Continuing progress on academic organization

During the last two weeks, the Graduate Council and Faculty Senate have voted on several proposals for new schools. To date, five proposals have been approved by both bodies, and three more have been approved by the Senate and are pending votes in the Council. A few proposals have not been supported, and others are still under consideration.

I am grateful for the thoughtful, constructive discussion and feedback as well as the hard work of our faculty in taking up the review of all of the proposals to date. This is shared governance in action.

What’s next

Here are the schools approved by both bodies:

  • School of Computing
  • School of Earth Systems and Sustainability
  • School of Health Sciences
  • School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences
  • School of Justice and Public Safety

These schools will move forward to the next step in the process, which is the completion of the proposals for submission to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. We will work informally and collaboratively with faculty and current department and school leaders to begin developing provisional implementation plans so that we will be prepared to move forward smoothly and effectively once final approval for a school is in place.

In the case of proposals that were not approved, we will look at them again closely before determining next steps. And there are still a number of proposals in the pipeline.

Regardless, the provost’s office will continue to work closely with faculty on academic reorganization.

Recent Discussions with Faculty Association

Last week, the Faculty Association announced that it is in joint discussions with the university regarding potential settlement of several grievances filed previously under the collective bargaining agreement’s Article 9. While I will not go into detail about these discussions out of respect for the process, it is important to understand that no settlement agreement has been reached.

We are carefully considering every option, and we are hopeful that we will reach an agreeable resolution. I can say that the discussions with our colleagues in the Association have been cordial and productive.

Momentum

As we begin a new academic year, it’s refreshing to look at the positive signs that our revitalization has traction. Here are just a few:

  • Our alumni and friends contributed more than $25 million last year, a 25 percent increase in giving over the previous year; this is a sign of confidence in the university’s future.
  • Our incoming new freshman class is strong based on test scores and high school grade point averages. We’ll have more detail when we have official enrollment data in a couple of weeks.
  • Participation in our July open house for students considering enrollment in fall 2019 increased by 17 percent over last year; this follows the year-to-year growth we saw in our spring open house numbers.
  • Proposals on new schools are moving forward through the review process, thanks to the hard work and engagement of our faculty.
  • We have expanded the REACH program with private support, providing more opportunities to engage students in research and creative activities, a key part of our mission.
  • The provost’s office has committed to the strategic hiring of about 25 new faculty members after several years of cutting faculty positions due to budget constraints.
  • We have renovated the pavilion thanks to a donor and added a bicycle lane through campus – just a few of many initiatives reinforcing our reputation for being a green university with a beautiful campus.
  • The Diversity Council has developed a plan, to be rolled out shortly, to support our commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence.
  • We have streamlined the application and admissions process and revamped recruitment strategies and materials to benefit future enrollment.

This is just a small sampling of what we’re doing, with much more in the works.

More to come

Our revitalization is a long-term effort. We know it won’t happen overnight, but it WILL happen with continued diligence.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that will lead to additional progress – from additional recruitment strategies to completely revamped marketing materials to new student engagement initiatives, including e-sports and a makerspace designated for the Student Center.

People across campus are working hard, and people off campus are cheering us on and lending support. There will be times when we may get discouraged, but positive signals like those mentioned here, as well as those to come, should reinvigorate us and keep us focused.

Let’s look forward with optimism. Let’s keep going.

What’s with all the mission statements?

Visitors to campus — and those of us who are here every day — may notice framed versions of the mission statement popping up inside entrances to our academic and office buildings.

These serve as a friendly reminder of our core values, our purpose — of what we are here to do. The mission statement speaks to our commitment to our students and region, of the importance of research and creativity, and of our commitment to inclusive excellence and the creation of new knowledge.

As I’ve written before in this blog, we are accomplishing our mission in many ways. It doesn’t hurt to make sure that the expression of our mission — our mission statement — is always before us as we go about our business. It should influence every decision we make and how we talk about ourselves as an institution.

A banner approach

As the academic year gets underway, you’ll see other reminders of our mission with the installation of new banners in parts of campus. The banners highlight some of the concepts of our mission statement in pictures or words. I also hope they help us take even more pride in our beautiful campus.

Our focus on the mission statement seems to be taking hold. Since it first started appearing in buildings, a number of people on campus have requested smaller versions for the lobbies of their office areas. We’re glad to share. Please email universitycommunications@siu.edu with your requests. (And thanks to the teams in Plant and Service Operations, Administration and Finance and University Communications and Marketing for their work on these projects.)

Core values

The mission statement must be our touchpoint when we reflect on our core values: supporting student success through experiential learning, ensuring that every graduate is emotionally intelligent and culturally competent, developing knowledge that addresses real issues, and serving as an economic driver and partner within our community.

Every action we take must be put within the context of our mission. That’s worth remembering, every day.

Moving forward on a new academic structure

On Tuesday, the Faculty Senate approved RMEs, or program change plans, for six proposed new schools, another step forward in the revitalization of our academic structure. The schools are:

  • Applied Engineering and Technology.
  • Biological Sciences.
  • Computing.
  • Earth Systems and Sustainability.
  • Health Sciences.
  • Psychology and Behavioral Sciences.

A special senate committee that is conducting initial reviews of the program change plans has asked the provost’s office for more information or modifications related to four other plans.

I greatly appreciate the time and effort that faculty members have invested in their thoughtful review of the program change plans. I am also grateful for the work of the provost’s office under the leadership of Interim Provost Meera Komarraju, who has been shepherding the process since her appointment in April.

We have posted an update of where each school is in the process, and we will also post an update on the full structure as it stands, even as it continues to evolve, in the days ahead.

Continuing our revitalization efforts

While there are important steps still ahead of us and we are still discussing several proposals submitted as alternatives, I’m pleased that through this collaborative process, our re-envisioning of our academic programs is beginning to take shape.

Similarly, our other revitalization efforts, many outlined in April’s eight-month update, continue moving forward. A few examples:

  • We continue to work on the concept of a makerspace to support student research, innovation and creativity. Science Dean Scott Ishman is now leading the initiative.
  • We are also formalizing an e-sports, or electronic sports, initiative. E-sports are popular with students and provide opportunities for friendly competition on campus and with other institutions.
  • We continue to work on fall 2018 enrollment. About 250 new students are expected at Saturday’s freshman orientation, and active outreach and support continues for both admitted and returning students who have not yet registered for classes. While we know enrollment will be down, it will be down less than we anticipated eight months ago due to the diligence and efforts of the enrollment management and student affairs teams, as well as our faculty, staff and academic leaders in our departments, schools and colleges. The SIU Foundation and SIU Alumni Association also stepped forward, providing resources to support recruitment efforts. We continue to take every step possible to both to minimize the decline and position ourselves for future years.
  • In fact, all hands are also on deck to launch the recruitment cycle for fall 2019. We are deploying new strategies and materials and reinforcing everything we do. Open house numbers continue to rise, a signal that we are projecting a renewed energy at SIU. As I’ve said before, enrollment will not rebound overnight or even in a year, but we can make steady progress if we remain focused on our goals.
  • Finally, we are preparing to announce our fundraising results for fiscal year 2018. While I won’t spoil the announcement, I can share that donor support of SIU increased by about 25 percent over the previous year. I thank all of our alumni, friends, faculty and staff who demonstrate their confidence in SIU and support our students through their gifts.

Looking ahead

With so much happening in the world around us, it might be easy to become distracted from our mission. I remain confident that our outlook is positive and we have much to be proud of.

Every day, I learn about faculty whose work brings credit to our reputation and students who are finding success because of the many opportunities they find at SIU. These are the real stories that speak to who we are as a university. Please join me in telling them.

Fulfilling our mission through partnerships

Historically, public universities have received nearly 100 percent of their resources from state funds and tuition. Declines in state appropriations – more than 23 percent for SIU between the 2001 and 2018 fiscal years – have been offset over the years by increases in tuition and fees.

Clearly, this is a pattern that cannot continue. The future of SIU cannot rely on these two primary funding sources alone.

And while resources from our generous donors are critically important and make a very positive difference, their use is typically restricted to specific areas of the university that align with the interests of the donor. Private donations cannot fill the gaps made by declines in either state funding or tuition.

However, we have an alternative.

The value of partnerships

Strategic partnerships between SIU, industry and the economic development arms of our state and federal government can support academic programs and research to benefit faculty and students.

For example, partnerships with our incredible agricultural base have the potential to provide a capital investment in our farms in support of both teaching and research. There are similar opportunities in the STEM fields, the fine arts, health fields and many other areas.

Win-win-win

University/industry/government partnerships have many benefits.

Industry and government partners can help ensure that future employees are well prepared. Partners also welcome access to extraordinarily well-trained graduates. They may also want to be on the front end of new discoveries that will change how they operate or better serve constituents. The university benefits by attracting and deploying resources that support its mission, its community, its faculty and its students.

Everyone wins.

We’ve already started

Last week, I wrote about existing and future economic development partnerships, but there are many other examples already in place at SIU.

The Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center has received $4.6 million in funds from the energy sector to better use coal resources and transition to new energy sources in Illinois.  The “energy boost” grant provides faculty and facilities support for energy/industry research and also trains our students through scholarships.

The Center for Embedded Systems is one of our best examples of a government/industry/SIU partnership that translates to instant jobs for our students. In fact, Intel is one of our top employers.

Like Intel, many industry partners are looking for ways to grow a pipeline of well-prepared future employees.

For example, Navistar International Corp. donated nine commercial trucks to our automotive technology program, and Rush Enterprises, Inc., supported the partnership by providing licenses to software that allows students to configure and program truck body controllers.

Michael Behrmann, chair of automotive technology, discusses the benefits of donations by Navistar International Corp. and Rush Enterprises, Inc. to the program.

Similarly, the U.S. Navy donated a Gulfstream III airplane to our aviation technologies program.

Identifying strategic partners

Partnerships can provide an influx of resources that will allow us to thrive and grow. I believe that we have the potential to grow the number of industry and government partnerships significantly to benefit our students and faculty while preserving the integrity of our mission.

We need to be intentional about identifying partners whose interests align with our mission and programs. We have several conversations underway now. I encourage our faculty to identify and work with the university to explore partnership opportunities that will help move us forward.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.

It’s about the ‘product’

As we focus on recruitment, we must think about the product we deliver. Of course, education is not a product like a cell phone or a can of vegetables on a grocery shelf. It is a valuable service we offer to people who have many other choices. Our “product” is the Saluki experience.

When people aren’t buying a service or product, no matter how strong we believe it to be, we must look closely at how we can change, improve and distinguish it to make it more attractive. All of the marketing in the world won’t make a difference if the service or product doesn’t stand out from its competitors.

At SIU, academic reorganization is all about reinforcing, expanding and distinguishing the Saluki experience by making it more visible and accessible to prospective students. There is nothing more fundamental to future enrollment growth than revitalizing and repositioning our academic programs.

The full college experience

We are not focusing on academic programs alone. As noted in my eight-month update to the campus, we are also actively looking at all of the elements that comprise the Saluki experience, including student life and student services, to bring renewed energy and excitement to campus. We must revitalize the entire campus experience.

Word of mouth can be one of our best marketing tools, so we must make sure our students have a positive experience that they will talk about with enthusiasm. Every interaction we have with every current and prospective student is critically important.

Recruitment and retention

The eight-month update includes many of our strategies – most of them new – focusing specifically on recruitment and retention. We have put a great deal of energy into these efforts, which may be less visible than academic reorganization but are no less important.

I’m pleased to announce one major step forward: the appointment of Jennifer DeHaemers as associate chancellor for enrollment management.

I won’t revisit details of the many other steps we are taking, since you can read them in the report, but a few of the highlights follow:

Recruitment

  • Earlier outreach to prospective students, including freshman and sophomores.
  • Increased outreach to a greater number of prospective students.
  • Streamlined application and admissions process.
  • Increased outreach to guidance counselors.
  • Increased outreach to community colleges.
  • Increased outreach to prospective graduate and international students.
  • College calling campaigns.
  • Revamping marketing messages and strategies.

Retention

  • Updating retention plan.
  • Improving course scheduling.
  • Increased academic support and realigned student support and engagement initiatives.
  • Ongoing and new college-level retention strategies.
  • Updated student fee structure.
  • Improved orientation.
  • Enhanced career services.
  • Enhanced student and residence life.

Taking action

If we are to distinguish ourselves from other campuses so that we stand out in a crowd of institutions – so that we address our enrollment changes – we have to look at everything we do. This includes the product we offer, the way we position and promote it to attract new students, and what we do to retain our students once we attract them. We are addressing all of these areas simultaneously thanks to the dedication of our faculty and staff.

Even so, we will not turn enrollment around overnight. As I have said in the past, it took us many years to get here and it will take time to correct course. None of the many changes we are making will be in time to significantly influence fall 2018 enrollment, although we are still doing everything we can to increase the yield of students already in the pipeline.

Furthermore, future gains we make in new students will be partially offset as our larger junior and senior classes graduate and our smaller freshman and sophomore classes move up. This is one of the reasons retention must be a continued focus.

The most important point is that we are taking action. Lack of sufficient action in the past is at the heart of our enrollment decline. We continue to work collaboratively and hard on all fronts, and we are seeing signs of progress. Let’s keep moving forward.

Field trip

Earlier this month, six faculty members took a field trip to Arizona State University to learn first-hand about the transition of many of its departments into schools.

There, at the invitation of ASU President Michael Crow, they met with academic and administrative leaders to gain a better understanding of the possibilities and the process – what worked and what didn’t.

As you may know, Arizona State underwent a major academic reorganization that included the creation of schools from groups of academic departments, not unlike the process we are engaged in at SIU Carbondale. Academic reorganization with a focus on interdisciplinary engagement was a significant component of ASU’s recent growth and success, as outlined in the book Designing the New American University by President Crow and William Dabars.

Seeing is believing

I’m grateful for the willingness of our delegation’s members  – Craiz Anz, Michael Eichholz, Derek Fisher, Scott Ishman, Christina McIntyre and Mandara Savage – to invest the time to learn from their colleagues at Arizona State. They returned from the trip eager to share what they learned and are currently planning to reach out to meet with groups of faculty and staff across campus.

By understanding how another institution managed its own evolution, we can see that change is doable and success is achievable. I know that not everything that worked at ASU will work here, but I believe we have talented and visionary faculty and staff who can adapt lessons learned to our own campus. In fact, I believe that our success at SIU will depend as much on attitude and creativity as it does on process and hard work.

Thank you to President Crow and everyone at Arizona State for helping us see what’s possible.

Moving forward: A new update on academic reorganization

Following are brief updates on the status of academic reorganization.

Votes so far

So far, 12 departments have voted on proposed schools. Overall, about 65 percent of the votes have been “yes,” 29 percent have been “no,” and 6 percent have been “abstain.”

Here’s a breakdown:

School of Biological Sciences

Microbiology: 4 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Plant biology: 8 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Zoology: 1 yes, 12 no, 1 abstain

School of Computing

Computer science: 12 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

School of Earth Systems and Sustainability

Geography: 4 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

Geology: 8 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

School of Health Sciences

Allied Health: 10 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Rehabilitation: 8 yes, 2 no, 0 abstain

School of Human Sciences

Kinesiology: 0 yes, 9 no, 0 abstain

Social Work: 4 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

Public Health: 4 yes, 0 no, 2 abstain

Animal Science, food and nutrition: 3 yes, 4 no, 3 abstain

Once all units in a proposed school have voted and plans are reviewed at the college level, the RMEs are forwarded to the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Council and Faculty Association in accordance with our outlined processes. You can see an update of where each school is in the process here.

New proposals

We have received a faculty proposal for a College of Social Sciences and Humanities and understand that a proposal for a College of Communication, Design and the Arts is forthcoming. I appreciate the efforts of the faculty to develop and submit these proposals. The provost’s office will continue to be on point for managing the process to vet proposals and communication with faculty on their status.

The votes and the new proposals are all part of the feedback and give-and-take processes that continue to shape our reorganization.

Departments

We remain attuned to the ongoing feedback on the use of the term “departments.” Some faculty feel strongly that the term, especially in some fields, is important to disciplinary identity. I understand this view. However, as I have said earlier, the term “department” has a very specific meaning in university policy and in our collective bargaining agreement. I have also indicated that we are happy to work to address this terminology issue in compliance with existing bargaining and policy procedures.

To start this conversation, we reached out the Faculty Association with a proposal to collaborate on a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow us to use the term “department” instead of “division” within the context of the new school structures. The school structure would not change: departments would be nested within schools headed by a director who has fiduciary and administrative responsibility for the school.

The association has indicated that it would prefer to take this issue up during full collective bargaining, which begins later in the spring. While we were disappointed, we look forward to the opportunity to work on this issue in the future.

EDITED 3:30 p.m. April 19: Corrected percentages on overall votes. Animal Science, Food and Nutrition was incorrectly labeled and the vote tally was incorrect.

EDITED: 8:25 p.m., April 19: Corrected vote tallies for Kinesiology and Animal Science, Food and Nutrition.

Eight months of progress

When I arrived on campus nearly eight months ago, I knew I was coming to a university with strong faculty and staff, loyal alumni and friends, and a welcoming community. I also knew that that we had a lot of intense, meaningful work to do to fulfill the promise of the university’s mission.

Looking back at the last eight months, we have accomplished a great deal toward the revitalization of this great institution. Today, I am sharing an update outlining the progress we have made as a campus community. We have much to be proud of, and much more to do. Thank you for all you do to position us for the future.

Collecting input on college-level changes

Aerial shot of Student Services Building

We have received a number good questions and thoughtful feedback following last week’s post announcing that we would move forward with the renaming of the colleges as well as the movement of some departments to new homes as a consequence of the proposed renaming and refocusing of colleges.

As a reminder, the proposed restructuring and renaming of the colleges is separate from the process we are currently engaging in to create academic schools, although the intent to do so was signaled in the school proposal RME’s submitted last October. Since then, we have had numerous suggestions, most from faculty, that have greatly influenced the suggested college names.

Modifications anticipated

The college-level RMEs were submitted to our colleagues in the colleges with the understanding that they might be modified based on discussion and input. Given the importance of consultation at the college level, I have decided to extend the timeline for review by the colleges to ensure that we can engage faculty in extensive discussion and feedback, much as we have throughout the academic restructuring process. I do so believing that we will all benefit from additional opportunities to share questions and information as we stay true to principles of shared governance.

To gather input and faculty ideas, as well as to help answer questions, I have asked Associate Provost Lizette Chevalier, Associate Provost Dave DiLalla, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Jim Garvey to meet with faculty in the proposed colleges about the college-level changes. Details about the meetings will be shared through our deans. Of course, you may also continue to send questions and thoughts by email.

Update on schools

Throughout the academic reorganization process, we have welcomed and benefited from faculty input regarding the best location for their programs, names of schools and other areas. This has resulted in many, many positive changes to the proposed school structure and in the development of strategies for effectively implementing and managing it. We have updated the chart showing where we are in the school-creation process to keep you posted on our progress.

Overall, your feedback has led to more than 100 changes to the original straw man proposal released in October. Together, we have created a proposed academic reorganization that belongs not to any individual, but to the greater university that shaped it.

We will continue to move forward as elements of the plan are approved. We have an exciting year of transition ahead. I deeply value all of the input received to date on both the school- and college-level proposals. Your engagement is essential. Thank you for helping us stay on the path to accomplish an ambitious, critically important revitalization of our university.