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The Weekly Blab 1.15

The Weekly Blab


Vol. 1, Number 15—February 22, 2007


 Dear Colleagues,


 Here we go with the fifteenth issue of the Weekly Blab.  I had hoped I could put this out more or less weekly, but as you can see, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Anyway, remember that some of the items that may appear here may later disappear without a trace upon further consideration, due to their preliminary nature!



ITEM:  Academic Planning

I hope you’ve all been keeping up with the stuff coming forward from academic planning.  The last assignment was to paint a picture (in about 5 sentences) of what your department will look like in 2016, and to paint a picture (in 5 sentences) of what some aspect (the one you think is most important) of SPSU as a whole will look like in 2016.  A good number of folks have weighed in, and their comments can be seen at:

(new link = SPSU 2016)

There’s a lot of good reading here!  It’s not too late for anyone (whether on the academic planning task force or not) to offer a vision on either of these questions.  I’ll be doing an update of the comments list in a few days, so get those visions in.



ITEM:  What’s Up With Everything

There are lots of things going on, so here’s a brief status report.


The new programs are moving forward, step by step.  The system office OK’d the letter of intent for the B.S. in Chemistry, and asked for a full proposal.  Their one proviso was to detail how our program would differ from “those at nearby campuses”, which we can read to mean Kennesaw.  That won’t be a problem, as ours will offer a track in Materials Chemistry, which no other programs do, as well as in “General” Chemistry.  The curriculum went in front of the UCC today, and there were a few questions about the number of credits, why there weren’t more free electives, and thinking that we should focus on only one or two concentrations to make sure enrollments in the upper division courses are sufficient.  The full proposal is almost ready, and will likely go downtown soon after UCC approval.


Similarly, the system office also OK’d the B.S. in Psychology letter of intent, and asked for a full proposal.  There were a number of questions, but nothing we didn’t intend to put in the full proposal (Do we have enough faculty to teach it?  Is there student demand?  That sort of thing.)


The proposal for the Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Systems Engineering has been approved, and is likely to be on the March Board of Regents Agenda. 

The doctorate of professional studies in Information Technology was blocked as not being appropriate for our sector.  We’ll obviously have to do some work to change some minds downtown about this.


The idea of expanding the number of B.A.S. degree concentrations was endorsed by the Faculty Senate last week, and the specific curricula are now before the UCC.  There were a few questions, clarifications and corrections.  A final vote will probably be taken next week.  We’re hearing from a number of DTAE campuses that they’re excited about this, and can’t wait for us to complete our work. 


The Engineering/Engineering Technology discussions continue, and we’re in the process of fleshing out the philosophical differences, as well as attribute differences between what the two areas will look like at SPSU.  The next Weekly Blab will be a “Special Engineering and Engineering Technology Issue”, so stay tuned.


The Master Planning Process is proceeding apace.  You should have all had the chance to see the various scenarios, and to give your opinions by now.  Option A-3 (which sees more growth on the north side of the campus than the other options) seems to be the popular favorite, so future planning is proceeding from there.  There was a meeting yesterday morning with Alan Travis from the system office as well as our cross-team.  All seemed well pleased with how things looked.



ITEM:  Winter RACAA Meeting

The Winter Regent’s Advisory Committee on Academic Affairs meeting was yesterday—a six-hour extravaganza in exciting Macon.  Between the rain and the morning commuter traffic, it took me from 7:30 to 9:45 to get there from East Cobb, listening to Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw along the way.


Probably the biggest item that came up was related to the System Core.  Apparently, there is some sentiment for jettisoning the current “academic area based core” in favor of an “outcomes based core”.  What this would mean is that students would no longer be required to take “two courses in area A and three in area C” everywhere in the system, but rather, would have to meet particular attributes (such as:  “Global Literacy”).  Each campus could meet, in an accountable way, the attribute in its own way in its curriculum, but (and here’s the big but) the results would have to be transferable to the other campuses in the US of G.  There are certainly some other campuses out there that have outcomes based core programs, but they are usually private liberal arts colleges that generally don’t care if their programs will transfer easily to another campus or not.  I’m not aware of any other university system that has done this, and the transferability issue will be a huge challenge.  Stay tuned for more details as they develop.


Another issue that came up was the Regents Test.  There had been some talk about dropping this requirement, but in the end the decision has been to keep it, but to modify it a bit.  Now, after a number of attempts at it and after taking the remediation course a few times, students will be put into a more intensive, more personalized remediation course.  After a few more failures, they’ll be put into an even more personalized remediation.  Believe it or not, the system record for most attempts by someone who eventually passed is 31!  Yes, I was astonished (I’ll leave out the other adjectives here) too.


Other stuff that arose included a report on Nursing programs (big demand, too few professors available—no big surprise there), rules for hiring faculty who have retired and are on TRS (lots of rules and complicated stuff), various changes in various education programs, and a farewell gift for Frank Butler.


As for the ride back, I think I now hold the Macon-SPSU land speed record—75 minutes.  It was smooth sailing from Macon to where I-20 crosses I-75.  From there, the traffic was heavy (as you’d expect at almost 5:30), but it moved nicely.  The only slowdown was at our exit on I-75, where things were backed up for a few minutes.  Ah, Atlanta traffic.  Oh well, Boston was worse.



ITEM:  VP in the Trenches

I don’t know how many people know this, but I’m teaching a class this semester—CHEM 1212K (the lecture part, anyway).  This is the second course I’ve taught at SPSU—I taught CHEM 1211K last spring.  My goal is to teach at least one course per year.  I’ve got about 25 students in the class, and thought I’d type up a few words on the experience so far. 


I’m using WebCT Vista as a course supplement, where I have uploaded my class notes (one chapter at a time as we get to it), as well as quiz and homework solutions, the syllabus, that sort of thing.  Vista being so shaky at the beginning of the term put a crimp in what I was doing, but things seem to be stable now and the students use it without any trouble.  I wasn’t wild about Vista in the beginning, but it’s growing on me, and isn’t very difficult to use at an elementary level.  If anyone’s interested in reading some chemistry notes, I’ll be happy to share!


One of the first things that struck me about the class is how nice our students are.  A number of my students this term are students I had in 1211K.  I don’t know if they waited for me to offer 1212K, or if this just happened to be when they could take it, but it was great to see some familiar faces.  That’s something I’ve really missed in my predominantly administrative role.  Whenever things get a little tough, I find myself thinking: “Why in the world did I give up teaching for this?”  I usually show up about 10 minutes early for class to see if any of the students have any questions or just want to talk.  I usually play a few cuts from a cd in the 10 minutes, and we do a “name that tune” thing.  If it’s jazz or international, the students usually don’t recognize it.  If it’s rock, there’s a more or less even chance, but not if it’s from the 50’s or early 60’s.  A lot of times a student will comment about that they like the music, even if they don’t recognize it. 


The students seem to be at least somewhat interested in the course material, especially when I put in a practical application of the topics we’re discussing.  Occasionally, they’ll want even more information about the subject.  I give homework most nights, and about 75% of the students do it on any given night.  Quizzes are given most Fridays.  Test early, test often, that’s my motto.  I think that students do better when they have to do stuff almost every day, and when they get constant feedback.


Last Monday, I gave the first hour exam.  A week before the exam, I gave out a “practice exam” (which is actually a very long extra homework assignment, but when you call it a practice exam, the students thank you for it!)  I did a help session the previous Thursday afternoon that about half the class was able to make.  I was struck by how thankful they were that I took the time to do the help session.  Like I said—our students are just plain nice.  In case you’re wondering, the grades on the exam ranged from 28 to 100, with an average of 79.1, with all but two students earning passing grades.  So—not a bad start for the term.



ITEM:  Congratulations Time

I can’t say enough good things about the Engineering Week festivities this past Monday.  Dave Caudill, Ann Lay and countless others did a fabulous job pulling it all together.  The speaker, Col. Butler of the Army Corps of Engineers was interesting and topical, talking about the Hurricane Katrina relief effort from an engineering perspective.  Accolades to our student teams, to our ET Student of the Year nominees, and to the Engineering Educator of the Year Award Winner, our own John Mench (Construction Management).  A fabulous time was had by all.



ITEM:  Spring Break is Coming…

…and who has the coolest trip planned?  I’m going to Vegas to see my folks (and also have a little fun).  Anybody doing anything better?



That’s it for this time.  Comments and suggestions always welcomed.