This time of year is always busy for all of us. The spring semester is already in its fourth week and it seems like the winter break didn’t even happen. We also have the summer to look forward to, so we’re right in the middle of it all. However, it’s a great time to move things forward. When the Academic Leadership Team (ALT) met last week, it was obvious that thanks to all of your hard work, we’ve made enormous progress in a lot of areas. I’ll mention just a few of them here and give you an update on the major things the ALT is doing.
Please join me in welcoming three new people to the Wentworth community. Cidhinnia Torres is the Director of Accreditation and Assessment. Michael Oudshoorn is the chair of Computer Science and Computer Networking. Kathy Ritter is Interim Director of the Alumni Library.
The Faculty Senate was represented at the ALT by Joe Santacroce and Beth-Anne Cooke Cornell. Since communication among all of us was the major topic of this meeting, it was fantastic to have two additional representatives from the faculty who could help in getting information flowing both from the ALT to the faculty and from the faculty to the ALT.
Our Strategic Plan has been updated. Please take a look at the new Strategy Map at http://wit.edu/strategic-planning/themes/Strategy-Map_1.10.14.pdf.
The wording of the Big, Hairy Audacious Goal has been changed to “By 2032, become the university of choice for externally-collaborative, project-based, interdisciplinary learning.” The wording of strategy E-3 has also been changed. Both of these are now consistent with our terminology discussed in my last blog post. EPIC Learning has become a major initiative of our institution and it’s wonderful that we’ve all started using the same words. It has even been noticed by people off-campus and is discussed by many of the candidates interviewing for positions here. The phrase EPIC Learning seems to have gone viral on our campus.
Another important change to the Strategic Plan is the addition of a new strategy, O-6, “Diversity as a Business Practice.” The O-6 team is truly interdisciplinary: Professor Leon Cort, Jen Cheng, Peter Fowler and Chris Haig from Student Affairs, Susan Morin from Human Resources, Trustee Wayne Johnson, and me, the provost. While diversity was included as part of several other strategies, Diversity as a Business Practice will use the experience and success attained outside of academia and apply them across all aspects of Institute operations. It will also build on the work we’ve already started to improve the campus climate and culture for everyone.
The ALT reviewed the academic calendar for 2014-2015 (http://wit.edu/ssc/academic-calendar/index.html). The most important things to note are that we are starting the fall semester a week later than normal, after Labor Day. This was done to allow as much time as possible for the construction of the new residence hall at 525 Huntington Avenue to be completed. You should also note that final exams in spring 2015 are scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This is because Patriot’s Day is that Monday. The due date for final grades will be extended from Friday to the following Monday, after graduation.
The ALT was updated on the status of the work being done by three subcommittees tasked with reviewing academic advising. There will be a new, expanded version of the advising handbook completed by the end of the spring semester. Also, there will be additional training for faculty and additional training for students on optimizing the value of advising. As a reminder, the ALT has developed the following statement concerning academic advising:
The Academic Advisor is one who helps students become more self-aware of their distinctive interests, talents, values and priorities; who enables students to see the connection between their present academic experience and their future life plans; who helps students discover their potential, purpose and passion; who broadens students’ perspectives with respect to their personal life choices; and sharpens their cognitive skills for making these choices. Advisors teach students to negotiate the higher education maze.
Thanks to all of you who completed the survey on your enthusiasm for EPIC Learning. The first figure below shows the overall results of 180 responses from full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and staff as of 06 February 2014. Your enthusiasm is overwhelmingly positive! Thank you! The most common answers were 5, 6 and 7. The second figure shows the results for full-time faculty, adjuncts and staff separately. The differences are interesting. The most common answer for full-time faculty was 7, for staff it was 5, for adjunct faculty it was 4. While I don’t have any data to help explain the differences, one possible explanation is that the full-time faculty have been discussing and working on EPIC Learning more than the other two groups. The adjunct faculty probably know the least about it. Communication with our adjunct faculty is one of our weaknesses. In addition, a change to EPIC Learning would be harder on the adjunct faculty because of the additional time required to work with our students.
The overall results are encouraging and we should keep them in mind as we move to make EPIC Learning a reality. The ALT recommended that we survey our students to evaluate their enthusiasm, too. We hope to complete the student survey shortly.
EPIC Learning Website
Tes Zakrzewski, Sang-Min Yoon and Chuck Hotchkiss have been working on an EPIC Learning website which should become available on Friday, 07 February 2014. The address is www.wit.edu/epic-learning. The site includes an Overview, Resources, Implementation and Examples. If there are things you would like to see on the site, please let one of us know. In addition, we hope to highlight your work in moving EPIC Learning forward, so please send us your own material and we’ll make sure it gets posted.
A good example of EPIC Learning is the NSF proposal recently submitted by an interdisciplinary group of faculty. The goal is to obtain an atomic absorption spectrometer to do metals analysis. [more to be included!]
Tactics, Measures and Targets (TMTs)
As discussed at the last Wentworth Community Meeting, the ALT identified 6 major items for implementation of EPIC Learning (see the figure below). One of these is “criteria and metrics for success (assessment).
The ALT spent some time working on tactics, measures and targets (TMTs). The ALT split into groups by college and developed initial ideas and next steps to ensure assessment was part of EPIC Learning. We’ll be talking more about this as time goes on. The TMT approach is parallel to that used in our Strategic Plan. Every strategy has three tactics for implementation with associated measures to evaluate whether progress is being made. Each measure has a target value with an estimated completion date. Aligning EPIC Learning and the Strategic Plan will enable us to move both together in a synergistic manner.
At the Wentworth Community Meeting and at several department meetings that I’ve recently attended, one area of concern expressed by the faculty is that there is insufficient communication from the ALT to the faculty about what we are trying to do, and insufficient communication back to the ALT about faculty ideas and concerns. While we try to communicate, according to John Kotter, it usually takes ten times the amount of communication as one assumes to be necessary. The ALT spent a significant amount of the offsite meeting working through an exercise designed to demonstrate that true communication is difficult and must be explicitly worked on at all times. Communication means that information is flowing in two directions. Information that moves in only one direction is broadcasting; it is not communication until the circle is closed. The exercise was also an excellent example of EPIC Learning in that it was experiential and not a lecture.
I’ve developed a few new organizational charts for the academic division that show the formal, core communication pathways at the Institute, and one is shown below. For most departments, there are both full-time faculty and adjunct faculty, as well as support staff. As a department chair, it is important to realize that information must be given to ALL of the members of a department, and that ALL department members may have information that needs to be discussed by the ALT. For deans, communication oversight is expanded across all of the departments. For the provost, it is expanded across all of the colleges.
The ALT has expanded over time to include many people, as shown in the last figure of this blog. It is an interdisciplinary team that tries to include representation from everyone involved with our academic programs. Please feel free to talk to any of us at any time about any thing. Since communication requires two-way information flow, it can start in either direction.