Updates from the Provost
- Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
Good afternoon colleagues,
Periodically, it has been my practice to take a look backward. It is a strategy that I have used in a variety of leadership roles to generally assess progress of my areas of responsibility. I ask myself: Are we better off now than we were six months ago? Since we are approaching the end of this semester, I think it’s a perfect time to take a look at where we are now relative to where we were at the beginning of this past June.
Please keep in mind that our work in the Division of Academic Affairs is very broad, impacts all other Divisions on campus, and includes (but is not limited to): student success, faculty and staff work/life balance and recognition, communication, teaching, innovation, technology, research, finances, facilities, outreach, etc. all of which align with the WKU Strategic Plan, Climbing to Greater Heights.
First, we have made incredible progress in several key areas including:
SACSCOC - We now have a good understanding of what is required, we have created the structures needed for the fifth year review, and we have identified the leaders of the writing teams. Our accreditation outcome affects our entire University. Therefore, we are pleased to have a team that represents all of the divisions who are formulating plans to gather necessary data to show how we have met the required SACSCOC standards.
Culture of Continuous Improvement - Academic Affairs supports a culture of continuous improvement through intentional, systematic self-reflection of our academic learning goals, measurements, outcomes, and renewals. As a division, we are striving to engage our campus community in this important process. To this end, we designed a process to help departments assess student achievement of learning outcomes. This type of analysis helps us to ensure students comprehend necessary concepts and skills in our respective content areas, which will ultimately lead to student success.
RAMP - A new governance structure is in place and committees have begun their review of budget requests for FY20, the FY20 budget model has been built, and we are helping key groups to transition fully by July 1, 2020.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - Co-chief Diversity Officers, Molly Kerby and Michael Crowe, have been appointed representing both Academic Affairs and Enrollment and Student Experience. They, along with Merrall Price, have worked with the staff at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to refine our Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) report which has been verbally accepted. Formal approval is forthcoming. A campus wide DEI committee has been called and will begin their work soon. This work is important. Elevating the conversation and defining DEI as a top priority is the first step to achieving real culture change.
CAPE Transformation - Preliminary program transformation plans have been submitted to the Provost’s Office and feedback will be given to each program after review by a faculty committee (drawn from volunteers that served on either the CAPE Review Committee or the Transformation Planning Committee), the Deans, Associate Provost Michelle Trawick, and me. The expectation is that transformed programs will be attractive to students, market driven, innovative, dynamic, and forward looking. Further, they should be built for high levels of student engagement. If done well, we will have an innovative portfolio of relevant and forward-looking academic programs to attract students to WKU.
Courseleaf Catalog and Curriculum System - This Fall, both the graduate and undergraduate catalogs were published using Leepfrog’s Courseleaf Catalog system. This allows the undergraduate curriculum process to move toward the online curriculum management workflow system that is currently (and successfully) used by the Graduate Council. The system provides a sustainable approach to the curricular process. Further, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee has worked diligently to pilot a new expedited workflow system to help move specific curriculum items through curricular channels at a faster pace.
Student Success Initiatives - There has been significant focus by the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Enrollment and Student Experience to increase student success. Elevating the conversation and defining student success as a priority is the first step in creating a culture of student success at WKU. Ongoing work through the Strategic Enrollment Planning process will help us develop strategies to truly achieve success for all of our students.
Distance Education - Through enhanced technology and Zoom software we have upgraded our capacity to deliver courses to Regional Campuses synchronously with main campus courses. By Fall 2020, we will be able to deliver classes to Somerset Community College as well. This technology is state-of-the-art and brings incredible potential to WKU for expanding distance education.
Budget Challenges - In a nutshell, in any college or university, expenditures must match revenue in order to have financial stability. Multi-year declines in enrollment have required us to develop strategies for increasing revenue and concurrently decreasing expenditures resulting in a strategic realignment of funds to support the academic mission. Strategies such as the new scholarship program (designed to help more students attend WKU), evaluating technology options for automating and streamlining workflow, reducing duplication and identifying efficiencies, and developing a strategic enrollment plan can help put us on a sound footing for the future. We have made good progress in this work over the past six months.
As we wind down this semester, and plan for the work to be done in the Spring, it is important to be able to articulate our accomplishments along with the areas in which we need to focus more effort. I can honestly say that we are, indeed, better off than we were six months ago and I am proud of the progress that we have made in so many areas. I did not do this work alone and am grateful for the hard working faculty and staff that have collectively worked to make a difference at WKU. After a much anticipated winter break, I am looking forward to working with you again to make a positive difference next year.
I wish you and your families peace, health, and Happy Holidays.