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The Weekly Blab 2.2

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 2, Number 2—September 24, 2007


Dear Colleagues,


Here we go with the second issue of the Weekly Blab for 2007-8, so in reality, it’s more like the Monthly Blab.  As a constant reminder, your comments are always invited.  Remember, preliminary items may disappear without a trace upon further consideration!



ITEM:  Stuff You Probably Already Know


The B.S. in Psychology degree proposal is now on the Board of Regents Agenda for October, 2007.  For those who have forgotten, the program has two tracks—one in general psychology and one in engineering psychology.  Assuming it is approved, plans are to hire an additional psychology faculty member this year (to start next August), and to begin offering the new major in Fall 2008.  Thanks to LaJuana Cochrane, Julie Newell and Alan Gabrielli for the good work they did on this one.


SPSU submitted a proposal to the University System applying for additional funds from the Presidential STEM Initiative.  The goal of the Initiative is to increase enrollments and numbers of graduates in STEM areas, especially the number of graduates in teacher education programs.  A required part of these proposals was to lay out a plan for improving the success rates to 75% (by 2013) in our critical gateway courses of BIO 2107/2108, CHEM 1211/1212, MATH 1111/1113, and the two intro physics sequences.  Our proposal focused on SPSU’s ongoing growth in engineering, engineering technology and science areas, plans to encourage more of our students to consider careers in teaching, the possible development of a teacher education program, and encouragement of more contacts between SPSU and K-12 schools.  If we’re funded, money will be available to hire more faculty in STEM areas, for mini-grants to promote more K-12 contact, and for outreach projects.  Stay tuned for the results—a limited amount of funding was available and I’m sure every university in the system applied.  Thanks to Andrew McMorran, Phil Patterson, Alan Gabrielli, Tom Currin and many others for their work on this proposal.


Everyone should know at this point that the Board of Regents budget recommendation included $38 million in 2008-2009 for construction of a new Engineering Technology Center and for the completion of the Building I renovation.  What you may not have heard is that we also were recommended for an additional $2 million in the 2013-2014 budget for design funds for our next building priority, which has three components: new construction for Building A8 on our Facilities Master Plan, renovating Building H as a Science Building, and renovating and expanding Building E as a Science Lab Building.  Yes, this design funding does imply construction funding in 2014-2015.  All of this is, of course, contingent upon approval by the legislature and governor.  The $2 million for SPSU in FY14 is part of the six-year capital outlay plan that will be presented to the Board of Regents at their October Board meeting.  The actual funding will not recommended by the Board until the FY14 budget goes to the Governor (in summer 2012). 


ITEM:  Academic Planning

At the first Academic Planning Steering Committee and Academic Planning Task Force meetings this year, consensus was reached as to what our four major goals should be for the year:

  1. Moving toward even greater quality of instruction, including a focus on assessment and professional development
  2. Further progress toward becoming a more comprehensive university
  3. Developing strategies for securing outside funding to support our academic programs
  4. Meeting student and community needs (Specific needs that were identified included regional partnerships; industry; underrepresented student groups; STEM initiatives; and alternative energy)


We are now identifying sub-goals for each of the four major goals.  Strategies for achieving the goals will come next, with the first draft of an Academic Plan being written at the end of the semester.


Further discussion of Goal 1 (Quality of Instruction) included the following points: 

  • We need to examine what we’re teaching, looking at both its rigor and whether it is actually achieving our desired outcomes. 
  • We need to support exploration and innovation, especially in STEM areas.
  • Instruction at SPSU should be wrapped around applied learning (including active learning, service learning, experiential learning and study abroad). 
  • There needs to be meaningful support for faculty scholarship.


More on these topics as the task force and steering committee continue meeting.  Remember—all task force meetings are open to everyone (as are all meetings in Academic Affairs, for that matter).



ITEM:  SACS—Lot’s To Do Here…


We’re asking for a lot of stuff for SACS these days.  It includes:

  • A copy of your vita, sent to Debbie (dpatrick@spsu.edu) in the AA office.  If you have it in a pdf, that would be best, otherwise, MS Word would be fine.
  • An “explanation” of why you’re qualified to teach what you’re teaching, which should go to your department chair.
  • Your course goals from course goals from last term and the summer too, and measured how well you met them.  If you want to see an example of such a measurement in a course, click here.  You don’t have to do it the same way I did, but this is a relatively low impact way of doing it.
  • Whatever you’re working on for whatever SACS committee you may be on.
  • Helping your department chair work on the departmental outcomes goals, and how they are correlated to your course goals.  There should be some software to help you with this soon—stay tuned.
  • No doubt other stuff I’m not thinking of right now.


Anyway, some folks have asked, “How come we’re in the same place we were last time we went up for SACS reaffirmation?” and “Shouldn’t we have had processes in place so that a lot of this could have been collected earlier?”  The simple answer is “Yes, we should have had all this in place.”


Unfortunately, we didn’t—for reasons having to do with turnover in administrative positions, people leaving without being replaced due to budget cuts, and plain old inertia.  We’re trying to change this now for the future, by having databases and software created that we’ll only have to keep updated, and to tie some of our normal processes to these databases (such as our annual activity reports).  As the term goes on, you’ll hear about more of these things, including a Strategic Planning On Line program that we’ll start using to integrate planning, budgeting, and accreditation.


So, hopefully, this will be the time we get it right, both for now and for the future.


ITEM:  Lots of Grants Going On

Several faculty have recently received grants.  Tony Sideris (Sandra Vasa-Sideris’ husband) will be working with Sandra Vasa-Sideris and Tom Currin on a $197,378 grant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop four courses in the area of nuclear engineering technology.  The plan is to have these courses constitute a certificate, and to expand the certificate into a B.S. in Alternative Energy, of which Nuclear Engineering Technology will be a track.


Also just in, an N.S.F. grant for $113,400 to Andy Wang, Chih Chen Hung, and Patrick Bobbie (as well as faculty from Armstrong Atlantic, Georgia Tech, the Research Foundation of CUNY and KSU), entitled “CPATH EAE:  Extending Contextualized Computing in Multiple Institutions Using Threads”.  Congratulations to all concerned.


The new Southern Polytechnic Applied Research Center (SPARC) is there to help any faculty member research and obtain grant funding.  Give Russ Hunt a call, and he’ll be glad to tell you what SPARC can do for you!



ITEM:  This Just In

The University System of Georgia will be contracting with SPSU to provide white belt, yellow belt, and green belt training in Lean Six Sigma. The training will be provided on campus, at six locations around the state, and on-line.  It will be geared exclusively to higher education, and will be rolled out throughout 2007-2008. The training will be paid for at the System level.  The goal is to provide a common methodology to help universities undertake process improvement projects on their campuses.  Congratulations to David Caudill, Russ Hunt, Mary McShane Vaughn, Dawn Ramsey and Denise Stover for their work on this project.


ITEM:  Life in Computer Land

I finally got sick of my old, slow, Mac G4, and replaced it with a Mac Mini.  The new computer is 10 times as fast, and has 4 times the memory for half the price.  And what’s more, the computer (now truly a desktop) is the size of a small cigar box.  For someone who owned a Mac Plus when they first came out, these changes are almost unbelievable.


I also went all the way and picked up my first iPod (before, I had a 20 GB Dell mp3 player).  Again—almost unbelievable—it’s the size of a pack of cigarettes but thinner, and has 160 GB of storage, which is enough for even my huge cd collection.  I’m busy learning how to use it, uploading my discs (including the cover artwork!) and seeing all the cool podcasts that are out there.  Ah, modern life.


ITEM:  What Happened to that Hearse?

The hearse is now gone, replaced by a new car, courtesy of State Farm Insurance.  So what if the new car is identical to the old one, even down to the color?  I thought we admired consistency, and besides, the new one is a 2008!



OK—That’s it for now.  Let me know your thoughts.  Also, let me know if there’s any topic you’d like me to address, and I’ll try to do it.  I’ll try to get a Blab out every week or two.  Let’s see if I succeed!