What it means to be a comprehensive university

water fountain

I believe that a comprehensive university does more than offer a wide range of disciplines. It’s also one that pays attention to the whole student, ensuring that graduates are well-rounded in terms of knowledge, competencies and skills including and beyond their chosen fields of study.

The results of the Vision 2025 survey conducted in the fall suggest that many who care about SIU would agree. When asked, for example, about the most relevant areas of study and research in 2025, their answers included not only business and science, but also education and the arts.

When asked about core skills or knowledge that every SIU graduate should have, they spoke of communication skills and critical thinking as well as problem-solving and leadership skills.

Cultural and experiential opportunities

Many of the responses focused on the total SIU experience. In response to a question about cultural and experiential opportunities for students, respondents mentioned not only culturally focused courses and international study, but also internships and the arts, including music and theater. The theme of expanding student activities emerged from open-ended responses to questions about our ideal campus culture and campus/student life in 2025.

Survey participants also mentioned internships, community involvement and service learning among the types of opportunities that can be developed in partnership with other organizations.

The importance of diversity and inclusivity came through clearly in responses to a number of questions.

Finally, those who participated reaffirmed our mission, indicating that we should continue to embrace, for example, outstanding teaching and innovation in research and creativity.

Being “comprehensive” doesn’t necessarily mean that we can be all things to all people, but it does mean that we can provide a full range of academic opportunities and a vibrant campus life to every student we serve. This is why it is so important that we are as strong in the arts and humanities as we are in engineering and business. This is why we must make sure we provide every student with the experiences that will help them be successful throughout their lives.

Make sure your voice is heard

The Vision 2025 survey gave our alumni, friends, community members, faculty, staff and students an opportunity to share their own visions for SIU in 2025. I’m grateful to the more than 2,900 people who participated.

The survey is just one of the many ways we have welcomed feedback on the future of the university. If you haven’t weighed in so far, and even if you have, you might review our Vision 2025 website and consider offering your feedback. Plans continue to evolve based on conversations with faculty and many others, so there’s still time to make sure your voice is heard.

Making the Video: SIU Day of Giving

When I came to SIU, I didn’t expect to get my big break into show business. But here I am, starring in my very own video to help promote SIU’s Day of Giving, March 7. I don’t know that I am ready for Hollywood quite yet, but it may be time to start working on my IMDB page.

While I wait for a call from Spielberg, I should take the time to thank everyone who helped me in my production career. I continue to be amazed by the talent and dedication I see every day in the students, faculty and staff here at SIU.

Without further ado, here’s an inside look at the amazing team that helped me make my video debut:

Status quo is still not an option

In 2012, an SIU committee looking at programs raised a number of questions related to “complimentary practices and academic efficiencies.” They included:

  • Are there programs that could be combined administratively to eliminate redundancies?
  • Are there programs that would be better suited in another college?
  • Are there course redundancies that could be eliminated by requiring that course offerings be offered by the discipline department?

Exploration of these and other questions led to a 2013 task force report that included suggestions for academic reorganization. It recommended organizing some programs under a school structure as well as moving some programs to new colleges. For example, the report suggested that life science departments could be combined into one department or school. The College of Liberal Arts might be organized into four schools: arts, humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary studies.

TIME FOR ACTION

The 2013 report discussed exploring “programmatic and administrative changes in order to promote collaboration and cost savings in the medium to long term.”

While our proposed reorganization is focused less on cost savings, and more on generating funds that we can reinvest in our programs and people, promoting collaboration is a core driver.

The report also states that “the status quo is not an option.” I think that most of us would agree with this statement today.

It’s clear that we have been talking about reorganization for some time. Unfortunately, we have not acted on it for a number of reasons — ongoing leadership changes among them — putting us in the position to have act more rapidly today than any of us would like.

Even with the need for speed, we cannot lose sight of the goal: to build a collaborative, innovative academic community that will lead to new and reinforced academic programs. It’s time to take action and reaffirm the SIU difference.

 

Planes, robots and cyber security

In my state of the university address, I suggested that intercollegiate competition adds to the complete student experience. Students gain hands-on experience – as well as teamwork and leadership skills – that will make them winners throughout their careers and lives. Successful teams help build the university’s reputation in the academic world.

At SIU, our success in regional and national academic competition is a point of pride. For example, our student web development team placed third in the nation in April, and SIU’s debate team has earned multiple national championships.

Here are three more examples from the fall semester you may have missed.

FLYING TO NATIONALS

The Flying Salukis won all eight events – and their seventh straight regional title – at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region VIII competition in October. Connor Schlottman won honors as top pilot, and seven team members were among the event’s top eight individual scorers. Now the team moves on to the national competition in May.

A ROBOT NAMED WINSTON

The mission for SIU’s robotics team was to get a robot named “Winston” (after Carbondale’s recently retired bagel man) to retrieve hacky sacks on an obstacle course. No problem. In November, the five-member team accomplished its mission to win the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering’s annual robotics competition.

GO SECURITY DAWGS!

The 10-member Security Dawgs, our cyber security team, placed fifth overall out of 179 teams competing in a December National Cyber League event. They earned second place in three additional categories. The team is positioned for the 2018 Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in February.

Please join me in congratulating all of our winning teams and please provide me with ideas for other intercollegiate competitions. These are activities that let the world know why it is special to be a Saluki!

A look at another institution’s reorganization

Welcome to the chancellor’s blog. I plan to use this space to keep you updated about campus activities and initiatives, including academic reorganization, the subject of this first post.

A major goal of reorganization is to create scholarly communities that give faculty greater ownership of their programs. We can do this by changing how resources are managed, reducing administrative burdens and creating opportunities through closer alignment of programs that will yield greater collaboration.

We are not alone in this approach.

The University of Southern Mississippi, a research university similar in size to SIU, is undergoing an academic reorganization driven by reshaped expectations, declining state funding and “trends in scholarship that demonstrate a fundamental shift toward collaborative work, which is made more difficult by traditional academic structures.”

Here’s the key question the university asked of itself: “What can we do within our existing resource realities to highlight our strengths, cultivate creativity, and distinguish ourselves as an institution?”

The answer: “Administrative units will be larger in size and scope, with emphasis on programs rather than departments, to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary teaching and research, to realize economies of scale, to facilitate fluid reallocation of resources, and to reduce duplication in programming and administration.”

This should sound very familiar.

ACADEMIC STRUCTURE

The university’s plan should also sound familiar. Departments are grouped under schools. School directors have administrative and budgetary responsibilities for groups of departments. Departments are led by chairs who work with program coordinators to “manage assessment and curricular matters.” Program coordinators focus on academic degree programs, working closely with department chairs. Chairs and program coordinators are described as non-administrative faculty members who are elected by their peers.

These roles and responsibilities align closely with the roles and responsibilities we have described in our proposed reorganization. (See our online FAQ.) The primary exception is the use of the term “departments” and “chairs,” which are described much as what we are currently calling “divisions” and “coordinators.” As the FAQ notes, we cannot use the term “department” in our proposed new structure for now, but this issue can be addressed collaboratively.

FOCUS ON PROGRAMS

No two universities are exactly the same. Not every aspect of the Southern Mississippi plan is the same as ours. But we share an interest in building scholarly communities, creating opportunities for greater collaboration and providing greater emphasis on the programs that comprise our academic core.

Reorganization will give faculty far more ownership of their academic programs, and it will create more capacity for academic collaboration. I’ve heard from many faculty members who say they are looking forward to these opportunities.