To President Neil Kerwin, the vice presidents and deans, faculty, staff and students, thank you all for coming here today. It is such an honor for me to stand here as provost to deliver this annual address.
For some months, we have anticipated the beginning of a new strategic plan. Nothing captures the attention of the community in quite the same way. The questions are many. What will this university become? What will make it better? How do I fit into those plans?
We have been making plans for AU since we were chartered by an act of Congress in 1893. As you can tell from the title of my speech I will be talking in part about AU’s previous planning efforts. I’d like to thank our university archivist, Susan McElrath, for her help in finding our historical plans.
For the 19 years after AU was founded, all efforts were devoted to fundraising. There were no faculty, no students, and no buildings In June 1912, The Board of Trustees appointed a committee to develop plans. Six months later, the university had its first strategic plan, entitled "A Working Plan for The American University," which created:
A seven member Board of Award that would select Fellows of the American University based on preparation and scholastic standing, powers of leadership and service, and health. These fellows would actually study elsewhere;
An Institute of Research in Washington;
Fellowships of two kinds for study at either domestic or foreign institutions with stipends of $600 and $800 per year;
Degree candidates present a thesis, which AU would legally own.
The plan was approved by the Board of Trustees on May 14, 1913. A year later, the university was officially dedicated on May 27, 1914, with an address by President Woodrow Wilson. Our first eight fellows studied at Harvard, Columbia, and Hopkins.
Nineteen-nineteen was a busy year, with the Board of Trustees acquiring property downtown for graduate study. AU was finally open for business the following year with Schools of Diplomacy, Jurisprudence and Citizenship. The next major planning at AU appears to have been in 1923 when the Board of Trustees adopted the following points:
The existing graduate schools should be the first interest of the university: Arts, Science, Religion, Citizenship, Diplomacy, Jurisprudence, Government and Business Administration;
The College of Liberal Arts would be established on the Campus in the still unfinished building;
Colleges of Religion and Missions, and a School of Social Work or Philanthropy should be established;
$10 million should be provided to endow these schools.
Neither the College of religion or social work nor the endowment priorities were met. But the College of Liberal Arts was established on the main campus, and it developed its own plan in AY1928-29, the year that its first undergraduate students graduated. The concerns of the college were:
Enrollment, especially retention (our comparator institutions included Colorado and DePauw);
Preparation of students for graduate study, which would demand certain advanced courses in the curriculum;
Expanding political science and economics because of the DC location;
Specialized work in education and psychology.
The plan called for hiring six additional full time faculty, three part time instructors, and one graduate fellow, all for a total of $15,000. We should never again complain about faculty salaries!
According to this plan, the work of caring for the buildings on campus was almost entirely that of students. And while this allowed them to earn money to defray their college expenses, the work was not adequately done. Student janitors were invariably not available when they were most needed. So the plan requested a full time janitor. Other features were:
A 10% salary increase for faculty;
And here is the technology plan: two typewriters for the library and apparatus for the science labs;
Reference books because parts of two sets of encyclopedias had recently disappeared, and there was a desperate need for the Oxford New English Dictionary;
And in the way of facilities, housing for young men.
Strategic plans are products of both good and bad times. In 1932, trustees considered a temporary reorganization of the administration of AU to deal with a budget crisis. The point was to free the chancellor from all other duties so he could spend all his time in Depression-era fundraising. One of the outcomes of the budget shortfall was to reduce salaries across campus by 10%. So much for the 10% increase for faculty four years earlier.
At that time, an editorial in the Eagle told us that "the faculty has pledged its loyalty" and asked students to "accept the challenge …and assure the administration of our full cooperation."
Around the same time, discussions began about moving the graduate school to the main campus in order to consolidate faculty resources, pay down the university’s debt from the sale of the downtown property, and establish a summer school to bring in more revenue. One of the arguments in favor of the shift from downtown was that the main campus had good parking facilities.
In 1938, a three-point program was proposed called, "Reinforcement of Business, Government and Democracy." This strategy was also prompted by the economic conditions of the time and talked about the university’s conviction as one of furthering social improvement. The point was to train students and other adults in sound economic and political theory and their practical application in public administration, business administration, and citizenship. AU’s advantage as a private institution located in Washington, DC would be fully utilized to:
Promote understanding between government, business, and industry;
Train teachers of the social sciences;
Instruct undergraduate as well as graduate students in current social science issues.
A mid to late 1940s fundraising plan called, "AU: Its Role in the Future of America," furthered this notion that AU needed to be on the cutting edge of educating for a higher level of citizenship and to increase the capacity for "individual happiness." In this plan the university saw itself as preeminently fit and strategically positioned for this role, given our Washington location, its graduate school, school of public affairs, in-service training program, the achievements of its social science faculty, and a college of liberal arts. Accordingly, the plan proposed to raise $22 million to carry out this vision.
Jumping to the 1960s, as part of our 1963 self-study for the Middle States reaccreditation, the university developed a ten-year plan that focused on developing upper division education consistent with our tradition, location, and facilities. So if you are doing some quick math, you know that this would be the strategic plan in effect when Neil Kerwin was a freshman at AU. After stating that maintaining a Downtown Center and completing a Creative Arts Center were essential to the university’s objectives, a ten-point plan was laid out. The themes will sound familiar: curriculum reform, improving retention and admissions, focus on the library, faculty development, and reducing the percentage of the operating budget that comes from tuition.
A decade later, AU received a special dispensation from Middle States: rather than completing a decennial self-study, we were able to focus on the university’s priorities and plans for implementing them. This was as bottom up an exercise as could possibly be designed, with multiple committees and a 90 item survey to the community to decide on goals. The importance of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs, and the importance of the social sciences, were among the highest priorities reflected in this exercise.
Now, the several plans that I will mention next are recent enough that many here today will remember them, or may have participated in their design or implementation.
AU85: Building on the Past, Preparing for the Future was approved by the Board of Trustees in October 1980. In the preamble, President Richard Berendzen noted that "the plan is not a radical departure from our past; rather it is an effort to realize our full potential." AU85’s three fundamental themes were Academic Excellence, Institutional Distinction, and A Strong Sense of Community. Highlights of the plan included:
Improving quality and reputation of our academic programs through a new general education program (called "America in an interdependent world"), model programming in experiential education, reviews of graduate programs, and growth in international programs;
Strengthening faculty and reaching AAUP-two salary levels, instituting triennial faculty reviews, encouraging inter-department sharing of faculty, increasing sponsored research, and striving for faculty diversity;
Formulating technology and staff development plans;
Building and renovating facilities to offer new program space and conserving energy (very forward thinking);
Making permanent financial security a goal;
Enhancing student recruitment and fundraising through more effective external communication.
Well, the faculty was not too happy about the proposed deficit budget that the provost submitted to the University Senate for the first year of AU85 implementation. The chair of the Senate finance committee, Professor Harvey Moore, said "it doesn’t make sense," and suggested an increase in student enrollment instead.
Seven years later, the Board of Trustees approved "AU100: Toward 1993 and Beyond" to even further advance the goals of AU85. In this document, President Berendzen stressed academic excellence especially in the area of graduate education and improved facilities. AU100 declared some initiatives that will sound familiar:
Designating several programs as centers of excellence, strengthening the honors program, enhancing resources for graduate programs;
Instituting variable teaching loads with an average of five courses, and faculty development programs;
Setting high goals for student quality, diversity, retention and achievement, building a new home for the Washington College of Law, again mentioning an arts center, improved faculty offices, a more beautiful campus and additional student housing;
Embarking on a new fundraising campaign.
Students, at least, seemed pleased. A headline in the Eagle proclaimed, "AU100 Holds University’s Future: Planning document calls for improvement in all areas."
In February 1991, we began work on AU2000. Because of the interim presidential leadership, the plan was never completed. But the themes bear repeating:
Resolving the tension between teaching and research;
Nurturing the university’s sense of community and promoting connectivity within the university;
Strengthening AU’s presence in Washington; and
Moving towards a global AU.
Then, in 1997, Building a Global University was the first of Benjamin Ladner’s two strategic planning exercises. Six areas were targeted as strategic priorities:
Quality and support of teaching and scholarship;
Academic qualifications and practical experiences of students;
Quality, diversity and inclusiveness of the university community;
Connections among academic fields and a variety of learning approaches;
Level of staff support and efficiency of operations;
Strength of financial resources and quality of facilities.
Based on the number of articles in both the student newspaper and the newsletter of the University Senate, there was a decidedly stronger campus response to the first draft of this plan than any other plan. In dueling editorials, the Eagle editor-in-chief and the editor-to-be disagreed about the plan. Steph Lewis commended it, and Steve Lott claimed that it resembled AU85 and criticized some of its proposed components such as a foreign language requirement. The American Senator devoted two issues to the plan with comments by 13 different faculty members. Generally speaking, the vision was applauded but there was concern about implementation.
Finally, less than five years later, in fall 2001, Building a Global University gave way to the 15-point plan. There, the message was clear: smaller is better (except in fundraising), fewer undergraduate students, fewer graduate programs, fewer adjuncts, fewer courses taught by full time faculty, a smaller faculty senate, and finally, fewer pounds when we get on the scale. But as The Eagle asked in publishing the Student Confederation response: How will we pay for this?
If plans purport to summarize, predict, or proclaim the core values, identity, or soul of an institution, then some messages have been clear from the very beginning of our university. We could also argue that consistent themes and messages serve to confirm the genuineness of these messages. It is remarkable that American University’s concerns have been relatively consistent through its more than a century existence.
Graduate and professional study has dominated our thinking and our identity, as has the relationship with the city, the location in the nation’s capital, and the advantages and linkages that such a position offers. The concept of a global university, with myriad variations on the meaning of the phrase, first appears in the 1912 plan, and reappears in AU85 and all subsequent discussions. The disciplines of law and the social sciences were mentioned repeatedly as well as the College of Liberal Arts. Technology, not surprisingly, has owned its own place in the recent plans but was mentioned as early as 1927. And, could we imagine an AU strategic plan that never mentioned fund-raising? It’s always been there.
But education is also a dynamic phenomenon and issues particularly reflecting the times also began to emerge over this century of planning: concerns like faculty and staff development, external reputation, community, and diversity.
And now to our current planning initiative. Almost as soon as he was named permanent president last July, Neil Kerwin began organizing a strategic planning process. Two tasks began simultaneously. I asked Karen Froslid-Jones, the head of Institutional Research and Assessment, to begin assembling exemplar strategic plans from other institutions. And second, the president began to develop the scope of the plan which he presented to the Board of Trustees in February of this year. Last September, each of the vice presidents began considering ideas for the planning process with their staffs, and the Faculty Senate convened a working group headed by Professor Leigh Riddick to develop topics important to faculty. The deans also began to engage their units in these conversations. President Kerwin named a Strategic Planning Steering Committee, chaired by Professor Bill DeLone, which had its inaugural meeting in mid-February and has been working since to obtain input from the entire community.
Having surveyed AU’s planning history, I’d like to communicate my own sense of core elements that must be incorporated in our emerging strategic plan. Our "sense of place" is, of course, fundamental to the institution. When the 1912 plan established an Institute of Research in Washington, it did so "to make available for the advancement of knowledge the unparalleled facilities of Washington to graduate students, so that students would utilize the facilities and materials for study and research in the various historical, literary, scientific, artistic and technological departments and collections of the US Government." That plan also recognized the importance of international connections: not only by reference to the use of Washington’s resources as the seat of government which includes foreign relations, but also by providing incentives for study abroad. No matter whom the president or provost, faculty or students, our identity cannot be severed from Washington or from our global connections. These linkages will always form the basis of any strategic plan but they must flow from our history, our relationships and our distinctive strengths.
Another irrefutable characteristic of our institution is its tuition dependency. That our operating budget derives almost 95% from student tuition and fees will not change significantly anytime soon. I’d like to give you an illustration about why this is the case: our operating budget is about $400 million. A 1% change in the operating budget is $4million. To reduce our tuition dependency by, say, 10 percentage points, to 85% would require that $40 million be added to the operating budget from our endowment. If we were to take 5% of our endowment for that purpose, we would need an additional $800 million in endowment, or triple what it is now. How likely is that to happen? So, the point of this analysis is that working towards enrollment stability must be a key feature of this plan.
How do we do this? In part, by ensuring that we provide a distinctive and student centered education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. That we are well along on this path is not in doubt. We know from the National Survey of Student Engagement and other survey results that our academic programs feature strong faculty and student interaction, certainly one aspect of student centeredness. Now with shifts in faculty workload and the addition of a select number of multiyear temporary faculty who present outstanding teaching credentials, we can continue to provide the finest teaching among our competitor set of universities. But there is more to student centeredness than academic work, and we need to ensure that AU’s culture is infused with a student centered mindset. Every faculty member, staff member and administrator must further adopt this approach as we collectively coordinate our administrative operations to provide exceptional service to our students.
So in such a student-centered, globally-oriented institution, with a Washington location, what are the academically distinctive features that we must strategically deploy? Three subjects are key as we describe ourselves. And they are interrelated: First, balance between theory and practice; Second, multidisciplinary work; Third, service orientation.
For the past 15 years, I have closely followed the scholarly, professional and creative activities of the faculty. The breadth of these activities is consistent with that of any great university. But what is most striking is that the range of work reflects a balance between theory and practice. Given our outstanding professional schools, such balance is not surprising, but within almost every department in every school and college, we see this pattern repeated. This blend is also a hallmark of our teaching and a feature that brings distinctiveness to our academic programs. We see this through our highly regarded and formalized experiential education programs and the rich array of activities that take place outside the classroom: in faculty offices, laboratories, on field trips and travel abroad. So we must highlight, support, encourage, and expand this balance in our teaching and in our scholarly, creative and professional activities. We must be deliberate about it and embrace it.
Closely related is the multidisciplinary dimension to our work. The most obvious example on our campus is the School of International Service, itself such an entity with political scientists, economists, geographers, sociologists, modelers, communications specialists and lawyers among its faculty. We have already taken the first step to foster multidisciplinary work: assembling faculty and administrators who are committed to it. We have much to showcase in that regard, with 10 new multidisciplinary degree programs put into place just in the past two years, but we must further communicate and support this as a priority. I have often spoken with faculty who are concerned that their academic unit will be penalized for participating in multidisciplinary programs. Nothing could be further from the truth! When we increase the university’s revenue streams from multidisciplinary work, whether it be new masters certificates and programs, new external funding such as our upcoming title VI funding initiative or other sources identified by our regional and interdisciplinary councils and centers, there are more resources to distribute. It is a positive sum game, not a zero sum game.
From the historical documents that reflected the discussion about the early direction of the university, another thing comes through: the emphasis on service. In 1923, the Board of Trustees voted to establish not only the graduate school and the College of Liberal Arts but also a College of Religion and Missions and talked about a School of Social Work or Philanthropy in the future. Those last few may not have been realized but the point is clear: the founders placed a high priority on a service orientation for the university. And we see that same priority reflected wherever we turn: From our maxim, "ideas into action, action into service," to the Freshman Service Experience, to the high percentage of our graduates who work in the non profit sector, to the alternative spring break and other student projects, to our success in the Presidential Management Fellowship program, to the clinics in the law school, to our work with the DC Public Schools, to our many faculty members who serve on editorial boards and selection committees, advisory committees and government panels, this is at its core an institution committed to the betterment of human experience. We may not be producing missionaries from a college of religion, but we are certainly educating their 21st century equivalent.
So here is how I would summarize our formula: An outstanding faculty rooted in Washington, DC, a center of activity in every discipline we teach, where AU fosters both theory and practice that encourages service through valued multidisciplinary inquiry in a student-centered environment. This must be the basis upon which we enhance academic excellence and our external reputation, and advance towards enrollment stability. We have been steadily moving in this direction since 1912, for almost 95 years. With our newest strategic plan, we need to seal the deal.
How can we do this? We must start with some changes in culture and attitude. First, we need to break away from any sense of inferiority, where these vestiges still remain. It is time for everyone to celebrate our academic excellence unapologetically. What are some markers that point to our progress in promoting the university’s image? The Board of Trustees has established a new committee on communications and marketing. The president is appointing a new executive director of communications and marketing. Our new website to be unveiled this fall will boost our reputation. Our image will no longer lag.
Second, let me state the refrain that I sometimes hear, "there’s no money." I hope this will dissipate as we continue to implement teaching load reductions, increase money flowing from the endowment to the operating budget, and watch the new buildings go up on campus. Are we awash in resources? No. Are there opportunities to support great work by the faculty and funds to attract great students? Yes, both from internal and external sources.
Third, we have begun to eliminate administrative barriers through improved operational efficiencies, especially student-centered services. For example, we anticipate moving towards a one-stop-shop for students, and this spring we are rolling out more online applications such as the new course waitlist feature, the online freshman guide, and other automated processes to assist advising. As part of the planning process, we also need to consider new budgetary scenarios that provide even more incentives for new program development and other faculty initiatives. Some faculty concerns about bureaucracy were raised with me last week. So let me propose a town hall meeting early next semester called "The Paperwork Reduction Forum." (Just to be clear, that’s "forum" with a "u"; not "Paperwork Reduction Form.")
Fourth, we need to open communication even further. Governance changes at the board level give new voice to faculty and student members. I hope many of you here today believe as I do that we have a successful working model of shared governance. A 2005 document issued by the University of Arizona talked about "the success and the positive morale being dependent upon the collective intelligence of the university community which would require extensive sharing of information and an understanding that faculty and administrators strive for informed mutual support through shared governance dialogue." There are two key phrases for me here: "sharing of information" and "shared governance dialogue." That is how we ensure trust and accountability. Such sharing is well underway. Our last two-year budget cycle work involved the distribution of more detailed information than at any time in the past, and I have shared much data with the Faculty Senate and others on enrollments, faculty workload, faculty hiring and distribution, financial dimensions and more. And the recently revived Executive Committee of the Senate will advance such interaction even further. Going forward, it is critical that we build upon renewed trust and dialogue and promote a culture, as well as practices, of more regular communication between the faculty and the central administration. This can take many different forms including luncheons with department chairs, routine school-wide meetings with the provost and other administrators, and perhaps even office hours for the provost. I would also propose as a faculty development initiative that we create a faculty leadership institute.
And so against this scenario of cultural and attitudinal change, as a start I suggest that these overarching themes, along with others recommended by the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, form the basis of our plan. With them, we can develop significant initiatives specific to expanding graduate education, supporting faculty teaching, research and creative work, and service, and developing programs that both tie us more closely to Washington through partnerships with prominent businesses and organizations, and bring AU to the world and the world to AU.
What began in 1893 has led to our distinctive place in 2008, which is the cumulative result of the successes and the failures of all the plans that came before this one. This position will be the basis for charting our course ahead. Symbolically, the history of our planning is represented in the buildings on our campus. Our future can be glimpsed through new and planned facilities that are inspiring to behold. But as scholars and teachers we know that our lasting imprint as a university transcends the concrete forms erected on this hilltop, known as Bellevue to Bishop Hurst. The powerful effect of our work comes from a fundamental principle that was seen at AU’s founding and has been a common theme throughout our history. At the dedication of American University in 1914, Woodrow Wilson described this in the terms of his day. He said: "So we are here setting up on this hill, as upon a high pedestal once more, the compass of human life with its great needle pointing steadily at the lodestar of the human spirit. Let men [and women] who wish to know, come and look upon this compass and thereafter determine which way they will go!" What President Wilson anticipated, we have come to know as the life-changing power of an AU education.
As we set our strategic compass, I hope we will keep as our guiding star a fundamental theme that reflects the purpose and mission of our collective work over the past century. And that is, put simply in 21st Century parlance: To educate with impact.
Thank you all for being here today. I want to especially thank Jack Cassell, a member of AU's Board of Trustees. This is the second year in a row that Jack has made it to my speech, an important signal to us all about the new relationship between the Board and our campus community. But every one of you here is precious and important to me and I so much appreciate your coming to this beautiful recital hall to listen to my address.
I consider it an honor to stand here and speak to you all as your Provost. Much of what I will talk about today centers around two themes – the individuals who make our university great and the successes we have enjoyed as a community. But that, gathered up under a playful title, suddenly takes on a somber note. I cannot begin this talk today without first reflecting on the agonizing heartbreak we witnessed as we saw unspeakable tragedy unfold at Virginia tech. As I reflect on the individuals here who make AU happen, I have to remember that 32 victims: students, staff, and yes, faculty, perished last week at Virginia Tech. If I boast of our values and beliefs and work and accomplishments, I have to also note how fragile these now seem.
It is also tempting to say that thank goodness that you, this faculty, were here on this campus on April 16, and not at Virginia Tech. It is simply too painful for me to think about “what if” it had happened here. But let us also remember the great acts of heroism and compassion at Virginia Tech that day. They were the outcomes of lessons not only learned but lived, even at the threshold of death. Nevertheless, all of us were wounded in that massacre, all of us bled, and all of us know the all too familiar sense of grief. So, Eagle or Hokie, it doesn’t matter.
I invite you to observe a moment of silence in memory of our colleagues…
Now, as to the title of my speech, “So, What's a Provost Anyway?” I certainly didn’t know the answer 32 years ago when I came here as an assistant professor straight out of graduate school. Nor did I know who the provost was. Then my dean, Richard Berendzen, became provost at the end of my first year, so I could at least put a face to the title.
Many times, when I am introduced to someone new, maybe a parent or a donor, someone will ask, what does a provost do? Even academic professionals may not be clear about it. When I met with the Office of Enrollment staff earlier this year, someone raised her hand and tentatively asked, “what exactly does a provost do?”
Our former provost, Milton Greenberg, once quipped that it was the faculty’s job to think, and the president’s job to make speeches, and it was his job to make sure that the president didn’t think and that the faculty didn’t make speeches. I love Milt’s answer. But today, since I have to make a speech, I think a bit more substance might be appropriate.
What does Webster call a provost? [SUPER] A superintendent, [MAGISTRATE] a chief magistrate of a Scottish Burgh, [JAILER] a Jailer, [FACULTY] the head of a faculty, [PRIEST] or a high executive official in a church or a college.
And, what do the university bylaws say?
The Provost is the Chief Academic Officer of the University, second in responsibility only to the President as well as a member of the University faculty and of each department, school, and college, and an ex officio member of each academic committee of the University.
On top of that, the President may designate other powers and duties from time to time with the concurrence of the Board. And usually, the Provost exercises the powers and duties of the President in case of a vacancy, absence, or incapacitation. But a more specific illustration would be the example of a real week from my own calendar put up for you to see…a sort of a day in the life. Any specific week’s calendar is going to omit many things that reflect my activities, especially the presentations and welcomes, travel for development and recruiting and even meeting with our consulting veterinarian about the animal labs in the psychology department. Anyone I don’t mention today is certainly not a deliberate omission, but the result of picking one week at random. So, with that in mind, I’m going to share a glimpse of the typical daily life of an AU provost.
We’ll be looking at January 29 through February 2, 2007. January was a very busy month for me. I made several fundraising trips and also traveled to India, a topic that I will mention later. So, back in Washington, first thing Monday morning, I had my monthly meeting with Kay Mussell, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
I meet each dean and each administrator who reports directly to me for at least an hour each month. They bring me up to date on important issues, significant accomplishments, and activities in their units.
Here are some of the topics that Kay and I discussed in January:
The Librarian Search. Kay chairs this committee and by late January, there was a strong pool of candidates recommended for the offsite interviews. Just yesterday, the final campus interviews were completed. So, there should be an announcement soon about who the new University Librarian will be.
We also discussed the upcoming accreditation visit by The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education also known as NCATE. We reviewed the schedule for the visit, which occurs once every seven years. By now you should know that the accreditation team highly praised Sarah Irvine Belson and the entire School of Education, Teaching, and Health faculty. We learned in the exit interview that the preliminary recommendation would be that our program passed all seven standards.
I met next with Sara Dumont. Sara is the Director of AU Abroad, and has been reporting to the provost since the beginning of this Academic Year. AU Abroad has been in constant evolution from its considerably smaller beginnings as the old World Capitals Program with 15 study sites, and then as a growing office overseeing more than 100 sites in 2007. The transition from the Office of International Affairs has been smooth and very positive. This year Sara created two new committees. A Faculty Advisory Committee makes recommendations on priorities for new AU Abroad program development, and evaluates existing programs, policies, and procedures. And a new Curriculum Integration Committee works to develop ways to integrate study abroad experiences with students’ on campus curricula as well as new advising tools to facilitate it.
By the way, do you know where the Provost’s Office is? We’re in the lower and first floors of Leonard Hall and we have a really terrific staff there.
Once a month, we all get together for a potluck breakfast or lunch, celebrate the month’s birthdays, relax around the good food that everyone brings, and laugh a lot.
After our office lunch, I was back to my schedule for a meeting with Lou Goodman, Dean of the School of International Service and the most senior academic dean at the university. The new SIS building demands much of our attention. In case you have been seeing less of Lou on campus recently, it is because he has been crossing the country and the globe to raise money for that new building. Despite this hectic schedule, Lou manages to be actively involved in all the aspects of running SIS. So another important area of discussion at our meeting, which always seems to include the topics of budget and need for additional resources, was curriculum. SIS and SOC have developed a joint master’s degree in international communication this year. And let me comment here about an important cultural shift at the university.
In times past, I think many, if not most people would have characterized the relationship among the schools and colleges as competitive. Let me declare that this is the old AU, not the new AU. Today, the schools and colleges emphasize collaboration with each other. Collaboration like deans attending other schools’ and colleges’ undergraduate admissions events and, in particular, the development of joint programs. This is reflected in Kogod Dean Dick Durand’s motto, “Business and.” Just in the past two years, we have developed 10 new programs, minors and certificates. Five of them are interdisciplinary programs involving more than one school or college. One that I am particularly proud of is a new certificate in non profit management that is a cooperative effort of all five main campus academic units. And here I would like to thank SPA Dean Bill LeoGrande for taking on the coordinating role.
At the end of this meeting, Lou and I walked up the hill to the President’s Office Building to meet with our Interim President Neil Kerwin, Don Myers, Vice President of Finance and Treasurer, and Bob Pastor, Vice President of International Affairs. The topic was what we have been calling the “India project.” I mentioned that I had gone to India in January, Mumbai specifically, with three of my colleagues. You probably know that there is a rush right now for US higher education institutions to establish a foothold in India.
The Akruti Foundation, which is interested in developing an American style university near Mumbai, financed our trip. Based on what we learned from our meetings with members of the Akruti board, and educational and financial industry representatives, we concluded that this project could have a very positive impact on higher education in India and that if we were involved, our own faculty and students would significantly benefit in many ways. Following a long discussion about India at the AU Board of Trustees meeting in February, we are still waiting to sort out financial issues to see if we can complete a mutually satisfactory arrangement with the Foundation.
Now back to my calendar.
Neil Kerwin and I meet weekly for one and a half hours. In January, we debriefed on recent development efforts as well as the enrollment picture for fall 2007, now that we were close to knowing the final number of freshman applications. Preparations for the Board of Trustees meeting, upcoming in a few more weeks, was also on our agenda.
Tuesday morning was filled with meetings of the Cabinet, which means the Vice Presidents and David Taylor, Chief of Staff, and the President’s Council which includes the cabinet and the deans. Cross divisional projects get a lot of attention at these meetings. Here is the agenda for the one in January.
Let me comment on a couple of these items. First, Web and marketing. A constant “complaint” at the university is that our external reputation lags far behind our genuine quality. Despite what we know here on campus about our outstanding students, faculty, staff, and programs, and even despite our many external awards and high rankings, we still somehow are not able to communicate our excellent story as well as we should outside the university. Related to that, we know that our Websites need a dramatic overhaul. So last year at this time, Dean Larry Kirkman of the School of Communication chaired a working group to analyze and make recommendations on our Web presence. This eventually led to our hiring a Web consulting and design firm called HUGE. We were very impressed with their presentation and their portfolio that includes the redesigned websites of huge organizations like Ikea and Jet Blue. The HUGE team is now in its research phase at AU, interviewing inside stakeholders as well as outside users and potential users. This will lead to recommendations for an entirely new Web presence for AU.
We also reviewed plans for the upcoming visit from the Provost and deans of ABTI American University of Nigeria. As you may know, AU has been working with the Vice President of Nigeria to plan this university, which became a reality and admitted its first students only two years ago. In advance of the meetings that would focus on curriculum, ABTI faculty sent syllabi for review by our faculty. It was a very successful visit, with much interaction of the ABTI visitors with our deans, directors, and many faculty, as well as with various offices such as the Career Center and Campus Life. The time together deepened ties and will lead to future visits that will help ABTI with other priorities such as developing its library.
Straight from these meetings, I had lunch with the Retention Working Group.
We all know the outstanding quality of our undergraduates and their dramatic improvement in ability and achievement over the last few years. Generally, student quality is highly correlated with student retention. Although AU’s retention rate, especially first to second year, has been increasing over the years, there is still room for improvement. So in Fall05, I assembled a university-wide retention working group that included faculty, some associate deans and other academic unit staff, campus life representatives, office of financial aid personnel, and an undergraduate student. I convinced School of Public Affairs associate dean Meg Weekes to chair the committee which I charged with five tasks.
In December, they produced a 65 page report, which included a substantial amount of statistical analysis done most ably by Karen Froslid Jones, director of Office of Institutional Research and Assessment and her staff. The group made several summary recommendations, which include expanding AU’s learning communities and other special learning opportunities, and establishing a Retention Resource Center; one urgent conclusion was that we had to communicate a clear message about AU’s academic excellence and commitment to undergraduate students and their education.
So, let me begin to implement that last recommendation by proclaiming that the education of our undergraduate student body is of prime importance at AU. It should be a priority in staffing courses, not an afterthought. It must figure heavily when we evaluate faculty for merit salary increases and tenure and promotion. And by this I don’t simply mean looking at the scores on the SETs. It means taking seriously what the Faculty Manual tells us is important in our teaching -- working with our students inside and outside the classroom, both with formal and informal interactions, creative syllabi, independent research, and the willingness to keep pace with changing knowledge and pedagogy. These are the characteristics of excellence that pay us rich dividends, dividends like our performance on the National Survey of Student Engagement. Those results make me very proud and I brag about them as much as anything about AU when I attend admissions events. Students and their parents are most impressed when I quote the statistics from NSSE that indicate the significantly higher levels of academic rigor, faculty-student interaction and active learning that goes on at AU as compared with our peer doctoral institutions.
I plan to implement more of the retention recommendations soon. Next week we are hosting two visitors from Syracuse University: the Vice President of Student Affairs and the former Provost who together established Syracuse’s very successful retention program. These colleagues will be spending a full day on our campus to discuss how their program works and I hope that many of you will be able to participate in these sessions.
From lunch, I went back to my office for my weekly meetings with two of my most senior staff: Vi Ettle and Haig Mardirosian.
So if the question today is what is a provost, perhaps we might also ask about the role of Vi Ettle, our Associate Provost for Administration and Budget. If you get any resource support from the Provost’s office, either directly or via your dean, you can be sure Vi is involved in the process. This year, Vi led an important working group to look for a provider of English language instruction for conditionally admitted international students. This also led to a collaborative effort between Abroad at AU and the Washington Semester Program for a new certificate called “Academic and Experiential Learning with Intensive Academic English,” which will begin this coming fall. Vi also works with faculty on the summer distance education programs and headed the summer working group that had important input into the two-year budget process. And while mentioning the groups that Vi participates in, it gives me an opening to thank everyone, all faculty and staff, who spend significant hours on university wide task forces and project teams. We have such great talent here and thank you for letting us use you as a resource.
As for the Dean of Academic Affairs, well this is an area I know something about myself. While Haig and I sometimes discuss complex and serious problems, this day’s agenda would focus on two AU successes. At this time of year, we normally review the status of how our tenure line faculty searches are going. We did that and I’d like to take this opportunity to brag about all the fabulous new colleagues that we will welcome to campus in the fall. These 27 new colleagues will include experienced teachers and scholars. For example, Jeffrey Adler with degrees from The University of Chicago and Princeton has taught at the Universities of Akron and Toronto and will join our Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Heather Elms with degrees from UCLA, Columbia, and UC Berkeley will join the Kogod School of Business. Max Friedman, author of multiple books on the political history of Nazis in Latin America during World War II will leave Florida State University to join our Department of History. Despina Kakoudaki, an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard, will join us to teach cinema studies in our Department of Literature. Shubha Pathak, with multiple PhD’s from the University of Chicago and the Johns Hopkins University will join the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Kristin Smith, with a PhD from Harvard, will leave the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute to join SIS. David Snyder, a prolific scholar in both modern contracts and Roman law, will leave Tulane University to join WCL. Congratulations and thank you to the faculty members who served on the search committees that were able to attract new colleagues of this calibre. This surely promises to be one of the most accomplished, and most exciting new faculty cohorts ever at AU.
Haig and I also talked about the University College. We had the results of the second year assessment to review and there was some remarkable news. Retention of these University College students has been well above AU’s average retention rates and even higher than that of the Honors Program. Nearly 94% of last year’s UC students persisted at AU, even choosing to continue to live together in blocks of rooms. And, on various surveys, the second cohort of University College students has doubled its positive rating of the connection of living together to learning together. Over 85% of these students enthusiastically report a positive relationship of their campus living to their academic life.
My provost counterparts in the consortium of universities meet regularly in a couple of different settings. The Board of The Washington Research Library Consortium consists of the senior officers to whom the member librarians report. For the most part, that means provosts. Wednesday morning’s WRLC Board meeting at GW was particularly important. The agenda included the WRLC Budget for FY08 and the status of the WRLC expansion. To put it plainly, the WRLC storage facility is full. Just as we contemplate building a second storage site, each university library will have to consolidate its collections. For us that means that an already bursting at the seams Bender Library will need to find creative ways to juggle materials and study space. This will be the first challenge to face our new University Librarian.
After lunch, I had my weekly meeting with my Special Assistant, Nathan Price. Although I have always sworn I would never use sports metaphors I am going to now. Nathan is my utility infielder He handles all student-related matters that come to the office; leads working groups on academic integrity, curriculum review, new student orientation, and confidentiality of student records. He works on university awards and events and with the Faculty Senate; and manages other special projects including the daily surprises.
This has been a busy year for one of Nathan’s special interests: academic integrity. In that regard, one of Nathan’s pet projects has been Turnitin, an online text-matching and “plagiarism prevention” program. We have been conducting a limited testing of Turnitin.com. This program is controversial and has been in the news a lot this year. A working group is guiding the 17 faculty who are piloting it with 800 students in order to assess the potential benefits of how this site can help students and professors evaluate the use of sources and prevent unintentional plagiarism. Another initiative to promote academic integrity was a major revision of the Academic Integrity Code, a document just ratified by the Faculty Senate at its April meeting.
My last Wednesday meeting was with the dean of the Washington College of Law, Claudio Grossman. At each of these meetings, Claudio brings me up to date on the activities in the law school for that month through a compilation of the meetings, conferences, receptions, new brochures, new grants and contracts, faculty media appearances and publication. This brief usually amounts to 40 single spaced pages. This year, WCL not only celebrated the 25th anniversary of its legal studies program, the first in the US, but it also celebrated the creation of 7 new programs, many of which were the first in the country, including a joint LLM/MBA program.
Now for Thursday. Every other Thursday morning, we have either a deans or Provost’s Council meeting The Provost’s Council includes the deans and all my other direct reports. However, this particular week was an “off week,” which I normally fill in with, what else, other meetings.
Admissions offices in colleges and universities report to many different executives. Over the past 15 years, we’ve changed our minds and our operations here more than once. Although we have decentralized our graduate admissions to the schools and colleges, recruitment of freshman and transfer students is done through a central office that now reports to the provost. Admissions and the office of financial aid and related services work closely under an umbrella called the Office of Enrollment.
By late January, Sharon Alston had stepped into the position of acting Assistant Provost for Enrollment, right in the midst of the busiest time of the year. This was my second meeting with Sharon and we reviewed the status of fall 2007 admissions and assessed the effectiveness of a plan developed by the Noel Levitz consulting firm to improve our admissions processing and yield.
Sharon and I also worked on setting up a schedule of receptions in ten to twelve cities, receptions to be attended by either the president or me. By now, of course, we know that our applications for the freshman class reached record numbers, we lowered our admit rate and just slightly increased the quality of the admit pool. And attendance at our on-campus conversion events this spring has broken all records.
Much of my work over the past months has been connected to developing the university’s two-year budget. I met with Don Myers and Neil Kerwin to work on finalizing the budget that would be presented to the board in two weeks. We discussed alternatives for additional revenue to reduce the budget gap, alternatives like lowering the amount we transfer to the quasi endowment, or spending cash from contingency accounts for certain items, and we left Neil with several recommendations to consider over the weekend.
With some quiet time before my next meeting, I worked on my report for the BOT, which was due to the Board secretary the next week. I normally select three or four important academic issues to write about along with any personnel decisions that the board must approve as well as highlights about faculty and student achievements and awards from each of the academic units. It’s a great way to brag about the accomplishments of the individual members of the AU community and have the board understand the rich curricular programming that is constantly being renewed and refreshed. Among the items in my February board report were Enrollment and Admissions, academic program initiatives including the University College, and a request that the board approve the changes to the Faculty Manual to allow multiyear appointments for temporary faculty members beyond five years, an initiative that the Faculty Senate had recently passed after years of debate.
Diana Vogelsong, the acting university librarian, and I had our monthly meeting next. I agreed to meet Diana in the library and spent some time looking at the physical changes that had taken place in the previous few months, got an electronic presentation from one of the librarians about ARC, the AU Research Commons. We ordered coffee at the Mud Box and then went to the University Archives for what was an unforgettable experience – and no, there is no food or drink in the Archives – we drank our coffee very quickly. There, archivist Susan McElrath and Diana took me into the special vault where our oldest and most valuable books are stored. Susan pulled down two books for me to look at, one was the oldest in the collection: commonly known as De fuga mulierum that was published in Cologne around 1468. The second was even more of a thrill. In my hand, I held the book known as Arithmetica, where the first multiplication table was published in 1488 in Germany.
There was an important event on campus this particular Friday morning, Transfer Preview Day. Although I did not have a formal role to play, I spent a little time walking through MGC, introducing myself and being asked, “so, what’s a provost anyway,” and answering questions. But it was soon back to the meeting schedule with another meeting about India, to prepare for an 8:30 am Monday morning videoconference with members of the Akruti Foundation Board and our team here.
From the India meeting, Don Myers and I went back to my conference room to have our final meeting with the University Budget Committee, which we co-chaired. Last summer when I met with the Instructional Budget and Benefits Committee of the Faculty Senate, they proposed that the disbanded University Budget Committee be reinstated and with Neil’s agreement, it was. I think it is fair to say that we distributed more detailed information about the budget than in any previous year, had more town meetings, and generally sought as much input as possible. The committee worked well together and was able to construct a balanced budget beginning from an initial set of expenditure requests that exceeded revenue projections by about $13 million.
By now you know that the BOT approved this budget which contains some important features from an academic affairs perspective. These include, taking the recommendation of the summer working group and freezing undergraduate summer tuition; funding for debt service for the new SIS and SOC buildings; authorizing 15 new tenure track faculty lines; increases for adjunct salaries, several new staff positions, and funding for retention initiatives as well as for undergraduate student research.
I now had a luxurious three or more hours to catch up on emails and phone calls, to get more information from the deans on my BOT report and to ask my executive assistant Maria Bueno to begin proofreading it.
I left the office at about 6:30, and rushed home so that I could get back to campus at 8pm for a concert here in the Abramson Family Recital Hall celebrating musician-in-residence and violist Osman Kivrak’s 20th year at AU. I am often at AU for an evening event. I had great fun guest coaching the women’s basketball team one night. They won that game, by the way.
So that was the end of a busy week. When looking at the schedule, you may think, “oh, that’s a lot of meetings.” There were few blank spots for reading and responding to e-mails, letters, memos and phone calls. But those never stop. I went back to my e-mails for the week and found more than two dozen significant issues discussed, from asking Dave Brown to respond to a Wall Street Journal article on domestic study abroad, to getting final attendance figures on the Ann Ferren Teaching Conference from John Richardson, to asking Linda Bolden Pitcher to look into putting our catalogue on line, to phoning Karen Froslid-Jones to get an update on the National Research Council doctoral program assessment. Time for thinking? Forget it. During a week like this, my mantra is simply “stay healthy.”
Well, that’s one mantra anyway. But is there a more significant one that can link these many meetings, e-mails and paperwork? The answer must be advancing the institution through its faculty, and attracting strong students through improved programming. Every decision, resource allocation, new faculty hire, recruitment trip, is made with this in mind. And how are we doing this year so far? You’ve heard much in this speech already. And our student academic accomplishments are more impressive than ever. More Presidential Management Fellows than last year, two Trumans, four Killams, three Udalls, several Fulbrights, and the list continues. And we celebrate many faculty recognitions as well, including the equivalent of lifetime achievement awards in their fields for three distinguished colleagues: Peter Jaszi, Pat Aufderheide and Karen O’Connor.
In offering this glimpse of a week in a provost’s life to try and answer the question of what is a provost also reminds me that many other people in our profession do similar work. Certainly, deans and other administrators here share in that effort and in the risks, rewards, long hours, and gratification as well. Across the academic world, there are thousands of administrators who work at the heart of their institutions and tie together those myriad pieces that make up these intellectual communities. And so day-by-day, the sum of all of these meetings over the weeks, months and years reflects the values that distinguish AU and which help shape the unique result that is our institution. Contemplating this one week in my own life and how my work builds on our past, it also leads me to think about others like me. So, I’d like to talk about others who have had pivotal roles here and elsewhere – maybe not provosts, but people who lead the way just the same.
Less than one week after the busy days I just described to you, Harvard University named a new president…Drew Gilpin Faust, the first woman to head Harvard. Now, whenever Harvard names a president, this arouses interest and naming a female president was even more noteworthy. Why? Because Harvard is to most people the measure of excellence. But there are many measures of excellence and so related to this historic appointment is a measure where AU sets that standard, not only as compared to Harvard but as compared to most other universities in the world. So today, let me reflect on AU’s outstanding legacy of women’s leadership and achievement. My friends, in this regard, Harvard has nothing on us!
AU has had many “firsts” that were decades before Harvard even if we don’t have a female president… yet! Here, women are and always have been fully integrated into the intellectual life and leadership of the campus. So I’d like to highlight for you some of the historic firsts for women with a few comparisons of Harvard on the Potomac to AU on the Charles.
Now, chronology is important here. At AU, three of the founding trustees were women: Elizabeth Jane Somers, Ellen Holmes Verner Simpson, and Mary S. Logan.
At Harvard, the first woman elected to the Board of Overseers was 80 years later, in 1970 and to the Harvard Corporation in 1989.
At AU, on February 1, 1896, Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma M. Gillett held the first Woman's Law Class. In April 1898, WCL incorporated in the District of Columbia. It was the first law school in the world founded by women and the first with a female dean as Mussey became the first woman dean of a law school in the United States.
At Harvard, women were not admitted to the law school until 1940.
On March 27, 1918, we awarded our first honorary degree to a woman, a Doctor of Literature to Elizabeth Jane Somers, Founder of Mount Vernon Seminary and one of the AU Founding Trustees.
At Harvard, the first honorary degree was not awarded to a woman until 1955 (Helen Keller).
The first female AU administrative deans were Mary Louise Brown, Dean of Women (for whom Woods-Brown Amphitheatre is named in part) and Dorothy Gondos, Dean of Student Affairs.
At AU, the first woman to chair a department, in fact two departments, was Lois Miles Zucker of the Department of Romance Languages and Classical Languages & Literature, during the first year that UG students matriculated.
At Harvard, Cecelia Payne Gaposchkin was the first female department chair more than 40 years later in Astronomy in 1956.
The first woman to become full professor at AU was Catherine Seckler-Hudson. She was appointed Professor of Political Science and Public Administration in 1939.
At Harvard, the first female full professor was Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, again of the Department of Astronomy in 1956.
The first woman dean of a school or college outside of the law school at AU was Catherine Seckler-Hudson of the School of Government and Public Affairs in 1957. Harvard did not have a female dean until 1982 when Patricia Albjerg Graham became dean of the Graduate School of Education.
In 1973, we appointed the first African American woman vice-president when Lenora Cole became Vice President of Student Life, a position she held for four years.
And the first woman to chair our faculty senate was Mary Gray who served from 1979-1980.
The first woman Dean of Faculties was Nina Roscher from1981-1985.
And, both Nina and Mary were recognized for their outstanding work at the highest levels outside the university. They both won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, Nina in 1998 and Mary in 2001. As far as we can tell, only one institution has had more than two winners (the University of Washington) and only one other has had two winners.
Some other important firsts for women at AU were honoring the first female Scholar/Teacher of the Year, Sukie Webb Hammond of the School of Government and Public Affairs in 1984, only three years after the award was first created, and making the appointment of the first woman interim provost, Ann Ferren from 1993-1995.
And now to the present. Today at AU, 37% of the senior faculty is female. Currently, 13% of senior faculty at Harvard is female.
In our College of Arts and Sciences 56% percent of the junior faculty is female; 54% overall at the university. And Harvard dares be proud of the fact that 1/3 of the junior members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is female.
Maybe it is no surprise that Mary Waters, the acting chair of the Harvard sociology department, said: “It’s been a lonely place for women, very lonely. There aren’t many of us.” I don’t think this is a quote you would hear at AU.
It is fair to say, summing up this “gender gap” between us and that little place in Cambridge, that we are decades ahead of Harvard when it comes to women and leadership. And, as a gentle reminder that although this talk is about the role of the provost, it also bears noting the leadership and participation of all the deans, department chairs, and search committees that together build this faculty. In that respect, there have been a few good men behind these good women as well.
And if there are great accomplishments that have come out of our academic leadership here – reformed programs and cutting edge curricula, increasingly engaged and academically able students, state of the discipline graduate programs, overarching and rich values in learning, successful accreditations, commendations, collaboration, awards, recognition, scholarship, publication, world-class creative endeavor, partnerships and leadership not only on our local campus but on other continents, in other words the work of that one week in January in but one office – then among the greatest of these accomplishments has been our mutual regard, our opening the doors to opportunity for all, our commitment to issues of gender and diversity and dignity and access. These are the qualities that make AU what it is, and what it will become.
Thank you so much for being here today and please join us for the reception in the lobby for just a few of the things I whipped up in the Provost’s kitchen.