21st Century Initiative holds second open forum

By on November 22, 2013

By Simon Isham–

Provost Shirley Willihnganz’ 21st Century Initiative continues to develop its goals through a series of open forums, presented by university administrators.

The open forum, the second this month, occurred this morning in Chao Auditorium. Several chairpersons for academic departments were in attendance to voice their opinions and listen to the proceedings.

The Initiative’s basic decision-making structure is divided into five committees, many of which have subcommittees. They are as follows:

  • Technology, Technology, Engagement and International Committee, represented by Marica Hern, dean of the School of Nursing
  • Academic and Research Priorities Committee, represented by Christopher Doane, dean of the School of Music
  • Financial Health Committee, represented by John Sauk, dean of the School of Dentistry
  • Culture of Excellence Committee, represented by Blake Hasselton, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development
  • Student Committee, represented by SGA President Carrie Mattingly

Excluding the Student Committee, which Director of Communications John Drees said did not feel ready to present its findings in an open forum, all committees were represented. Christopher Doane was absent from the meeting, but sent Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences John Ferre as a proxy. Each committee was given 30 minutes to present.

Marcia Hern, of the Technology, Demographics and International Committee, said that her committee recommends:

  • Identifying reasonable and effective technologies with which to outfit every U of L classroom
  • Exploring alternative Learning Management Systems other than Blackboard
  • Providing greater access to WiFi on campus
  • Identifying alternative methods of alerts in the events of natural disasters and other emergencies
  • Focus targeted growth efforts on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health programs
  • Develop strategies to increase the number of graduate students
  • Consider increasing summer and nighttime enrollment
  • Strengthen scholarship opportunities for minority students
  • Determine appropriate percentages of international students studying at U of L, as well as the number of U of L students studying abroad

Arts and Sciences Interim Dean John Ferre, who spoke for the Academic and Research Priorities Committee, said the committee had identified eight “concentrations” in which the university ought to focus its academic and research spending. Those categories are:

  • Literacies and competencies
  • Relationship science
  • Family and human development
  • Major disease research prevention education and services
  • Environmental interactions
  • Justice and conflict transformation
  • Risk management and security
  • Economic growth

The concentrations were “intended to represent the intersection point of emerging areas of excellence, student demand and interest, societal need or relevance, and opportunity for investment,” according to the committee’s latest official report; however Ferre said at Friday’s meeting that many categories were still not represented. Some additional considerations are:

  • Physical and mental health
  • Arts and expression
  • Engineering and technology — which Ferre noted was broader than just Speed School
  • Compassion work

Ferre also said that modern language programs are an area of great student demand, and are not yet represented on the list. “If we can refine these things, if we can figure out barriers and put it out there for more public brainstorming if you will, that’s kind of the way it needs to move on the schedule,” he said.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, Dr. Joseph Steffen, biology professor and Faculty Senate chair, said, “What is the name of the committee? Academics and Research. When we look at these categories, is it really academic, or is it research? … I look at those as sort of implicitly being research.”

John Sauk of the Financial Health Committee talked about ways to make staffing more effective.

“As it turns out, all of us have created these business operations in our schools … and there (are) over 120 different business operations that go on. And some of them work very well. Others don’t work so well. Part of the reason is … there’s not a lot of infrastructure to support it, so you’ve got one person doing HR, doing a little bit of IT and doing a little bit of finance, and there’s nobody to help that person below them in the whole operation. Consequent to that, we have a lot of staff that don’t get promoted because they’re kind of locked into a little pidgin-holed position. There are ways of optimizing this,” he said.

The morning forum was followed by a second forum in the afternoon.

Further questions for the committees can be sent to John Drees, at john.drees@louisville.edu.

About Simon Isham

Simon Isham is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Louisville Cardinal, where he has worked since 2012. For his reporting at the Cardinal, he has won awards from the Kentucky Press Association and the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has also written for LEO Weekly and Insider Louisville. He graduated in December 2014.

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