ACROSS THE COMMONS > April 2011 issue home page

Across the Commons


A renewed focus on academics and student achievement

Provost Sherman

Provost William M. "Mike" Sherman

Dear Colleagues:

As my first year as provost comes to a close, I'm reminded of a line by Abraham Lincoln: “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

This attitude has prevailed throughout the year:

  • When we concluded that enrollment was exceeding advising capacity, we hired a dozen more advisers.
  • When we learned that some well-performing students were stopping out because of finances, we devised a new scholarship program to help them.
  • When we wanted to enhance persistence of students, we initiated The Akron Experience concept to be a comprehensive program to provide customized, "wrap-around" support for students even before they arrive on our campus.
  • When we wanted to strengthen our research agenda and improve our teaching excellence, we committed to hiring more tenure-track faculty.

We have affirmed the centrality of academics in additional ways. Today we speak about "academic support units" rather than VP units — a subtle change that underscores the fundamental point that our academic support units enable the success of the colleges, which in turn, assist and sustain the success of our students.

Focus on academics in budget

More significantly, however, is that the centrality of academics will be evident in the budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. The proposal will include, first and foremost, compensation increases. We also will fortify our reserves, assure that we have the teaching capacity to meet enrollment projections, and make targeted investments to achieve the goals of Vision 2020.

Allow me to expand on two of the targeted investments.

  • As announced during my State of Academic Affairs Address, we will assure distinction in strategic academic areas by hiring 200 additional faculty members before the end of the decade.
  • To foster interdisciplinary research, we will form three Clusters of Innovation, starting with $1.5 million in seed money, with further annual investments of $100,000 for five years. The clusters are an integral way for us to adapt to changing world needs, while supporting the value we place on interdisciplinary research and entrepreneurship.

True, reductions in state funding will challenge our ability to meet every area of need, but we see opportunities for revenue enhancement through gains in persistence and enrollment, and we strive to balance our budget with strategic reductions and expectations of reallocation.

Reorganization supports persistence 

Many of you have heard me say that Student Success is Our Success. To that end, we have reorganized the Office of Academic Affairs.

The reorganization has unified the leadership of our two major points of entry for many students — Summit and University colleges — under the direction of one dean. We are also in the process of converging the arts and sciences disciplines into the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences that will deliver the liberal arts, and as I like to think “the liberating” undergraduate education that all of our students need for their future success. 

Finally, I am also encouraging faculty and administrative support for the formation of a new health college into which programs from the College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and Human Services, and from other colleges on campus would converge to unify and solidify the University’s regional and national presence in the education of health care professionals.

I end my first year invigorated by our accomplishments and energized by the opportunities ahead. Foremost is Vision 2020, our strategic plan, which reflects our collective, best thinking about how to create a brighter future for our students, our region and ourselves. Vision 2020 will boost our trajectory, elevate our stature on a national and international scale, and empower us to set a New Gold Standard in University Performance.

It is a great time to be at The University of Akron.


William M. "Mike" Sherman
Senior Vice President and Provost
Chief Operating Officer


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