April 2016

Provost Report for the Month of April 2016
Julie Bernier
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

This report includes five important updates:

  1. Academic Affairs Committee recommendation for Student Success Coaches,
  2. 4-Credit Task Force,
  3. Cluster update,
  4. URSA CG progress,
  5. Faculty Work Plan update.

Academic Affairs Committee recommendation: Student Success Coaches/First Year Advisors

At the December Faculty meeting, the Academic Affairs Committee made a recommendation that the Provost create Success Coach positions to serve first year students.  The recommendation came after the motion had received unanimous support of the Academic Affairs Committee.  I asked the faculty to share with me their thoughts over the subsequent months. I received comments from faculty both in support and against the proposal.  In the end, I believe the positive benefits of moving forward will outweigh the concerns voiced by the few members that shared their concerns.   Based on the recommendation of the Academic Affairs Committee, the First Year Task Force, and the Dean of First Year Experience, and given the importance of advising our first year students, the potential power of fully implementing the Student Success Collaborative analytics and advising tools, and the concerns voiced by students about the unevenness of faculty advising, we will be moving forward with the Success Coaches as first year student Academic Advisors.  Three full-time Student Success Coaches will be put in place to serve new first year students.  In addition to their roles as Student Success Coaches for first year students, they will be tasked with playing a key role in the coordination of the new 3-day extended welcome to PSU, called “Panther Days.”

The model will entail all first year students being assigned to a Success Coach and an Academic Advisor within the departments.  Students will be instructed to work with their Success Coach for class schedule planning during their first year and will transition to the Academic Advisor in subsequent years.  With this time commitment reduced for faculty, the intent is for faculty to develop opportunities to connect with students beyond just discussing what courses one must take.  For example, academic departments are encouraged to develop activities to occur during the first few days/weeks of the Fall semester to create opportunities for new students to come together to create a cohort with their peers, and to begin to develop a relationship with their advisor.  The Academic Advisor is encouraged to develop a mentoring relationship during this first year, discussing career and future aspirations, and generally being available as a mentor.   The Student Success Center has been ramping up its use of the powerful Student Success Collaborative analytics software program.  In conjunction with Degree Works, this tool will help PSU track student progress, predict potential areas of concern and assist students early on in making appropriate choices about class sequencing and providing them with information about their predicted success based on actual achievement.  Thank you to those who took the time to share your thoughts with me.

4-Credit Task Force

The 4-credit Task Force has provided a report and a motion.  I encourage you to read the report.  I’d like to provide a bit more information.  Upon reading the proposal, I wondered how our 4-year graduation rates compared to KSC prior to their implementation of a 4-credit curriculum.  I decided to pull up each institution’s Factbook from their websites.  I found the data below compelling.  While the data cannot be directly linked to KSC’s change to a 4-credit curriculum, it is interesting to note how closely the PSU and KSC graduation rates mirrored each other until the Fall of 2007 when KSC implemented their 4-credit curriculum.  As the 4-Credit Task Force report points out, the class of 2008 had one year of the 4-credit curriculum, class of 2009 had 2 years, etc.  The class of 2011 was the first to complete all 4 years with the 4-credit curriculum.


Comparison of the PSU and KSC Graduation Rates
A look back prior to KSC implementation of the 4-credit curriculum

Graduating Class

I support the motion of the 4-Credit Task Force. My hope is that we will eventually move to a 4-credit curriculum as a university. (Note: 4 credits can be one 4-credit course, or a paired 3 +1 course + lab).

I do have some additional caveats to those mentioned by the 4-Credit Task Force. First, we must do this in an orderly fashion and must ensure that we have adequate room/seats.  If we simply flip a switch to a new time block schedule, we cannot accommodate all our classes with our current 3-credit curriculum.   Thus, we need to set a timeline for implementation and we need to have a sense of the scope of changes (i.e. how many programs will change their curriculum to a 4-credit program).  There is a tipping point at which a new time block schedule will accommodate our needs, but we must have critical mass moving to a 4-credit curriculum in order for it to work.

Recommend the following:

  1. That Academic Deans prepare a time block schedule and timeline for implementation for review prior to the September meeting of the faculty.
  2. By October 15, 2016, departments identify programs that they intend to move to a 4-credit curriculum.
  3. With the information above, an analysis will be completed by Academic Affairs to determine the feasibility of implementing the new time blocks and a report provided to the faculty at the December 2016 meeting.
  4. The Gen Ed Committee (or a task force assigned) will review and make recommendations for revision to the Gen Ed program based on a 4-credit model and in support of the Strategic Clusters and report to the faculty by (TBD).
  5. Assuming a positive outcome on #3 above, program changes will occur Spring 2017 and Fall 2017. The transition to 4-credits will begin Fall 2018 with programs transitioning over and the new time block schedule implemented Fall 2018.

With the exciting changes ahead and implementation of open labs and innovative curricular change, I hope the faculty will give this proposal serious consideration.

Cluster Update

The Pioneering PSU campaign is underway as we begin our Strategic Cluster exploration.

Important Dates

Date Activity
Friday, April 8 Strategic Cluster Guides appointed and coaches training 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 13 Strategic Cluster Guide Meet-up – 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday, April 18, 19 Change management workshop and town hall
Friday, April 29 Afternoon of Strategic Cluster conversations – 2:00-6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 8 Strategic Cluster Guide training day
Monday, August 22 University Day
Tuesday, August 23 Strategic Cluster workshop day
Wednesday, August 24 Strategic Cluster workshop day
Thursday, Friday, August 25, 26 Department retreats

Campus Conversations (save the dates)

In mid-April, higher ed. consultant Howard Tiebel will be on campus to provide workshops and help us open up dialog across campus about our opportunities and challenges. On the afternoon of April 29, we will hold an afternoon session to explore the Strategic Clusters and expand interdisciplinary conversations as we get ready to implement this important initiative.  Around 5:00 p.m., we will close with a cookout.  More details to follow.  Also, mark your calendar for University Day and the Strategic Cluster workshops (August 22-24). These events will be important for us as we reconnect and see the Strategic Cluster work that was begun over the summer and begin plans for the year ahead.

Initial Work of Coaches and Guides

Coaches and Guides will work together beginning in April and May to find interested Strategic Cluster members and create a reasonable summer work plan. The April 29 event will inform the Guides’ thinking as it pertains to Strategic Clusters.

Guides will receive training in June to kick-off their work as they begin shaping the Strategic Clusters and adding definitions. Over the summer, the Guides will develop a Strategic Cluster focus, draft mission statements, draft the FY17 work plan for the Strategic Cluster, speak to interested participants, and plan for University Day and workshops. It is important to note that the Coach and Guide positions are temporary as a new structure will form from the initial Strategic Cluster work.

Please continue visiting our cluster intranet for the latest information, reading the Pioneering PSU blog, and engaging in conversation using Yammer.

URSA CG (Credit Generating Programs) Progress

The URSA process will continue with the Academic Deans assuming the leadership of the CG Team.  The URSA review process has provided PSU with incredibly useful information that will be integrated into many of the decisions and changes coming with the Strategic Cluster and open lab implementation.   While you may not see the future changes explicitly labeled “URSA Implementation,” please know that the reports and data are informing decisions about reorganization, efficiencies, allocations, and investments as we all move forward into this new phase.  In our commitment to a transparent process, we will continue to update you on CG program decisions via email and through the URSA website.

What Have We Done So Far?

The President has asked all programs to identify which Strategic Cluster they are most aligned with by the end of the semester.  All PSU employees can view this list. Department Chairs have access to edit this document.  The list is available hereà https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12r0oNC1jWj-zrUwPCQTQzFGyzNqmNApY5TqqL5gGs3Q/edit#gid=0

Academic programs, in consultation with their Deans, have begun to make curricular changes based on the URSA process.  To date, 25 programs have been discontinued.  The list is available here à https://www.plymouth.edu/ursa/files/2015/02/Program-Deletions-March-2016.docx

The CG Team, made up of the Academic Deans, a group of faculty (Mary Cornish, Eric Hoffman, and Ann McClellan) and the Provost have been meeting weekly to discuss processes the University can use to begin making decisions about the URSA reports and data. In late February, we held an open meeting to discuss the CG Evaluation Team Report and key findings; faculty and staff worked in groups identifying key priorities we should focus on as we move forward. Based on the outcomes of the open meeting, the Cabinet developed strategic priorities to guide the allocation of resources and to help faculty and Academic Deans as they consider program continuation and next level program review. The strategic priorities were shared at the President’s Town Hall meeting in mid-March and can be found on slides 12-13 here à https://www.plymouth.edu/psuvision/files/2016/02/PPT-presentationF32316.pdf

Processes and Timelines:

We are still following the Level 1 and Level 2 Review Processes introduced at the February open meeting, which are currently underway.

March/April 2016: The Level 1 Review Process looks at programs in the fourth and fifth quintiles, programs that graduate fewer than five students per year over the past five years, or programs that have graduated fewer than five students total in the past five years. There are three possible outcomes for programs in the 1st level review: Continuation with revision, Consolidation, and Discontinuation. The full description is available in the February Provost’s report. https://campus.plymouth.edu/academic-affairs/1851/february-2016/

Initial decisions may be re-evaluated in 2nd level review and as the campus continues to move through the decision-making and strategic allocation phase. These departments are currently working closely with their Deans to make recommendations for the future; all such recommendations are due to the Dean no later than the end of April. The Deans will review all of the materials and URSA data, in conjunction with the Cabinet strategic priorities, to make recommendations by the end of May. These decisions will then be published on the URSA website.

Spring 2016-Spring 2017: Level 2 Review (to be more fully developed) involves the continued examination and decision process for ALL CG programs through the lens of the CG Evaluation Report’s Key Findings, the URSA data and reports, and with the Strategic Cluster initiatives in mind. Departments and Deans will continue to review all remaining programs (including those continued from phase one) to identify efficiencies, consolidation opportunities, and/or curricular revisions, keeping in mind the implementation of Strategic Clusters and Open labs. All programs will continue to be considered for enhancement, continuation, consolidation, or discontinuation during the second level review.

URSA is not over. Our hard work and analysis from the past year will continue to impact and influence decisions that are made—programmatically, curricularly, and structurally—over the next five years as we develop the Strategic Clusters, and as we continue to evolve into a stronger institution better positioned for the future.

Faculty Work Plan update

The Faculty Work Plan document for 2016-17 has been updated.  It can be found on this page:


If you prefer a direct link, click here:

You will note changes to the document.  First, you will see reference to how your work will support the vision and implementation of the Strategic Clusters. Second, you will notice that we have excerpted sections from the Faculty Handbook to remind faculty of the expectations of all faculty, and a short overview of expected activities for effective teaching. We encourage faculty to review the related sections of the Faulty Handbook for the full detail.