shortfall and to incorporate greater faculty participation in carrying out the work of AA.
In the meanwhile, I have followed through on a commitment to Cheryl Frohlich to review and refine our faculty evaluation data collection and recording process so that whenever the university is in a position to allocate raises in the future the data on which those raises are dependent will be absolutely current and accurate. Members of my office, the UFF, and Human Resources have had the first conversation on this issue with another scheduled for early March.
When the fiscal resources of the university permit us resume academic growth and enhancement, we have many programmatic fronts on which to do so. Planning has continued even in the absence of resources, so that we now have a number of programs on our five-year master list of proposals approved for further development and potential implementation. Len Roberson, dean of the Graduate School, continues to work with deans and departments in identifying additional graduate programs that might address the future interests of our students and the needs of our region. Working with Elizabeth Head, Len and I also have been engaged in what, with the recent announcement of the David Stein endowment, already has proven to be a fruitful initiative to raise private support for graduate fellowships, which will be crucial to the advancement of graduate education at UNF.
I also will mention in this context that teams of representatives from each division of the university have begun the implementation of new strategic planning and assessment software (TracDat). When fully customized to UNF’s particular needs the strategic planning component of this software will allow us to link university goals, costs, actions, and accomplishments so that we will always been in a position to map our progress and target our resources. Similarly, on the assessment side, the software will enable us to monitor student learning relative to desired curricular outcomes. While it was only two years ago that we achieved our SACS reaccreditation, it is really not too soon to point out that, since we will now be required to submit a five-year mid-term report, the availability of this software program should make the compilation of that report far easier than it would have been otherwise.
As long as our budget remains sound we will see the selection this spring of UNF’s fifth flagship program. Applications were delivered last week to the Flagship Program Committee that opted to establish more suggestive rather than more prescriptive criteria in order to elicit innovative proposals. The four current flagship programs continue to flourish and certainly justify sustaining this presidential initiative into the future.
UNF’s role in the New Florida initiative was recognized by the allocation of three awards to the university to support the development of a patent by Professor Jerry Merkel; a collaborative effort between engineers at FSU and our own Professor Alex Schonning on the development of prosthetic devices; and the recruitment to UNF of a prominent coastal engineer, Dr. Don Resio. The president and I are hopeful that Dr. Resio’s teaching and research will open up collaborative efforts within and beyond the School of Engineering and further UNF’s ability to contribute to the New Florida economy.
UNF also was recognized recently by the Carnegie Foundation, which conferred upon the university the select designation of “community-engaged” institution. This recognition comes several years earlier than we had hoped for, and it attests to the fine work that faculty and staff are doing in extending the boundaries of student learning well beyond the confines of the campus. The committee that prepared UNF’s application, led by Mark Falbo, deserves credit for assembling a significant amount of pertinent information on a very tight schedule.
Finally, I would like to provide a brief update on the work of the Task Force on Academic Redesign. By way of reminder this effort had its inception in a mandate from the BOG to consider how efficiencies achieved through academic coordination might be enhanced across the SUS. At least initially the conversation of the task force, whose members now include two department chairs, representatives of the Faculty Association Strategic Planning and Distance Learning Committees, and a number of very innovative faculty, has focused on the use of technology to enhance student learning while potentially reducing the cost of instruction. In the near future the task force will be providing opportunities to engage the broader community in what is proving to be a very rich discussion.
I hope you are enjoying a stimulating semester. For Academic Affairs and for UNF generally it is proving to be a time both of challenge and opportunity. As a folklorist my advice is, let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Mark E. Workman
Provost and VPAA