Provost Scott Bass reported last week to the Faculty Senate on his first three months in office and the priorities that are emerging as he gets to know the university.
Bass has already met with more than 100 faculty members individually and four departments. In those meetings and others, “I’ve been told repeatedly decisions are too centralized in the provost’s office,” he said.
It doesn’t help that staffing is slim. “It’s too lean for the scope and scale of this institution,” Bass said. To address those challenges, some decision making is being decentralized, while several new positions have been approved: a vice provost for undergraduate studies and vice provost for graduate studies and research.
Priorities emerging for the provost include: enrollment management, undergraduate education, graduate education and research, and efficient administration of academic affairs.
To address some of these priorities, Bass has put in place the following initiatives:
- In undergraduate education, he plans to emphasize undergraduate retention and strengthen top undergraduate programs by looking at best practices.
- In enrollment, AU exceeded its enrollment projections this year, creating a complex situation when housing is tight. A marketing and enrollment management task force will address those priorities.
- As part of the emphasis on faculty development, the role and mission of the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) will be expanded and revisions to the Faculty Manual are being explored.
- Classroom audits are being undertaken by CTE to ensure there are adequate supplies, such as chalk and projectors.
Bass also touched on the national financial crisis, noting frankly that “at this point, everything is holding fine, but I just don’t know” about future challenges. On the one hand, for instance, graduate enrollment tends to spike in an economic downturn. Yet master’s students have a particular concern about paying their bills, he said, and the economic climate is uncertain.
“This is a difficult situation. It throws a lot of standard practices up in the air,” said Bass.