Eastern Michigan University logo

Provost's Update

Jan. 2017

Provost's Message

Hello everyone —

I want to begin by wishing each of you a Happy New Year and welcoming everyone back to campus for the Winter 2017 semester. Since our last fall newsletter, the Provost’s Office added a shorter, weekly communication—our Wednesday Briefing—that goes out by email each week as a way to share time sensitive announcements, opportunities and deadlines with faculty and staff members from the Division of Academic and Students Affairs (DASA). We hope that these shorter briefings are helpful and serve to highlight those items that are timely and can be scanned quickly. Our newsletter will then highlight longer items and other topics of interest.

In this first Winter update, I’d like to draw your attention to one of our campus’s signature events each year- the celebration to recognize Martin Luther King Day. The celebration this year includes a wide array of cultural and academic events that should further inform our ongoing campus dialogue about issues of racial injustice, acts of racial hatred, campus climate, institutionalized racism, possible remedies and desired outcomes going forward. Please consider the full array of opportunities the celebration will offer discussions and actions around how best to end racist acts against our campus community and to nurture the values to which we are committed. The day is also a moment to recommit ourselves to bringing to justice those responsible for the hate speech and hate driven vandalism that have taken place. Please join me in using this day of reflection and celebration as an opportunity to unite our campus community and join together in seeking equality and inclusion for all.

On the facilities front, I’ve asked Interim Arts and Sciences Dean Kathy Stacy to initiate a strategic planning process for the Kresge Environmental Center (Fish Lake). The process will involve interested faculty, staff and constituents with a view towards increasing the usage of the facility in the coming academic year. Faculty Senate has initiated a committee to consider ways to enhance this facility as well. A similar planning process is already nearing completion for the Parson’s Center in Northern Michigan and others will be needed for our remaining off campus locations.

Also, the move out of Strong Hall gets closer each week. Renovations to prepare swing spaces for those leaving that building and interim classroom/lab spaces are well underway. As has happened in the past with major renovations, we'll all be in slightly tighter quarters and scheduling will be more challenging than usual. We very much appreciate everyone's patience and hospitality as these moves increase over the next several months.

Finally, as many of you know, EMU recently signed a contract with Academic Partnerships (AP) a company that markets and provides technical and program support to fully online academic programs. To date, four of EMU’s programs were asked to participate in this initiative. They are:

  • RN2BSN in the School of Nursing
  • Master’s in Educational Leadership
  • Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of General Studies (our former Individualized Studies program for degree completion)

Should the University decide at some point in the future to move forward with online Master’s programs in Nursing or Business, AP would also have the first opportunity to review those programs and provide marketing and support services for them as well. Those programs have not been available online in the past so would need to progress through our curriculum input process before that could occur.

The reason this initiative has been launched is that we continue to face long term significant enrollment challenges and are seeking ways to offer our programs to as many interested students as we possibly can. The agreement with Academic Partnerships provides us with marketing and program support that can help us do that in the online environment and in return they receive a share of program revenues in those areas where their work supports the addition of new students.

I wanted to provide a bit of background that I believe more fully explains the approach and why it was chosen:

  • In the last union contract, control of all online courses and programs was placed in home departments along with related instructional funding. These offerings are no longer governed separately through Extended Programs and Educational Outreach (EPEO).
  • Budget resources for significant new institutional investments remain very limited. EPEO is not able to add to its level of marketing and program development support for online programming.
  • Colleges and Departments/Schools do not have funding for broader/large-scale marketing and expanded program or technical support.
  • Thus, Academic Partnerships was chosen as a platform for deans, DHs, and faculty to use for the marketing and technical support part of the online/hybrid programs approved moving forward.

I believe this is a solid agreement for EMU. First and foremost, the AP contract provides a way to gain significant marketing and support for programs that we could not provide otherwise. Also key is that the agreement does NOT alter University control over academic matters in any way. The contract maintains 100% control of these matters for the University and allows contractual processes to be followed as required. By way of example, instructor hiring, course content, pedagogy, assessment, and admission decisions will all continue to be determined through the contractual processes currently in place at EMU. They do not change as a result of this agreement. What AP DOES provide is a tremendous degree of knowledge and experience that we may consult and assistance services that we may tap. But these are all optional items. We can elect to use those consultancy and support services or not. I want to directly address one rumor in particular about jobs. There will be NO change in the assignment process for course instructors as a part of this agreement. While Academic Partnerships does offer grading and other teaching assistance services that can be tapped if desired, these are supports in addition to assigned instructors. They are NOT replacements. And the hiring for any and all instructional personnel will follow our existing labor agreements and HR processes.

I am hopeful about the potential growth and financial benefit this agreement could foster here at Eastern. Given regional demographic realities, it is unlikely we could hope to see significant growth in FTIAC enrollment beyond what we have already been able to attract, or a significant rebound in undergraduate transfer students from community colleges given their enrollment levels in recent years. In order to stabilize our decline there and in the graduate area, we really must consider growth opportunities such as increasing international efforts and the addition of fully online programs.

I'd also like to make one final request. Please consider nominating a colleague or student for one of our end of the year awards. EMU does truly remarkable work with not a lot of money or other resources. Expressing that these activities are valued and appreciated takes a bit of time and preparation but the payoff to those recognized is well worth the investment each year. There are so many people and projects that deserve recognition and thanks. Please consider taking the time to help us say thank you in this way. Happy New Year!