Academic Affairs Update from the Provost- September 2011

September 1, 2011

To Faculty, Deans, and Staff,
As we welcome the start of the new academic year I want to share some updates. Academic Affairs has spent this summer focused upon the most effective way to organize and support our work in a complex time of transitions, interim appointments, and vacancies.

With this in mind, the Deans and interim Associate Provost Patti Phillips have been working on the Strategic Plan to connect it more closely to the prior work of the Strategic Planning Core Group. I have joined them periodically, and arranged for additional support for the Deans group. Thanks go to this group for their dedication to this effort.

In addition, working with Bill Decatur and members of the Cabinet, we determined that the “operational” elements and the “academic“ components of the plan needed to be better integrated. The Deans, Patti and I are working closely with the Cabinet to connect the parts of the plan that had been developed more separately. The operational elements were initially scheduled for presentation to the Board of Trustees earlier than the whole plan. I asked President Maeda to request that the Board consider reviewing the plain instead in its entirety at its February meeting. President Maeda supports my request and raised it with the Board. We will be working with the Steering Committee to set up a series of information and discussion sessions throughout September and October before the November Faculty Meeting to allow for further input. More specifics will follow soon once the Deans have formulated a plan with the Steering Committee.

Another change will link various budget management processes currently spread throughout the Academic Affairs Office under one Director and align financial oversight much more closely with academic facilities planning. To achieve this, I have revised the position of Director of Planning and Assessment, formerly held by Margot Nishimura, to a Director of Academic Budgets and Facilities Planning. The new Director will work closely with Department Heads and Deans in facilities budgeting and planning, and with project oversight. The position has just been posted, and an appointed search committee will review applications later in the fall.

Formerly managed by the Associate Provost, this shift will allow interim Associate Provost Patti Phillips, to focus much more directly on academic program, which is my top priority this year. In conjunction with this renewed emphasis, I have asked that Continuing Education report to the President’s Office for the year. While Academic Affairs will continue to work closely with Brian Smith, Dean of Continuing Education, we need to devote our full attention to current academic programs, initiatives, and assessment as well as future potential alignments with the strategic plan.

Patti will also oversee the interim NEASC Accreditation Report, and continue to manage and develop research and engagement areas at RISD. I am expanding the charge of the Partnered Research Working Group [or PRWG] to include more forms of research and engagement currently at RISD. Patti will chair this group as the RISD Research Initiative [RRI]. Stacey Riseman, Director of Grants and Contracts will work closely with her.

As Jean Eddy announced last week, Raj Bellani will no longer serve as Associate Provost for Student Affairs. Jean and I are assessing the practices that impact academic standing and determining who will serve on academic committees in Raj’s place. We will also work with the Academic Standing Committee and the Registrar to improve the connection between students and Advisors, Department Heads, and Deans, and ensure decisions related to academic issues remain in the purview of Academic Affairs.

As you may know, the Office of Multicultural Affairs is moving to Carr House. After much consideration, and consultation with Tony Johnson, Katherine Scanga, faculty representatives from the International Studies Committee, and Claudia Ford, we have decided to temporarily move the Office of International Programs to Carr House as well. The longer-term discussion about the location of OIP will be studied and discussed further. But for now the benefit to students and faculty to navigate all these services in one location will be tested as a model.

As part of this discussion, Jean has been working with Tony and the Student Affairs staff to host a campus-wide conversation this fall about the uses of Ewing House and how the Office of Multicultural Affairs and International Programs can most effectively use those spaces to foster a culture of inclusiveness. Jean and I will continue to work together on these efforts.

In addition, six faculty search committees have been formed and will begin their work when faculty members return. I am giving careful consideration to the staging of searches for Deans and other administrative positions. Therefore, I will be meeting with Divisions to decide the best path in each instance. President Maeda will also be presenting his plans to initiate the Provost search.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that Margaret (Peggy) Lewis has been promoted to Assistant Director of Academic Administration. Peggy’s many contributions to RISD will continue in an expanded role working with faculty and assisting in Academic Affairs. I want to thank Sheila D’Ammassa, Peggy Lewis, Alice Geoffrey, and Deanna Casanovas for their dedication throughout these transitions and under the added pressure of two vacant administrative support positions. Based upon their input, I have shifted tasks and moved offices to make a smoother and better-functioning area. Sheila and Peggy will continue to serve in their current roles with full-time and part-time faculty. The vacant position descriptions have been updated, rewritten, and will be advertised soon. In the meantime we are looking at temporary assistance to help us as the year begins.

As you can see much work has taken place over the summer to design the most effective way to organize and support our work in a complex time of transitions, interim appointments, and vacancies. We will continue this work as we focus on the Strategic Plan, as well ensuring that the personnel and functions are in place to support academic excellence at RISD. I look forward to seeing all of you when you return, and hope that you enjoy these last days of summer.

With best wishes,

Rosanne Somerson

Academic Affairs, Updates from the Provost