Academic Affairs retools to pursue new goals

May 8th, 2012 | By | Category: 2012, April 26, Campus News, Issue

The Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs is realigning to help UNL achieve the five transformative goals Chancellor Harvey Perlman outlined in the 2011 State of the University address.

“We are working to fit people and structure to priorities,” said Ellen Weissinger, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Four of new goals — increase enrollment to 30,000 students; achieve a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent for undergraduates; add 160 tenure-track positions; and double the number of faculty receiving national recognition for research and creative activity — are directly supported by Academic Affairs. The fifth goal — total research expenditures of $300 million — is supported indirectly by the SVCAA.

Perlman set 2017 as the deadline to achieve these goals.

“Academic Affairs attempts to inspire innovation in all things academic,” said Weissinger. “The changes we have made are specifically intended to support the work of the colleges in advancing quality as we meet the State of the University goals.”

The structural and personnel changes Weissinger has directed include: hiring five new college deans; aligning enrollment-related units under one banner to work toward the enrollment goal; naming a senior international officer; hiring three new associate vice chancellors, one dedicated to supporting faculty, another to oversee student success and a third to lead academic information, facilities and technology advances; appointing a director of general education and a director of campus advising; creating an Academic Information Management Initiative to create student, faculty and fiscal information to support deans and department chairs as they work toward the goals; and restructuring Graduate Studies and International Affairs.

“Facilitating the ambitions of the deans is the most important thing I do and the most satisfying role I’ve ever held,” Weissinger said. “Each of our deans is determined to drive forward the academic priorities of their college or unit. In addition, they have chosen to become a collaborative senior leadership team responsible for advancing the campus as a whole. That is an enormous comparative advantage for UNL. Strong colleges and academic units are the key to our success.”

Weissinger said the first structural change made was to create Academic Service and Enrollment Management. The group merges Undergraduate Admissions, Scholarships and Financial Aid, Records and Registration, and Online and Distance Education into one unit that reports to Weissinger. Alan Cerveny, whose new title has been broadened to dean of enrollment management, leads ASEM.

The collaborative goal of this group is to create support services needed to reach the enrollment goal.

“Alan Cerveny oversaw an integrated enrollment management office like ASEM in one of his previous positions, and he understands that these units need to be in mutually influential relationships with one another and with the colleges,” said Weissinger. “ASEM presents significant opportunities for the campus to create more efficient and responsive enrollment services.”

In another move to bolster enrollment, Weissinger named David Wilson UNL’s first senior international officer. He also retains his post as an associate vice chancellor. The dual-post is a common designation within Big Ten universities, Weissinger said.

“In order to reach enrollment goals, we have to create a much more sophisticated global recruitment effort that fits the academic priorities of the colleges,” Weissinger said. “We also have to build out a variety of student and faculty support services that allow our campus to be a welcoming and successful place for international students.

“These responsibilities, which have a role in supporting the enrollment goal, are that of the SIO.”

Wilson is also tasked with increasing study abroad opportunities, overseeing international agreements and facilitating faculty global engagement.

Faculty — in particular new hires — will be directly affected by the naming of Sunil Narumalani an associate vice chancellor. Currently associate dean for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, Narumalani starts in the SVCAA office July 1.

“Our office’s focus is on all things faculty, and Sunil will be our point person,” said Weissinger. “If we are going to add 160 brand new faculty as a result of our success with recruiting more students, plus the normal recruitment we do to replace faculty that depart or retire, this is a great time to have a thoughtful faculty member to help colleges think about highly effective recruitment, diversity of applicant pools, selection processes that match talents to needs, and orientation processes that help new faculty make a successful start on campus.”

Narumalani’s work will help support the goal to increase national awards for faculty. Among his first tasks is to completely refine the new faculty orientation program. He will also develop infrastructure that helps increase morale across faculty ranks.

“My personal goal is to have the highest faculty morale in the country,” said Weissinger.

To help achieve the six-year graduation goal of 70 percent of all undergraduates, Weissinger hired Amy Goodburn, Nancy Mitchell and Bill Watts.

Hired in spring 2011, Goodburn is an associate vice chancellor and focuses on student academic successes. In the last year, Goodburn has spearheaded the implementation of MyPLAN (the new electronic student-advising program) and teamed with Cerveny to engage the Enrollment Management Council in their design of the Campus Blueprint, a broad-based plan for managing enrollment growth over the next several years. She also works closely with Mitchell, whose role supports innovation in the undergraduate curriculum.

Watts was recently selected director of campus advising services. He will also oversee General Studies. This is a part-time position, as Watts continues to serve as assistant dean for student success in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Bill will be a resource for all advising services at UNL,” Weissinger said. “He will lead the charge to create best practices in the way the university approaches student advising.”

Weissinger said Goodburn, Mitchell and Watts support faculty aspirations for extremely well crafted and efficient curriculum that allows students to advance successfully.

Lance Pérez, associate vice chancellor, is also providing support toward achieving the State of the University goals.

Pérez is working with Cerveny, Bill Nunez, associate to the chancellor, and Mark Askren, chief information officer, on the Academic Knowledge Management Initiative. The group is combining reporting sources into a single information provider for deans, directors, chairs and faculty. This information will be used to manage movement toward the chancellor’s goals.

For example, Weissinger said, as enrollment increases, UNL will need a classroom assignment system that efficiently matches course space and technology needs. Information gathered by the initiative is being used as a foundation for this system.

Pérez also has become an expert on instructional facilities and technology. He is partnering with Information Services to identify classroom space in need of renovation and how to make the most out of the space available. Ongoing renovation of chemistry lab space in Hamilton Hall is an example of a success story of this branch of Pérez’s work.

“Lance worked with talented faculty, including Marilyne Stains, a chemistry education expert, to create a cutting edge space that is intelligently supported by technology. And, even though it’s the same square footage as the old lab, they expanded the capacity to offer more sections of freshman chemistry,” said Weissinger. “That’s the kind of perfect model of what we hope to accomplish.”

To complete the move toward the goals, Weissinger has restructured Graduate Studies and International Affairs.

Along with his other duties, Pérez will assume the role of dean of Graduate Studies. He replaces Patrick Dussault, who was named dean on June 1, 2011. Dussault returns to his position as a professor and researcher of chemistry.

“Pat unselfishly diverted his attention to the graduate office during this year,” Weissinger said. “I know that he worked two full-time jobs as he maintained his lab’s momentum and provided leadership to graduate education. I’m grateful that we have senior faculty leaders who are willing to put the institution’s interests first when called upon.”

Weissinger said the new administrative structure — a graduate dean role combined with an associate vice chancellor’s duties — is similar to other Big Ten universities. The structure also reduces administrative payroll and draws the graduate office into a closer connection with broader academic enterprise.

Laurie Bellows is associate dean of Graduate Studies.

While this leadership change does not alter the mission or staffing of Graduate Studies, Weissinger’s changes do eliminate International Affairs.

“Instead, we have two simple things — Study Abroad and a group called International Students and Scholar Services,” said Weissinger.

Wilson oversees and is already working to enhance and expand the Study Abroad program.

International Students and Scholar Services will manage visas for visiting scholars, faculty and students. Graduate Studies is the administrative home for ISS, with Bellows providing support.

“It has been a whirlwind the past two years. Joining the Big Ten and announcing the State of the University Goals changed everything in such a positive way,” Weissinger said. “We’ve worked hard to create an office that can support the colleges’ high aspirations. Our greatest asset is the group of flexibly talented faculty who have agreed to serve as associate vice chancellors. They are all award-winning professors who have well-defined academic values and are passionate about excellence. I feel like we’ve made a good start at building an office the campus can be proud of.”

— Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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