With the calendar turning to October, I get to look out my office window and enjoy the splendor of the changing colors in our leaves brought on by the crisp Fall air. This is a splendid time to be in Brockport, not only for the great weather we have at this time of year but also because of the many good things that are happening around campus. Our faculty and staff have arranged many exciting events in which we can participate (and I am sure this is only a partial list), and I hope you will consider participating in some of these.
- Jon Dunlosky from the Department of Psychological Sciences at Kent State University will be in McCue Auditorium at 2 pm on October 9th to talk about “Evidence-Based Strategies to Improve Student Learning and (Make your Time in the Classroom More Fun)”
- Patti Dyjur, Educational Development Consultant from the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary will lead a workshop on Program Student Learning Outcomes on October 18.
- Our Theatre students will be presenting the show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind in the Tower Black Box Theatre, October 5 – 8 and October 19 – 22.
I am also pleased to announce that Dr. Catie LaLonde, recently Associate Provost at Paul Smith’s College, will be joining as our new CELT Director, beginning October 12. With degrees in English, Media Studies, and Education, Catie brings a unique set of skills that should allow us to advance the mission of CELT in providing outstanding professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. I am very much looking forward to her beginning her work with us.
Update on Academic Affairs Strategic Planning
Our Academic Affairs Strategic Planning Committee is currently developing specific metrics through which we can evaluate progress in accomplishing the goals of the plan. Several of those goals will be achieved through the work of other committees that can engage in more extensive conversations and gain input from students, faculty, and staff, as they evaluate opportunities to advance the academic division. Each of these committees has broad representation from the faculty and includes a representative from University Senate.
Academic Organizational Effectiveness Task Force
This task force, led by Kathy Peterson (Nursing) and Denise Copelton (Sociology) will be investigating the academic structure of the University. Questions they have been asked to address include whether we should rename schools into colleges, and if so, does that allow for us to embed schools within the colleges? Do we have the right number of Colleges/Schools? Are the right departments within each unit? Are the departments configured correctly? Should some be distributed into multiple units? Are there portions of some departments that might better fit with other units? Do some need to combine? If we have structural changes, what does that mean for the management of academic units? For example, who administers a school?
Given the recent announcement from our colleagues at SUNY Potsdam, there is understandably some concerns regarding the work this task force will be undertaking. I want to assure you that the task force is strictly focused on the organizational structure by which we deliver our academic mission and does not entail evaluating or making recommendations related to the future of any of our academic programs.
One of the specific strategies identified by our strategic plan is to embed experiential learning activities within the undergraduate curriculum and co-curricular academic experience, considering the definitions provided by SUNY for project-based learning, field experience, research, internship, and similar. Despite a history of limited administrative support for these efforts, nearly half our students complete an experiential activity during their undergraduate program. Our objective now is to embed experiential activity within the academic curriculum by creating a sequence of learning opportunities beginning in the freshman year. With an emphasis on career awareness and professionalism, we hope to motivate students and provide them with the necessary tools to explore beyond their defined programs using experiential and other learning activities that can better prepare them for a life beyond college. If we can capture student interest early in their time with us, we can help them to build a portfolio that not only prepares them for a productive career, but also engages them in a meaningful life. Career awareness serves as the hook to broaden their interest and consider courses and activities that expand their horizons so that they can achieve their life goals. We are fortunate to have received investment funds from SUNY to expand our career center and will use those funds to expand our investment in support of this effort. Laurel McNall from Psychology will be leading this committee.
Brockport Downtown Utilization
Another of our objectives is to use the talents and resources of the division to meet the economic and societal needs of our region, some of which is done through our facility in Brockport Downtown (BD). This committee, led by Alisa James, will evaluate the ongoing activities at Brockport Downtown to determine their centrality to the mission of SUNY Brockport. Specifically, are the programs currently housed within BD providing a service that can only be fulfilled by virtue of their location? Are there programs located on the main campus in Brockport that could be more effective through expanded activity in BD? Are there cultural and/or enriching events on the main campus which could be offered in BD? In other words, are we effectively using the facility, and if not, what should we be doing differently?
Identifying mechanisms through which we can provide a broader range of support for faculty scholarship and creative activity is one more area in which we will be working this year. Last Spring, we increased the limit that faculty can obtain through the FSA program, developing a mechanism to request up to $2,000 through a competitive process with peer review from faculty colleagues. During the summer, we determined that this would be an addition to the ongoing process through which faculty can access smaller awards up to $500 (subject to Associate Dean’s approval). To look further into other opportunities, we have established the Research Council, under the leadership of Godfred Antwi (Public Health). This group serves as an advisory body to the Provost in all issues relating to research and other scholarly or creative activity at SUNY Brockport, and is specifically tasked with advocating for resources in support of research and scholarship, recommending policies and programs to promote externally sponsored research, identifying opportunities to enhance strong and mutually productive research collaborations, and proposing initiatives that promote faculty-led student research and scholarship.
Assessment and Accountability
Last spring, we also initiated a group to evaluate our assessment strategies, in response to my proposal that we convert assessment from a periodic review process into a continuous improvement effort. This transformation is consistent with our strategic plan, which identifies as our first objective “Adjust offerings of high quality, high-demand undergraduate and graduate academic programs and majors to alter the academic portfolio to meet regional and national needs,” and later, “Use assessment to refine curriculum and increase the success of our students.” A small pilot program is underway this year to evaluate these new proposed assessment tools and, depending on the outcome, determine how these can be adapted to benefit all academic units. The workshop later this month is designed to help assist faculty in gaining the skills and background knowledge to better address these needs and further support the success of students.
Periodically, I consider the number of projects that are underway across campus and realize that we are doing many different things, most of which involve faculty and staff in one way or another. It’s no wonder that you are feeling very busy. However, I look around SUNY and at other campuses across the country and I realize that your hard work is paying huge dividends. I believe that we are on a good path for long-term success. But we can’t stop now. Every other campus in the nation is trying to advance their cause, which means we need to continue to work hard to stay ahead of the pack. I know that with your continued help and support, we will do just that, and Brockport will continue to provide an outstanding educational opportunity for all our students. Thank you.