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The Weekly Blab 1.1

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 1, Number 1—August 17, 2006

Dear Colleagues,

I’ve noticed (and many of you have told me) that communication at SPSU is not all that it should be, and that in some cases “decisions” seem to be being announced without people having known that they were even being talked about.  

In the interests of better and more direct communication, I’m going to commit to sending out a weekly newsletter to everyone in Academic Affairs, where I’ll try to give some “heads-up” about what we’re thinking about, talking about, and looking at; as well as when we make various decisions.  Often, these things will be in very preliminary form.  They may never show up in a more final form at all, because they were rejected at some stage in the development process.  But—it will give everyone a chance to know what’s being looked at, and a chance to comment.

To be very clear right up front:  your input is invited on all items.  In most cases, we’ll have a normal, formal, procedure by which faculty and staff will be invited to join in the discussion, shape the agenda, and be part of the decision making process.  In all cases, however, I’d like to offer the opportunity to discuss things in a more informal way.  You can do this by calling or emailing me.  If there are any really interesting comments, I may even include them in a future edition of this Weekly Blab, so beware!

 

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ITEM:  To start things off, I’d like to recap a few items that I hear have turned up at some of the School’s kickoff meetings.

 

Mid Term Grades:  Way back last March, the Deans Council discussed the issue of adding mid-term grades to the way we let our students know how they are doing (this was reported as part of Item 2 in the March 1 Deans Council Minutes, for those of you who read them).  To quote:

The Council discussed implementing mid-term grades as an additional way of letting student know how well they are doing.  After a brief discussion it was decided that the use of mid-term grades would begin Fall Semester, 2006, and would be officially entered in banner as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. 

Apparently, a lot of folks didn’t see this, and were concerned that letter grades would have to be given at that time.  Nope—only satisfactory or unsatisfactory will be called for, so this shouldn’t be too difficult or take up too much time.  And—my memory says we also meant undergraduate courses only.  Any issues with this?  Let me know.

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ITEM:  What is this GoalQuest Thing?  At the end of June, the Student Life area bought a piece of software called GoalQuest.  They have a number of modules, some related to increasing admission, and some that do other things.  The module we bought is used to improve student retention.  GoalQuest is being used at lots of places, including by the University of West Georgia.  It is basically a platform that the University controls to communicate with our students.

GoalQuest has a number of features, among which are sending information about how to study effectively, how to get along with your roommate, how to balance work and school—the usual advising/retention stuff.  Some of it is pretty universal (such as the article on making the transition from high school to college), and some will be written specifically for us.  It has a face book feature (so that students can form an electronic community), a blog feature (where we will have some students/staff writing blogs about life at SPSU), information about what’s going on around Marietta and Atlanta, and other stuff like that.

 

Anyway, it occurred to me that since it is a communication platform used to tell students stuff that will help them be retained at the University, why not use it to provide them with basic advisement materials?  I have asked the GoalQuest people if they could design (as part of this package) a tab, tentatively called “My Personal Guide to SPSU”.  Students would fill in a profile (i.e., I’m a sophomore MET major from Savannah, and like soccer), and based on what they checked off, various material would show up on this Personal Guide page.  In this example, they would get a page from their advisor (which we’d know from a database), and a page on the MET department, a page on what a sophomore would normally take (and have already taken).  The MET department would be able to send messages to all MET students using GoalQuest (if they want to) and could set when these messages turn on and turn off (i.e., the student can’t delete them).  Similarly, an advisor could send messages to all their advisees.  Assuming that GoalQuest can program this (and I haven’t heard back yet, but it should be soon), I’ll let everyone know, and we will schedule a meeting to talk about what we might want to include, what questions we might want to ask on the profile, etc. 

 

At least in my mind, the most a faculty member would have to do is to generate a page talking to their advisees (how to reach me, my philosophy of advising…).  Each department would need to generate a page about the department, and one page of advisement information for each year of the program (a freshman page, a sophomore page…).  Templates would be provided, or you could design your own.  This could take some of the baseline advising burden off of faculty advisors, and allow them to focus on students’ hopes and dreams.

 

Finally, some people have noticed that GoalQuest supposedly has a Portfolio module.  They told us that this would be available, but it isn’t at their end until December.  I have no idea what it will look like, or if it will be of any interest to us—stay tuned.

 

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ITEM:  Kick-off week was great, from where I sit.  I thought the speakers did a fine job, and had many important things to say.  For those of you who missed the sessions, we have captured them on video.  The lighting isn’t great, but you should be able to hear and see what went on.  To see the videos, go to http://fac-web.spsu.edu/kickoff/.  Thanks to the good folks in the Division of Information Technology for doing this. 


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ITEM:  New Faculty “Quick Start” Orientation Guide.  We’ve developed a New Faculty Orientation Guide for our new faculty (duh!), giving them the basics of how to get started (getting keys, when is the cafeteria open…), how to access basic services, the academic structure, faculty expectations, and some tips on getting started in the classroom and as an advisor.  Some people have told me that some “old” faculty might like to have a copy too, so I’ve posted this on the web, and you can find it at http://fac-web.spsu.edu/aa/index.html.  If you see any mistakes, disagree with anything, or think that something needs to be added, let me know.  New faculty also got a goodie bag, with all sorts of cool things in it, thanks to Dawn.  See—it’s not only folks in Hollywood that get the freebies.

 

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ITEM:  New Programs.  As you know, we have recently gotten approval for the new major in Construction Engineering, and a proposal for Mechatronics Engineering is downtown being reviewed now.  As soon as that is taken care of, I’ll be sending down letters of intent for Chemistry and Psychology (approved by the Senate last spring).  The CSE school has given me a letter of intent for a potential non-traditional Doctor of Professional Studies in Information Technology, that we’ll be looking a in the Dean’s Council next.  Assuming all is well, we’ll then send it on to the Senate. 

 

Various departments are also looking at a BAS proposal, which would add some concentrations to our existing BAS degree authority in the areas of Residential Construction Management, Information Technology, Management, Technical Communication, and Laboratory Management.  So, if you’re in a relevant department, you either have or should be talking about these soon.  When all the departments are done, the overall proposal will go to the Senate.  I know there was a big brouhaha when the BAS was first forced down the proverbial faculty throat.  If someone wants to provide me with some background on this issue, and what current concerns might be, I’d appreciate it.

 

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ITEM:  Master Planning.  You may not know that we’re embarking on a new facilities master plan.  Joel Fowler, Becky Rutherfoord and the deans are all members of the working group, who will be meeting periodically.  I’ll try to make sure information about what goes on at those meetings gets out in a timely fashion.  If any of you have any big issues you want to get on the table, tell one of them or me.

 

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ITEM:  Faculty Evaluation.  The chairs, deans and I had a good workshop on “Best Practices in Faculty Evaluation on Wednesday.  Alan Gabrielli facilitated it (helped by Mike Murphy), and Joel Fowler and Bernice Nuhfer-Halten were there as well.  The main points were how to make expectations clearer, and how to evaluate more consistently.  Your chairs (or Bernice!) can provide you with more details of the discussion.

 

OK—I’ve hit my 3 page limit.  Let me know your thoughts, and if this newsletter is useful.  Also, let me know if there’s any topic you’d like me to address, and I’ll try to do it.

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