Provost Letter to Colleagues

 January 21st, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

We begin again—a new semester and a new year. I hope all your holidays were joyous and restorative for you and those you love. I trust 2014 will indeed be happy, and that our work together will prosper.

The New Year finds us in the midst of change—new people, reconfigured positions, and even a new college in a new location. A warm welcome to the UNH School of Law in Concord! I know I speak for all of us in Durham and Manchester when I say we are delighted to have you join us, and excited about the opportunities your expertise, curricula, and scholarship will bring to UNH in the years ahead.

We also welcome two interim deans: Arnold Garron in the Paul College of Business and Economics, and Mike Hickey at UNH Manchester. From the announcements in the Campus Journal, you know that Arnold and Mike know UNH well and care about us deeply. They also bring broad experience in the private sector, in public service, and in the not-for-profit realms. We are grateful that they will bring these skills to two colleges where aligning their strengths and aspirations with outside partners is especially critical.

Mike’s appointment at UNH Manchester is timely. You’ll recall that President Mark Huddleston commissioned a strategic review from the Huron Consulting Group to ensure that the College’s and the region’s futures were strongly intertwined. This semester, we—that is, the Manchester faculty and staff, Durham colleagues, and members of the Manchester community--begin the work of implementing that vision. Mike’s experience will be enormously helpful, and I look forward to working with him and with the UNHM community.

We are at various stages of three external searches, and in the process of beginning two more. In progress are searches for a new dean for the Paul College of Business and Economics; a founding director for the developing Carsey School for Public Policy; and a Senior International Officer, as called for by the President’s Panel on Internationalizing UNH. We have also redesigned the position of Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence as an Associate Vice President for Community, Equity, and Diversity, with a reporting line to the President; we will soon initiate that search. To me, that signals the degree to which inclusion, access, and equity are, should be, embedded in all we do. I write this on the day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, which feels fitting. By no means least, but last in the sequence, we will search this semester for a new Director of Institutional Research: after many years of extraordinary service, John Kraus will retire in the summer. My thanks to the many colleagues who (currently and soon will) serve on these important search committees.

As many of you know, we have spent considerable time this fall focused on UNH’s contributions to the USNH-CCSNH statewide STEM initiative. We are a research university, and our contributions appropriately extend from research and teaching where UNH has particular strength. Early in the semester we identified areas in UNH’s STEM offerings that can accommodate new and expanded enrollment, and matched them with projections for New Hampshire’s workforce. This will allow us to be more proactive in coordinating the University’s capacity with statewide needs. We have launched new degrees (for example, Bioengineering; Computer Science and Entrepreneurship) and are developing others (for example, Ocean Engineering, Marine Biology). An exciting initiative is one in informatics and analytics that crosses colleges. All seven colleges, EOS, the Library, and Cooperative Extension are coming together to leverage our collective resources. We expect our work to culminate in degrees that correspond to areas where there is great demand and great opportunity: business analytics, bioinformatics, health informatics, digital humanities. And, every student at UNH will benefit from new cognates in areas like Information Technology, Professional Communication, and Entrepreneurship; these collect existing courses from across the colleges into sequences that allow students in all majors to develop career skills alongside disciplinary expertise.

As a public flagship, we also take seriously our mission to reach beyond our own campuses on the STEM initiative. On February 5th, UNH will host a STEM Summit with CCSNH for faculty, staff and administrators, to accelerate the coordination between our respective curricula; we seek to improve access to four-year degrees for NH residents. We also contribute to strong preK-12 science and math programs. UNHM is working on a path-breaking early college pilot with Manchester West High School and Manchester Community College (STEAM Ahead); COLSA, CEPS, COLA, the Leitzel Center, and Cooperative Extension will hire eight new colleagues over the next two years in STEM education.

The spring semester will see the deans focused on what we have been calling the University of Choice: the myriad ways in which we make UNH curricula and research more flexible, more creative, more accessible, and therefore more affordable. You’ll recognize aspects of the University of Choice in our efforts to expand our summer programs; in J-term offerings that allow students to accelerate their time to degree; and in our commitment to increase and better fund co- and extra-curricular experiences like undergraduate research, study abroad, experiential learning, and the unique qualities of residential life. The University of Choice is first and foremost about enriching the academic and intellectual lives of our students.

As the core university-wide undergraduate curriculum, Discovery provides the undergraduate framework for the University of Choice. I have asked Professor Barbara White to work with the directors of the Honors Program and the Writing Program to holistically coordinate the delivery and assessment of Discovery; the Faculty Senate has asked for a report on Discovery in the next year, and they will surely ask how these pieces of the curriculum cohere. To reflect the additional time, responsibility, and significance of the work, Barb’s appointment as Director of the Discovery Program will be redefined as Executive Director for Undergraduate Programs.

In the coming semester, we will plan how best to increase our reach and our impact through on-line and hybrid offerings. Each college has different expertise and different opportunities. We want to embrace that difference, and allow for each academic unit to move forward in a way that is consonant with best practices in its respective fields. In January, for example, we launched an on-line MSW program to join our on-line MBA; COLA has a new set of MOCKs (Massive On-line Courses for Kids) in the works; the Law School is exploring executive development for in-service professionals. At the same time, we want to find ways to collaborate on student support, faculty development, and marketing—areas where we know we do best when we work together. The Provost’s Council will meet at the end of the month to map the way forward. I know the Deans will be working with their departments on what makes the most sense for each college.

And then there is NEASC! Our extensive self-study is almost completed, and our accreditation visit runs from March 31st to April 2nd. My thanks to all of you for your many contributions, and especially to Professor Judy Robb for heroically shepherding this monumental project (nearly!) to completion. We will post the final version on line, and I would urge you to take a look. Frankly, it is impressive.

In August, I anticipated that we would be called both to honor UNH’s history and to stretch our imaginations for the future. That has surely been the case. The full expression of University of Choice reflects what I wrote then: that the University dwells in possibility, and that our land-grant legacy lays on us a special charge. As I have talked with many of you, and with many off-campus audiences, I have tried to convey this spirit. While each of us works differently, and with a different focus, collectively we are committed to pursuing research, to enriching the arts, and to having our scholarship make a difference in the lives of others. Most important, at our core, we are committed to helping every student, from whatever background, align talents with passions, and with good and satisfying work in the world: we seek to help them turn their ideas into action and their experience into well-earned success.

This letter fails utterly to represent the totality of all you are doing—the questions you explore, the enrichment you give to our culture, the professional service you provide, and, above all, the support you unstintingly give to our students. Thank you for all you do. Happy New Year!

Best wishes,

Lisa MacFarlane
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of English and American Studies