Provost's Briefing - February 26, 2021

Student Success

Institutional Priority #1:

Promote Student Engagement & Success

The Eastern Michigan University’s Center for Jewish Studies Presents In Honor of Women’s History Month Mira Awad: A Concert/Conversation

Singer, songwriter, actress, artist, and content creator, Mira Awad has long been a major figure in Israeli and Palestinian life and culture. But Mira Awad is also a forceful activist for women’s rights, for equal citizenship for Palestinians living in Israel, for a two-state solution, and for environmental awareness. Her eloquent advocacy for dialog and co-existence, for peace and solidarity, has brought considerable praise (and some criticism) across the political spectrum. She calls her music Arabic Fusion, a combination of styles and sounds that weaves together Arabic language with Western harmonies. Awad has worked with a multitude of artists, including Noa, with whom she participated as Israel's entry in the 2009 Eurovision song contest. For her EMU performance, she will be accompanied by Israeli guitarist, Shay Alon. 

The presentation is co-sponsored by the Academic Engagement Network, the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan, the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, the Gayle and Larry Weiseneck Symposium Fund, Hillel at Eastern Michigan University, and EMU Campus Life.

There is no cost to attend this program.  Please consider joining on  Sunday, March 7, at 3:00PM EST via Facebook  or YouTube.  

April 2021 Commencement Update

Unfortunately, the still-limited roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine and government regulations limiting public gatherings pose a significant challenge to how we celebrate our graduating students. The University will therefore not be able to host an in-person Commencement ceremony in April. We are planning several activities to celebrate our graduating students. A formal ceremony video will be posted at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 25. Graduates, families and friends can view the video at that time, or anytime after that at their convenience, on the University’s YouTube channel

We will announce additional celebration activities in the coming weeks. Please visit the Commencement website for regular updates about graduation.

Academics & Research

Institutional Priority #2:

High Performing Academic Programs & Quality Research

Nursing Faculty Awarded Virtual Reality Grant

Congratulations to Tsu-Yin Wu, Valerie Pauli, Kathryn Hughesdon and Jenni Hoffman who were recently awarded $72,000 from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to develop a virtual reality program entitled "Immersive Community, Culture and Care Experiences for Undergraduate Nursing Students: The 360-degree Difference."  This program will be developed and disseminated to all nursing schools in Michigan.  EMU School of Nursing was one of only two nursing schools to receive the award.

Eastern Faculty to Participate in Panel on Privilege

Judy Foster Davis will be a participant on a panel at next week's American Marketing Association Winter Conference on the topic of marketplace diversity titled,  "Challenges of Privilege: Unpacking Advantage.”  This aligns with her work on diversity and race in the marketplace that has been published in top academic journals and widely reported in the press.

You’re Invited! Council on Foreign Relations 2021 College and University Educators Workshop

Eastern faculty are invited to attend the ninth annual Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) College and University Educators Workshop. Registration closes on March 1, and the event will take place via Zoom on Thursday, March 4, and Friday, March 5, 2021.

The workshop is open to professors in any field wishing to incorporate an international element into their classrooms. The goal is to encourage knowledge and discussion of how the global connects to the local. The workshop will convene professors from private, public, and community colleges from across the country to participate in substantive expert briefings and group discussions, learn about the wide range of CFR and Foreign Affairs academic resources available, and share best practices and educational tools for bringing international affairs into the classroom.

Participation is free, and open to all professors who are currently teaching. You may register directly on the Eventbrite page by Monday, March 1.

Service & Engagement

Institutional Priority #3:

Service & Engagement

Eastern’s Faculty Development Center’s Mini-Conference a Success

Thank you to all who participated in the 10th annual Faculty Development Center’s CONNECT Mini-Conference.  Held virtually this year, participants benefited from the wisdom of 12 presenters on topics such as the eFellows grant program, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), Research Writer's Collaboratives, CANVAS, high impact practices, research techniques, and more. If you missed it this year, please consider attending in the future so you may come together to celebrate, create, and communicate with faculty across disciplines and departments.

Eastern’s Office of Campus and Community Writing has been Busy!

Eastern’s Office of Campus and Community Writing (CCW) is immersed in numerous projects.  Listed below are a few highlights:  

  • In partnership with 826michigan, the CCW has launched an anti-racist tutoring dialog series. Originally targeted at individuals in the local community, this four-part series now has more than 60 tutors and writing center directors registered from across a five-state region.  They have had a very successful first session and look forward to more enriching conversations on this important topic.
  • Approximately 60 faculty and staff from Eastern and Henry Ford College have begun an anti-racist teaching dialog series. Each session ends with action steps that participants report on in subsequent sessions. The evaluations from participants of the first session were very positive. 
  • The University Writing Center has made tremendous strides this year. They now have a Canvas instructional shell to which all faculty have access, and numerous videos available for faculty and students, including new, short videos on various writing strategies and issues that faculty can use as part of their teaching and/or embed into their assessments of student writing as resources focused on the challenges students might be having. They also are exploring ways to make these more readily and directly available to students, and all are captioned and comply with accessibility guidelines.
  • The Eastern Michigan Writing Project expands the identity of teachers as writers to improve the teaching of writing. Under the leadership of  Angella Knight, the project focuses on outreach to K-12 teachers and students through hosting events, including the Signature Saturday Inkstains Writing Camps for grades 3 through 12 students as well as numerous retreats and mini-conferences for K-12 teachers.

Effective Operations

Institutional Priority #4

Institutional Effectiveness

Honoring EMU’s Relationship with GameAbove

Eastern’s Board of Regents approved adopting the name, “GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology” in honor of the significant contributions made by the alumni group. In advancing this recommendation, the EMU Foundation Naming Committee considered the $15 million in commitments that GameAbove has made to date and approximately $5 million in new and continuing commitments that specifically support the College of Engineering and Technology. The aggregate $20 million in support to the University, over a fifteen-month period of time, represents the largest gift portfolio received in Eastern Michigan University's 171-year history.

Honoring our Emeritus Faculty

We are proud to announce that the EMU Board of Regents approved the awarding of emeritus status to faculty and lecturers at the past few meetings. Please join us in honoring each of them for the contributions they made during their careers here at EMU.

  • Gary Hannan, Department of Biology from 1982 to 2020 who retired after 38 years; 
  • Raymond Quiel, School of Communication, Media, & Theatre Arts from 1984 to 2020 who retired after 36 years;
  • Raymond Rosenfeld, Department of Political Science from 1986 to 2020 who retired after 34 years; and,
  • Laurie Walker, Department of English Language & Literature from 2001 to 2019 who retired after 18 years.

Call for Applications: Josephine Nevins Keal Professional Development Fund

The Josephine Nevins Keal Professional Development Fund Application 2022 is now available. Fellowship funds are to assist faculty women in advancement of professional competence and rank. For more information and application form, please contact Ellene (Nina) Tratras Contis, Chair, EMU President’s Commission on Women, [email protected]. Applications are due by March 1, 2021.

Call for Applications: Writing Across the Curriculum Institute 2021

We are very excited to be offering a virtual Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Spring Institute for 2021. The dates of this year's Institute are April 29-30 (Thursday and Friday) and May 3-4 (Monday and Tuesday). We will ask participants to be available each day from 9 a.m. to 3:30. As much as possible, this will be the same WAC, adapted for online delivery. We look forward to working with a cohort of faculty and lecturers from across all the disciplines and to fostering the same sense of community and engagement for which WAC is known.  You can find the call for this year's Institute hereApply online for this year's WAC Institute by Friday, February 26.

Scheduling information/Scenarios

I know you have all been working with Chris Shell and Deans over the past couple of months on schedules.  But recently a number of questions continue to come up suggesting we can/should/do have definitive answers around issues so I thought it might be good to review a few items to be sure they are clearly communicated around the schedule process for Fall semester.  

General Information- Background
  1. We must plan schedules based on available information, conditions, and estimates about public health conditions.  It is very early to expect there is definitive information yet around likely public health conditions and guidance for the Fall semester, which begins more than six months from today.  So planning now is contingent on what those conditions turn out to be as time goes on.
  2. We must plan with an eye towards modifications in those estimates and/or potential changes in the conditions themselves.  Change continues to be not only a possibility, but a likelihood, and we have to consider and be ready to implement as it occurs.  New variants of the virus, immunization processes, a recent fall off in cases, all require more study as of today.  We can expect progress, but also potential setbacks in the coming weeks and months.
  3. We need to be strategic about what our program and course section mix should/will look like post-COVID.  It will evolve for the long term based on this experience.  We need to build new schedules based on the changes we expect in the environment going forward.  Getting a new sense of the mix and mode of delivery ought to begin as we plan future schedules.
  4. Ideally, we can return to our past practice of draft semester schedules that rolled forward for planning over time.  So, as Chris Shell has reiterated several times, the initial draft schedule process should be a fall schedule and mix of delivery types similar to what you expect to roll forward for the next three to five years.  (I’ll address below how this relates to numbers 1 and 2).
  5. Different colleges and departments may have a different mix of programming and differing guidance from their Deans.  Please factor in not only our guidance here but also what you receive from them.  The percentages provided below are described in ranges and guidelines.  Each department, in consultation with their Dean’s Office, depending on pedagogy and program mix, may arrive at a slightly different mix. 
  6. Student data nationwide indicates a strong desire for in person college choices for the Fall semester, particularly traditional first year students entering from high school and those who had a very limited first year experience in 2020-21.  These students seem to be the most negatively impacted educationally and in the mental health area by the COVID restrictions.  That would suggest a need to emphasize first and second year coursework is a higher priority in scheduling available courses in person, on campus.  We are in the process of initiating a survey of EMU current students to assess our own data around these areas and will share as it becomes available.  A faculty survey is under consideration to follow as we will need that information as we evaluate and decide regarding final scheduling scope and mix as described below.  We are early in that process and it would need to inform the dates below to be most helpful.  Please be sure to seek and consider faculty input on the schedules and scenarios as they are developed and finalized.  
  7. Restating #1 for emphasis.  Certainty around fall public health conditions or guidance isn’t possible yet at this point in time.  As a result, we have to be prepared to adapt to what happens during the weeks and months between now and then.
  8. Finally, schedules should be created around programmatic and curricular needs for effectiveness and learning, program design/coherence and student needs.  Individual instructor requests for accommodation related to health, disability or other individual situations need to be routed through the Human Resources process for these matters and not be dealt with in the departmental context by department heads.  Schedule or mode of delivery should not be modified on an individual basis at the department level for these reasons until instructed to do so by Human Resources or AHR.  These must be handled similarly throughout the institution or we risk significant legal liability.  Please refer these requests to the appropriate HR office for evaluation and response.  They work and coordinate across Departments, Schools, Deans, and AHR to arrive at consistent and considerate outcomes.
Scheduling Process

I know the Registrar has communicated in several written items, meetings and roundtables around the scheduling process to use for the creation of Summer and Fall 2021 schedules.  As a reminder, we moved to a spreadsheet submission process (as opposed to direct Banner entry) for planned course section offerings and added Dean’s Office reviews to the scheduling process in order to best facilitate any needed modifications to scope, locations, mode of delivery or other issues over time.  There is a substantial likelihood conditions will be variable as we move into Summer A, Summer B, and Fall semesters.  It is over six months between now and the beginning of the fall semester and the COVID pandemic has been highly unpredictable with public health information and guidance evolving continually throughout the past year.  The vaccination process for adults is really just getting underway in earnest.  We have to plan for potential changes and use processes best suited to change rather than decentralized section by section Banner entry.

Based on the best estimates around public health conditions and guidance available, our initial baseline requests to departments were for a proposed Summer A schedule designed to be offered nearly entirely in remote formats.  We asked for a baseline Summer B schedule to look similar to, or slightly expanded from, our Summer B in 2020 (~10-15% in person).  And, we asked that departments submit a Fall semester designed like a new “normal” schedule that we could anticipate running for the next few fall semesters.  That would involve a return of many course sections with an in-person, on campus component.  There is no one single answer for each and every department about what that design would look like but our guidepost for Fall is to consider a schedule with 25-30% online and the remaining course sections planned and scheduled in person or in one of the myriad of hybrid formats but with substantial, structured in-person components.  We are asking that any single section with more than 50 people enrolled be scheduled in a virtual format of some sort as even in the coming 12-24 months these large gatherings of individuals are unlikely to be feasible in available spaces.  If there are questions about these sections, please consult with Dean’s Offices or Jim Carroll in the Provost’s Office.

Once we complete these baseline schedules, we are then requesting that departments/schools redesign that schedule under two scenarios and submit each to the Registrar in spreadsheet form with different modes of deliveries and time modifications as needed:

  1. Scenario A asks departments/schools to modify the baseline schedules so that they are offering 50-60% of sections in fully virtual formats and 40-50% of sections with in person components.  This scenario presumes we continue no large sections meeting in person and assures we could fit all other sections into spaces with 6 feet of distancing or more should that requirement still be in place during the semester.  The CDC has indicated that even post-pandemic era activities will likely continue to include distancing recommendations of at least 3 feet between individuals and mask usage potentially for some time to come and we need to have a schedule scenario that would work within those constraints with only slight modifications.  
  2. Scenario B asks departments/schools to modify the baseline schedules such that they are offering  20% or less of sections in person and the remaining course sections in hybrid form with minimal, structured in-person components or in one of the virtual formats.
  3. Scenario C is optional and it asks departments/schools, should they desire, to modify the baseline Summer B schedule such that they are offering a higher percentage of course sections (up to 35%) in person for that sub-term of the Summer semester should that be feasible later in the summer.

In all cases, please place priority on first and second year courses that may be scheduled being more heavily on campus as those students are most likely to live on campus and to need/desire in person support and interaction.

Our first priority now is to complete and publish the baseline schedule first so it is available for Fast Track sessions for entering first year and transfer students that begin at the end of March.  The Registrar has provided preparation and consultation dates to allow for that to happen.  Once the baseline is completed, then departments should move to the scenario planning process with the goal of completing and submitting those by April 15.  Faculty input should be referenced in designing not only the baseline schedule but the alternative scenarios as well.  This assures that they will have meaningful input into schedule planning under a variety of possible conditions.

We will undertake a review of the Summer B and Fall schedules as they relate to the public health situation on or about May 25, 2021 to assess how to move forward with any contemplated modifications to the baseline schedule.  This allows time for student notification and faculty/lecturer planning for any changes that may be needed.  A final decision about implementing Scenario C (Summer B) would be made by June 1.  Any decision to modify Fall’s baseline schedule would be made by July 20, 2021.

I just want to remind everyone of what we already know- the impact and conditions of the pandemic continue to be unpredictable in many ways.  We will continue to monitor public health conditions and adapt as needed.  Safety considerations will be our first evaluation priority followed by our mission to effectively educate and support students’ success, disseminate impactful research and serve, engage and build our community.

Thank you all for reading what is, I know, a lengthy elaboration of information shared by several others, especially our hard working Registrar.  I appreciate how difficult it can be to have the role of translating all of this policy, process, modification and update news to real day to day individual student, faculty and staff situations.  We all care deeply about the safety of our students, colleagues and neighbors as well as the sustainability of our University and it’s important work.  My hope is that we can continue to provide calm, deliberate, carefully designed solutions to our changing campus challenges.