Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Great Faculty, Great Students, Great Alumni
A week ago today, I met with alumni from ExxonMobil who are great supporters of UHD.
They give money to UHD for scholarships, help with internships, and mentor students at UHD to prepare them as professionals for the industry. They told me how much they love UHD, their experiences here and their desire to help mentor students and provide them with interships.
Last Wednesday, I met with 90 students in an expanded Council of Student Organizations meeting. I heard their concerns and their suggestions. They love UHD, but are frustrated, especially about parking and food service. They want more places to meet. They want the cafeteria and bookstore to be open for evening students. They want more student study areas, more meeting rooms, a dormitory and a student union. Several students also expressed interest in practice fields for soccer and baseball.
As one student said, "We want to have a community here, and we need space to build one.” I said that later in the year or early next year will initiate initial discussions for a new master plan for the University. When we do, students will definitely be part of the planning process.
I also made a presentation to the UHD Faculty Senate last week. I explained that I strongly support shared governance. I've been a faculty senator, since I was president of a college faculty assembly in the School of Social Sciences at Fresno State, and that I have always included faculty in key meetings, whether they deal with budget, positions or policy.
I explained that I support a 4-3 teaching load (which means that faculty teach four courses one semester, and three courses the other), so that faculty can follow their passion, whether it be developing a new courses, mentoring students or a newly-hired faculty member, initiating service learning projects, undertaking new research, completing a scholarly article, or preparing online courses.
Of course, a move from a 4-4 teaching load to 4-3 is expensive. It will cost us more than $2.5 million a year, but it is an investment in the future of the University. It also helps us retain faculty and attract and hire new faculty.
We can work together to greatly improve the University. In addition, there is much to be done, especially in retaining and graduating students.
And, we are very fortunate. While public universities in several states face hiring freezes, furloughs, and layoffs, UHD hired new faculty last year, we will do searches this year and next for a total of 40 faculty in three years. This year and next, we will hire a total of 28 new tenure-track faculty members, which is about 12 percent of our current tenure track faculty. We are hiring for the future and need to think about the needs of UHD in the future.
I made the point that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Internet. The entering freshman class of 2020 just began second grade. For those students, Wikipedia has always been the only encyclopedia they used. Google has always been where they go first to find answers, and phones have always taken pictures that can be sent to friends or uploaded to Facebook and Web sites. Friends have always sent text messages or called each other on a cell phone.
According to the “Chronicle of Higher Education,” by 2020, students will take 60 percent of all college courses online. We need to start planning for that world. We need to hire faculty that are comfortable in that world.
But, I also want to ensure the success of those faculty and asked the Faculty Senate to give me plans for mentoring new faculty, so that we can help them to succeed. I also asked the Faculty Senate also to provide me with recommendations on establishing a task force or committee to review roles and rewards.
I want to make sure we align those things we ask faculty to undertake with the most important rewards--tenure and promotion. Clearly, there is something wrong if we tell faculty we want them to mentor students or develop online courses, and then refuse to consider that work for promotion or tenure.
I have also asked the Faculty Senate to review departmental guidelines for tenure and promotion to ensure fairness and alignment of roles and rewards. I understand that each department will establish its own guidelines for tenure, but they should fit within the mission of our university and the expectations of all faculty members for teaching, research and service.
Finally, I want to build our research capacity. I explained that I met with the Vice Chancellor for Research for the University of Houston System Don Birx. He is going to help us build our research program. UH has workshops for faculty on grant writing. He will bring those workshops here. UH has a search engine and newsletter for research opportunities. Our faculty will access to those resources. We will work together on grants develop a plan for growing our research program here at UHD.
I'm truly impressed with the faculty at UHD. They are committed to our students and we need to give them the tools and support that helps their success. I thank the president of the Faculty Senate, Michelle Moosally, for inviting me and providing me with the opportunity to address the faculty leadership on campus. I look forward to working with the Senate.
During the fall semester, I will visit each of the colleges and try to meet with as many departments, as possible. I have already begun to meet faculty as I stroll the campus and as I hold focus groups. We will work together to continue to build UHD as a great university and a great place to spend your career.