September 6, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that you had a productive summer that included some fun and time for mental recharge.  We have a full and exciting year ahead of us!

First, please join me in welcoming Debra Moddelmog, who recently joined us from the Ohio State University as the new Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.  At OSU, Debra served as chair of the English department, associate dean of the College of Humanities, and she founded and led important diversity and gender programs.  Debra is a renowned Hemmingway scholar.  She is off to a great start and I look forward to having her on our academic-leadership team.

As you know, our undergraduate enrollment has grown very rapidly over the past few years, which has put pressure on our capacity to manage the demands that come with growth.  Accordingly, our recruitment team intentionally targeted a smaller freshmen class for Fall 2016.  They were successful and we're projecting that the incoming freshmen class will be slightly smaller than last year's record cohort.  However, because of strong undergraduate retention and what appears to be an increase in graduate-student enrollment, we expect that overall enrollment will eclipse 21,000 students. 

This was also a landmark year for NevadaFIT as we welcomed over 1000 freshmen to the five-day academic boot camp.  Based on early feedback, it appears that the program was very successful. The College of Science made ScienceFIT a requirement for all of its students and thus accounted for almost half of total participation.  Business and CABNR have determined that they will make NevadaFIT a requirement for all of its incoming freshmen next year.

As our enrollment continues to grow we need to adapt in many ways, including our class scheduling.  We are facing a particular challenge in meeting the demand for large-capacity lecture halls.  Accordingly, beginning in Fall 2017, we will require that some Tu-Th classes be scheduled beginning at 7:30 am and 7:30 pm.  We will also be prescriptive in being sure that classes are scheduled over the noon hour.  Further, we will be implementing policies that more closely align classroom capacity with enrollment caps.  You can see the specifics of the new scheduling policies here.

We are welcoming 97 new academic faculty to campus this fall, which includes 45 replacement and 52 new positions.  Their appointments span all major units on campus:  CABNR, 4; Business, 9; Education, 7; Science, 14; Engineering, 11, Liberal Arts, 37; Health Sciences, 8; Library, 2; UNCE 3; and Journalism, 1. Ten of the positions that we filled were spouses/partners of current or new faculty.

We continue to make progress on renovation and repurposing of existing space to accommodate our growth.  Philosophy has moved to Jones Hall; Communication Studies, History and Sociology have moved to the newly renovated Lincoln Hall; and Mechanical Engineering is temporarily relocated to ARF and Valley Road while Palmer undergoes a complete renovation that should be completed next summer.  Thompson Hall is also being renovated, with expected occupancy in the spring of 2017 that will include Liberal Arts Advising, English overflow, Core Humanities, GRI, Women's Studies, and Political Science.

This fall we will be piloting an online course that was designed by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) to help faculty learn and implement best practices in teaching that promote student success.  Approximately 50 faculty from across the university will participate in an eight-week course, which will include approximately 1/3 of the material that is covered in the full course.  While most of the participants are assistant professors, the group includes lecturers, LOAs and tenured associate and full professors.  Faculty will be divided into two groups and Lynda Wiest (Education) and Beth Leger (CABNR) will serve as a group facilitator.  We will gather feedback from the participants and decide if we want to bring this resource fully on board beginning in fall of 2017.

There are several topics with institutional implications that I would to discuss in the coming year.  These include:

(1) Math pathways.  Throughout the modern era of higher education, the convention has been that all students should pursue math studies that move them toward preparation for calculus, even though many students don't ultimately take or require calculus for their majors.  There is currently a national discussion on this topic that challenges this convention and suggests that there should be alternate pathways for students who plan to pursue non-STEM disciplines.  The alternate pathways would provide students with quantitative skills that are relevant to their area of study.  Such a change would represent a potentially significant change to our curriculum.  

(2) Engaged scholarship and teaching.  In 2014 we submitted an application to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to be recognized as a Carnegie Engaged University.  The application was strong but lacked one critical element that is characteristic of other Carnegie Engaged Universities.  Specifically, our policies do not provide an explicit mechanism for recognizing and rewarding engaged scholarship and research toward promotion and tenure.  Many R1 institutions have successfully incorporated engagement into their P&T policies.  In preparation for our 2020 application to the Carnegie Foundation, we will be asking the campus community to join a dialogue on this topic over the coming year.

(3) Academic Dishonesty.  Our policy regarding academic dishonesty needs to be revisited.  Our current policy does not provide guidance on appropriate sanctions for different types of violations and it leaves the determination of sanction to the discretion of individual faculty or programs. In practice, this translates into sanctions that can range from a simple reprimand to assignment of an "F" for the course for same type of dishonesty.  We also lack a clear process for maintaining an institutional record of academic dishonesty.  We will be working the Faculty Senate and the Office of Student Conduct to update and improve our academic-dishonesty policy.

(4) Diversity in the curriculum.  Last academic year we engaged in many informative dialogues with students and faculty regarding issues related to diversity on our campus.  One clear message that resonated from students was that they would like to have more classes that address contemporary issues regarding diversity.  Accordingly, this year I will charge the Core Board with discussing how Core Objective 10 in the Silver Core can be modified to assure that courses that satisfy the Diversity and Equity requirement include contemporary topics.  We have also assigned four new faculty positions to be assigned to the Gender, Race, and Identity program that will be filled over the next three years.

Finally, our ongoing accreditation process comes to a culmination this year with a Year-7 visit from the NWCCU on October 17-19.  I would like to thank Joe Cline, Russell Stone, Katy Schleef, and Audrey Casey for their remarkable work in preparing the Year Seven Self-Study...I encourage you to read it!

Best wishes for a productive and enjoyable semester!

Kevin C.