As I begin my first year at The University of Akron, let me start by thanking you for the warm welcome. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees, President Proenza, faculty members and others for their support and for quickly involving me in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing our University.
When I spoke to our first-year students and their parents at Convocation a few weeks ago, I encouraged the new students to focus on outcomes. If the goal is a job after graduation, they should start now to build experiences in and out of the classroom that will appeal to employers. My approach as provost is similarly focused on outcomes -- institutional outcomes.
Since my arrival, much of my time has been spent out of the office, listening to faculty, staff and student groups. These discussions helped me understand some of the immediate challenges that are restraining the success of our students and our University.
Based on these dialogues, which will continue this fall with faculty members in all colleges, I have made some decisions that will give you a sense of my emerging priorities and philosophies:
- The Provost's Office has officially been renamed the Office of Academic Affairs, which speaks to a broader and more inclusive approach to enabling and sustaining academic excellence within the colleges.
- You will hear me refer to our vice presidential and other administrative areas as academic support units. These support units exist to enable the success of the academic programs, and one of our early objectives is to better align academic support units with that of the colleges to achieve student success.
- We are working to improve institutional effectiveness:
- We will enhance student success through increasing the number of full-time faculty members teaching in the classrooms.
- Twelve academic advisers have been hired this fall to better guide our students toward graduation.
- We have acquired software that will help assure more efficient use of our classrooms and other physical spaces on campus.
- A work group is studying additional academic support models to help us better improve the success of all students.
- The academic support units will be the first to be reorganized to eliminate redundancy and improve efficiency, with the cost savings or cost avoidance dollars reinvested in the colleges.
- We are in the process of searching for permanent deans for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Business Administration, in order to bring leadership stability.
Finally, we will communicate with you regularly and openly about the progress we are making toward achieving the vision, mission and goals outlined in our strategic plan, titled "Vision 2020." We are now shifting from strategic planning to strategic doing. Over the summer, the deans and vice presidents discussed objectives, strategies, and possible action steps. This autumn, deans will engage faculty members to further develop objectives, strategies and action steps to support Vision 2020 as our Academic Roadmap.
The energy on The University of Akron campus is palpable and I have quickly come to realize that it is because of you. You make this a place of welcome and a place of engaged learning. And you understand that our students' success is the University's success -- impacted by our collective actions each day.
I look forward to working with you in the years ahead. I am committed to an academic enterprise built upon trust -- through transparency, shared leadership and a culture of collaboration.
Best wishes for a great 2010-2011 academic year,
William M. "Mike" Sherman
Senior Vice President and Provost, Chief Operating Officer
Office of Academic Affairs