May 4, 2021
Congratulations on completing one of the most difficult and tumultuous academic years in memory! As you turn your grades in today, I hope you are able to take time to reflect on these past 15 months and all that we’ve found a way to achieve. Among these achievements: our outdoor, socially distanced collegiate graduation celebrations. I was inspired and elated to share time with many of you Saturday as we celebrated our 2021 graduates. While the traditional walk across the stage at Miller Auditorium wasn’t possible, the joy in our students' faces when they saw their favorite faculty and staff members was not diminished!
I also wanted to share some important updates about campuswide initiatives, highlighting the collaboration and the contributions of time and expertise so many dedicated to accomplishing these critical outcomes.
Interdisciplinarity Progress and Next Steps
The response to our Interdisciplinarity at WMU initiative was outstanding. We received 69 proposals for round one review! This overwhelmingly positive response resulted in extending the original project timeline to allow for an ample period for thorough review and discussion. Each proposal went through two stages of review by the Academic Affairs Committee: (1) Scoring against a rubric on how the proposal contributed to solving a complex problem, engaged multiple disciplines, promoted innovative curriculum and scholarship, and evaluated feasibility (among others). (2) Smaller working groups that identified areas for collaboration and synthesis of recommendations for proceeding to round two. All feedback to those individuals who submitted proposals will be sent this week, along with next steps carrying into the fall. I am so grateful for the time and effort exemplified by the groups submitting proposals and the members of Team: Interdisciplinarity. I am inspired by the creativity flowing through the discipline-spanning ideas that were submitted, and I am excited to see where this next phase of the process takes us.
Higher Learning Commission Reaffirmation of Accreditation Update
WMU's HLC peer review visit has drawn to a close! The team wishes to thank the hundreds of stakeholders who participated in every phase of this process. Your commitment and dedication to fulfilling WMU's mission was evident to all. Your hard work over the past 10 years is impressive and was well-received by our reviewers. The HLC peer review team will now draft its assessment report, and we look forward to receiving a copy of this report (for factual corrections) in the next several weeks. The final report and institutional action from HLC are expected in early fall 2021. Again, thank you all for the countless hours of work, dedication and determination that went into making this valuable process a success.
Office of Information Technology. We celebrated Tom Wolf’s three decades of service with his retirement at the end of March. I am grateful to both Andrew Holmes and Arnold Taylor who assumed interim leadership roles for the Office of Information Technology (OIT) in early April. Andrew will serve as interim chief information officer and Arnold as interim deputy chief information officer through June 30, 2022. As director of student support services since January 2003, Arnold has established strong working relationships within and outside of OIT that will be critical to his success in leading the day-to-day operations. Andrew will work closely with Arnold and the OIT team to advance unit strategy and meet institutional goals. In his role as executive director of technology for WMUx, Andrew's collaborative work with OIT dates back to 2010, and it has intensified during the COVID-19 response.
Office of Faculty Development director. It is my great pleasure to announce that Dr. Gwen Tarbox has agreed to serve as the next director of the Office of Faculty Development. Since joining the Department of English in 1999, she has been actively involved in teaching and mentoring students. A 2014 graduate of WMU’s Academic Leadership Academy and winner of the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2017, Gwen has been engaged with Universitywide initiatives surrounding teaching and learning, most recently as a Faculty Champion for WMUx during the transition to remote learning. Please visit the OFD homepage to learn more about Gwen (And don’t forget that applications for OFD Faculty Fellows and MAC Leadership Fellows are open until Friday, May 14).
I have great hope as we move into our summer months—with vaccine available to anyone who is at least 16 years old—that our world will begin to turn back to normal(ish). Our WMU community matters more than ever; thank you for being part of it.
Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs