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Office of the Provost

Provost Communication


August 23, 2021


Dear faculty colleagues,

I would like to welcome each of you to the 2021 Fall semester. To those of you who are returning, I hope that you have enjoyed the summer, and were able to carve out some time for rest and relaxation. To the new faculty who are joining UNF this Fall, we are excited that you have selected our university to begin or advance your career. We have a wide range of excellent undergraduate and graduate programs and an outstanding faculty, and I sincerely hope that you will find, as have we, that this is a great place to grow professionally and personally.

Due to concerns about the Delta variant and the current rise in COVID-19 cases in Northeast Florida, I realize that many of you, as well as our students and staff, are beginning this new semester with mixed emotions: among them, excitement, apprehension, happy anticipation, and anxiety. As a parent and former classroom teacher, I understand and am experiencing these feelings too.

As provost, however, I want to encourage you to step into this semester with confidence and as we have often stated in our messages this past year, prepare to be flexible with your students but not at the risk of academic rigor. If you are not already vaccinated, I urge you to become vaccinated and to encourage your students to get vaccinated.  Model masking and discuss with your students the expectation that masks should be worn everywhere on campus. Many questions you may have and/or potential scenarios that you may face are discussed in the COVID-19 FAQs for Faculty, found on the website of the Office of Faculty Excellence and updated as new questions arise.  Importantly, remember that your department chair, college dean and Academic and Student Affairs serve as resources when you need to engage in conversations if you have concerns or need support with potential classroom issues.   We can provide opportunities for discussions throughout the term so you may share your positive and challenging experiences with your colleagues. 

We are delighted to welcome approximately 2,600 new first year students for the 2021-2022 academic year, with a 15% increase in overall student diversity in that class. The profile of our first-time-in-college (FTIC) students continues to be among the best in the state, with high school GPAs well over 4.0. UNF offers many exciting programs to enhance campus life for our students, new and returning, and to help make our university a great place to study and to develop as a scholar and person. These programs and services range from more than 200 clubs and organizations, to athletics and a state-of-the-art Student Wellness Complex, to the UNF Writing Program and Center and a variety of Student Academic Success Services. This week, Osprey Life and Productions is orchestrating the Week of Welcome, days brimming with activities, traditions, and things for our new students to do to help them feel connected to UNF.  Because we anticipate that UNF students may return to campus with some of the same anxieties you may feel, it can be helpful for you to remind students of these opportunities to connect and hopefully regain a sense of confidence and a healthy mind/body approach to this year. 

That early sense of connection is greatly strengthened through our students’ vibrant interactions with their professors; therefore, providing ways to help faculty hone their excellence in teaching and research is one of our goals. Practical and pedagogical workshops are available through the Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT), the Carpenter Library, and the Office of Faculty Excellence (OFE), which has a robust schedule of upcoming events focused on teaching, research, and service queued up for Fall semester.

We are very pleased to announce that professional development funding will be available again this year, at the traditional $1,500 allocation per tenure-track/tenured faculty member. Additionally, to help accelerate UNF’s momentum to becoming a top university, President Szymanski earmarked $1 million in this year’s budget to support research, scholarship, and creative activity (RSCA). We will soon announce a number of funding initiatives, including for the purchase or upgrading of research equipment and instrumentation, support for article processing fees and book subventions, and grants for projects in the humanities and arts. Stay tuned for these opportunities as well as others still in the planning stages, including the new High-Impact Practice (HIP) Grant Program, a revision of the former Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLO) program, to be administered by the OFE. 

The OFE is also piloting an exciting new Faculty Excellence (FE) Peer Mentoring Program, which is voluntary, project-based, and reciprocal. Many academic departments have formal mentoring programs for junior faculty outlined in the department bylaws; however, junior and senior faculty may engage in more than one and all new faculty members are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one mentoring program. The FE Mentoring Program is accepting applications until September 13, 2021.

Peer mentoring is a critical component of faculty development, just as faculty mentoring of students, especially in curricular and co-curricular research, is critical for student engagement, retention, and success. At UNF, a Carnegie Community Engaged Institution, faculty can mentor students in community-based research projects through the Center for Community Based Learning (CCBL), and utilize the support services and expertise of the Digital Humanities Institute (DHI), the Institute of Environmental Research and Education (IERE), and the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR). Outstanding work of faculty-mentored student researchers can be published in PANDION: The Osprey Journal of Research & Ideas and viewed around the world. Be sure to see the superb articles and artwork in PANDION, Vol. 2, now live online in Digital Commons!

Finally, Convocation 2021 is planned as a virtual ceremony at 10:00 am on Friday, September 17. Convocation is always a very special event when we recognize the achievements of faculty and honor many deserving awardees. This year, we celebrate Distinguished Professor Mei Zhao, Professor of Health Administration. Please mark your calendars and plan to log in!

As we stand on the threshold of another challenging year, it becomes even more critical that we remain joined in our shared values and goals as a university community.  Remember and uphold the positive culture long embedded within our university, to care about each other and to work together. On behalf of everyone in Academic and Student Affairs, we hope you have a productive and successful academic year. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that you do.



dr. patterson signature

Karen B. Patterson, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs