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December 2, 2010

12/02/2010

Good afternoon everyone.  I’m having fun and that’s making time fly.  I have been here for about six months now and you’ve been incredibly hospitable to me and my wife and daughter, who is going to school here.  I wanted to make a couple of comments related to some of the ongoing activities that have been happening over the last six months and a few things that will emerge in the future. 

Today I finished my meetings with every college.  The College of Engineering was my last meeting. I would say that those interactions have been both informative and helpful in understanding the needs and the wishes of the faculty at The University of Akron.  Some common themes emerged from those interactions.  One question was “when will there be a focus on graduate education?”  My response to that consistently was “undergraduates first, graduate education next”.  This spring and beginning next fall we’ll begin to focus very intensely on graduate education.  Another question was “where are your priorities?” My response was that our number one priority is to increase the number of full-time faculty at The University of Akron.  Another question was “what are we doing about student success?” I had a great opportunity to interact with you and others over the last couple of months to begin to think through and perhaps develop a different paradigm for how we think about the success of our students in consideration of their academic preparation, in consideration of their career aptitude and finally thinking of them from a holistic and developmental process perspective from which we can provide wrap around services that customize their experience. This will create their ‘My Akron’ experience. I believe that if we can do that right, that is the perspective from which we can be distinctive and through which we will be distinguished.  Increasing the number of faculty in focused research areas, thereby working to stimulate the interdisciplinary research is another goal. I began conversations with the deans this past Tuesday that will prompt a dialogue to develop a mutual understanding of the roles of each college in the context of the goals of Vision 2020. That will focus on the plan to transition to the right number or proportion of full-time and part-time faculty in particular colleges because one size will not fit all.  This will also begin an interaction to discuss how each college contributes to our teaching agenda, our research agenda or a combination of the two; particularly attending to what capacity exists in programs that is unmet and how do we fill that capacity, where do we need to add capacity to move programs from a level of strength to prominence or a level of presence to strength. Also to improve the quality of the instructional enterprise such that the faculty and the TAs feel supported in  improving the quality of instruction. That is partly why our students will be more satisfied with their experience at The University of Akron. 

We’re working on scheduling my interactions with the eight constituency groups related to the University Council proposal.  I believe we’re going to have an initial meeting of the constituency groups as a whole and have kind of a collaborative conversation about that proposal. After that we will have individualized conversations with each of the constituency groups. 

Our Higher Learning Commission accreditation visit is scheduled for 2013.  It was originally in 2012. We’ve asked for that to be in 2013 so that we have time to be more responsive to some of the issues that you urged from the previous accreditation interaction.  We have time for some of the initiatives that have been underway to realize a greater indication of their support of the academic enterprise.  The leadership of the various constituency groups will be contacted very shortly to recommend and nominate individuals who would be willing, available and energized to serve on the different committees that will be required to be appropriately responsive to that accreditation visit. 

Finally, in my interactions with the colleges there has been some discussion of the college reorganizations. For the time being those discussions will continue in an informal fashion. Beginning early in spring semester, we will begin to interact with you and the different constituencies from a more formalized perspective.  And that ends my remarks.

Chair Rich:  Are there any questions for the Provost?

Senator Mancke asked for a clarification on the date of the accreditation visit and if the number of full-time faculty was seen as an issue to be addressed prior to the visit. 

Provost Sherman answered that the visit would be in the spring of 2013. He also said that he thought the full-time to part-time proportion had been identified as an issue during the last visit.

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