ACROSS THE COMMONS > Spring 2011 issue

Work groups seek pragmatic, timely solutions


Soon after his arrival, the provost formed three work groups to assess some of the more pressing challenges and to make recommendations so actions can be taken within weeks, not months or years.  A few examples are:

 The Student Success Work Group first looked outward to identify the factors critical to retention and degree attainment. This included a campus-wide symposium on retention in October with University of Arizona faculty member Cathy Small, author of My Freshman Year. [See video and presentations from the symposium.]

The group then assessed the effectiveness program and service factors, as applied to major student demographics (veterans, students with disabilities, academically prepared students, students admitted provisionally, etc.).

Concurrently, the group identified barriers to success and worked to remove them. For instance, deadlines for New Student Orientation were moved earlier to allow more time for scheduling of sections and faculty. The earlier deadline also provides academic advisers more time to assist incoming students before classes begin.

A subgroup is creating “Your Akron Experience,” a step-by-step pathway customized for each student, leading to graduation. “Students have hundreds of decisions to make when they arrive on a large college campus such as Akron,” said Dr. Stacey Moore, executive assistant to the vice president of student affairs. “We want to simplify the process for students and provide clear checkpoints for each year, so that they can attain goals and mark progress.”

 The Environment for Teaching, Learning and Research Work Group is reviewing our use of classroom and lab space. The work was prompted by:

  • the Ohio Board of Regents’ expectation that public universities achieve 70 percent utilization of classroom space and 50 percent of lab space; and
  • the University’s continually growing need to offer courses in a manner that maximizes student access as well as progress toward degree completion.

Better use of academic and laboratory space would enable UA to absorb further increases in enrollment, retention and research funding without additional capital expenses. It also would enable us to expand trans-disciplinary teaching and research initiatives within and between our colleges and help to alleviate parking and staffing issues during peak hours, to the benefit of our students.

 The Institutional Effectiveness Work Group is focused on budgetary models and scenarios, benchmarking data from institutional research and human resources practices. An integrated combination of these three critical academic support functions will help achieve the integrated planning goal of Vision 2020, the University’s strategic plan.

Further updates will appear in future issues of Across the Commons.


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