Provost Communications

Office of the Provost Communications 2020-2021

  • Provost's end-of-academic-year updates

    May 4, 2021

    Dear colleagues,
     
    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.
     
    Leadership Updates
    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.
     
    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • WMU-AAUP LOA Response
  • Thank you, update on interdisciplinarity effort

    December 16, 2020

    Dear colleagues,

    We have much to be thankful for, though the past year may make that difficult to imagine. While much has changed this year, the value and culmination of our work, gratefully, has not. Let us celebrate the hard work of our students and salute the dedication of our faculty and staff as Western Michigan University conducts our first virtual commencement ceremonies, during which 1,400 degrees will be awarded to our students.

    My feelings of thankfulness go further. I’m so grateful for the conversations we’ve shared since announcing the interdisciplinarity effort in mid-November. I have a few updates about submissions and timelines based on those conversations.

    I appreciate the opportunity to share time with those who have invited me to their departments, colleges or interest groups to continue our dialogue. Many of you have shared your measured excitement, tempered by concerns about the initiative, which we’ve captured and began answering on the FAQ section of the interdisciplinarity website. I am listening. The conversation is just beginning in our colleges, focusing on faculty voice, input and ideas. I’m greatly appreciative for the more than 150 faculty, staff and administrators who are currently engaged in this work at the college level. I'm also grateful 85 of our colleagues nominated themselves or have been nominated to serve on the institutional advisory committee. We look forward to seating that committee in January.

    To help us begin our work, the proposal template is now available. These questions will aid us as we explore how these interdisciplinary efforts will serve our research and creative mission and engage our students in empowering ways. Your collaborative interdisciplinary plans will show us the way and help us find creative paths to grow within the resources we have. Please keep in mind these first-round proposals are intended to be relatively brief and introduce the concept for further development in the second, full round of proposals.

    One of the most consistent questions we have received is about the timeline for year one planning. Several of you have indicated the timeline to develop meaningful proposals is complicated by the winter holiday recess. We hear you and have adjusted the timeline to create space for intercollege and intracollege conversations and now look forward to reviewing these short proposals in early March. Following your suggestions, we have also adjusted the academic program review calendar—creating a five-year rotational cycle to begin in 2022—to provide time to focus on interdisciplinarity in the coming weeks and months. Our review this coming spring will involve those programs that already submitted their review.

    Your time and investment in Western matters, whether it’s spent in the classroom with your students, on your research or creative scholarship or through your engagement with critical service activities. Thank you for your commitment to moving the institution forward. I continue to welcome conversation and the sharing of great ideas and good news during my office hours (every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.) and through my website.

    Wishing you a restful, restorative and joyous holiday season.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs

  • One WMU/University College initiative to begin in phases

    August 27, 2020

    Dear colleagues,

    Last week, President Montgomery shared that we are moving forward on our One WMU/University College initiative, and I write to share details of that important work, framed by the efforts and planning of so many across academic and student affairs for the past 12 months.

    Led by the design team, the One WMU teams completed their work over the spring, producing a robust set of recommendations. These teams and their leaders dedicated significant time and energy to developing truly collaborative plans and guiding our efforts in the coming year; we now turn our attention to actualizing those plans.

    As we’ve discussed in our town halls around the One WMU initiative, the college will be constructed in phases. Effective Sept. 1, the following units will be integrated into the college:

    • Center for Academic Success Programs (CASP)
    • Career and Student Employment Services (CASES)
    • Office of Student Transitions (OST)
    • Peer2Peer (P2P)
    • Student Success Services (S3)
    • WMU Signature (Signature)

    We are thrilled to integrate CASES and Signature into Academic Affairs. Holistic student success is the heart of this initiative, and I am so grateful for the partnership with Student Affairs. I want to thank Vice President for Student Affairs Diane Anderson and her entire team for their generous collaboration throughout this process. We look forward to continuing to build strong interdisciplinary structures for our teams to engage intentionally.

    Over the course of the year and into spring 2021, we will focus on the planned unification of advising and other student support programming. Our work in these areas will be guided by the teams’ recommendations and our engagement with the Excellence in Academic Advising and Powered by Publics initiatives. By fall 2021, our new college will have its full structure and staff in place, along with its permanent name, which will be determined through a yearlong design process.

    Finally, I’m very pleased to share with you the initial leadership team for the college, which will help to implement the recommendations from the design team and also chart the future structure and strategy of the college. Dr. Deveta Gardner will take a significant senior leadership role, overseeing our student support units. Dr. Ewa Urban will also take on a senior leadership role, focusing on assessment and effectiveness. Monica Liggins-Abrams, who has helped lead this initiative from the outset, will continue to guide implementation as part of the senior leadership team in University College while also working with my office on additional strategic initiatives.

    As you may recall, we had planned to search for a founding dean of the college last year as well. Given the reorganization of the Provost’s office, however, it seemed appropriate to add this initiative to the portfolio of an existing administrator with a relevant set of duties and experiences and a passion for student success. Student success research clearly shows that linking student success, faculty development and innovation are key to improving institutional conditions to support the success of all students.

    With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce today that Dr. Ed Martini, in addition to his current role leading WMUx, will become dean of University College. My thanks to Ed and the entire University College leadership team for taking on this challenge and leading this initiative forward.

    I look forward to sharing more details about our continued efforts in the coming weeks. I also look forward to reconvening our faculty design committee after the start of the fall term.

    With thanks for all that you continue to do for our students and our campus,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Thank you for your work in preparing for fall semester

    September 1, 2020

    Dear colleagues,

    The beginning of the fall semester is such a special time on campus—the possibilities lay open in front of us as we welcome new and returning students and engage with each other after productive summers. This year is no different and, at the same time, completely different.

    Our welcoming no longer allows for hugs and handshakes, and our enthusiasm is likely tempered by uncertainty.

    As we move into this strange yet still familiar routine of classes, labs, meetings, grading tests and papers, I wanted to pause and share my gratitude for what we have accomplished over the past several months by working together and listening to one another.

    When we began discussing what a fall semester on campus might look like, it was important that decisions regarding academics and instruction were driven by faculty. WMU faculty chose how best to deliver their courses, consistent with disciplinary and pedagogical expertise.

    Additional input from staff, faculty and other instructors drove our larger planning efforts for this term. My thanks to our great partners in the Faculty Senate Executive Board, the members of the Fall Contingency Planning Task Force, the Joint Instructional Advisory Committee (including representatives from the WMU-AAUP, PIO and TAU) and the faculty champions from each of our colleges. These individuals provided expertise and insight, along with significant time and energy to help develop plans, guidelines and strategies to support creative instructors teaching across the modalities developed by the fall contingency group. I am grateful for everyone who took part in these groups and provided guidance, input and constructive criticism at every turn.

    It would be a massive understatement to say that we have a challenging year ahead of us, but based on what I have witnessed in the way that you all have approached your plans for this coming semester, I am confident that we are well prepared to do our absolute best for our students. Your resilience, commitment to your discipline and your dedication to supporting our students and our community are truly inspirational.

    Thank you again for everything you are doing on behalf of Western Michigan University.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Solution Squad to launch Tuesday

    September 4, 2020

    Dear students,
     
    As you know all too well, the impact of COVID-19 has reached every corner of our WMU community. Navigating our campus might feel challenging or overwhelming at times, but we are here to help you succeed without the stress.
     
    We’ve created a team of top-notch problem-solvers called the Solution Squad who can provide comprehensive, personalized support to connect you to the answers, information and resources you need. The Solution Squad is available at a moment’s notice by phone, live chat, in-person at Swain Library in Sangren Hall or around campus on their mobile cart. Get in touch with the Solution Squad by calling (269) 387-1000 or visit their website at wmich.edu/solution.
     
    The Solution Squad goes live Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 10 a.m. We will adjust hours as we learn more about demand over the next several weeks and will post updated times at wmich.edu/solution. Any questions or concerns can be directed to Dr. Ed Martini, dean of One WMU/University College, at edwin.martini@wmich.edu.
     
    Our Western Michigan University community is resilient and stronger together, and our faculty and staff are committed to helping you navigate our student services. Whether you’re on campus, online or a combination of both, Solution Squad is here to help!
     
    Best wishes,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Provost office staffing update: Interim leadership announced

    September 11, 2020

    Dear colleagues,

    The Office of the Provost recently restructured, reducing the associate provost footprint by half. I’d like to share an update on how these duties shifted, some permanently and others on an interim basis. In all cases, we will be working over the course of this year to determine how best to organize our efforts as we move into the future.

    Some specifics about these tasks and responsibilities include:

    • The work of engagement with the launch and assessment of the WMU Essential Studies transitioned from Master Faculty Specialist Mervyn Elliott as planned. Dr. James Cousins, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has agreed to step into this interim role for the coming year.
    • Our curriculum management efforts, previously under the associate provost for undergraduate studies and assessment, are now being led on an interim basis by Dr. Nicolas Witschi, interim associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
    • The Office of Faculty Development was transitioned earlier this calendar year from the associate provost for undergraduate studies and assessment to WMUx under Dr. Ed Martini.
    • The work of institutional effectiveness and enrollment management (on a continued interim basis) will remain with Vice Provost Chris Cheatham. These additional units are reflective of the former portfolio of the associate provosts for these respective areas and were assigned to Vice Provost Cheatham in 2019.

    I’m grateful that our colleagues have stepped into these leadership positions supporting critical institutional functions. We look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks and months.

    Please join me in appreciating the work of our colleagues,
    Jen

  • Join us Nov. 18: Town hall on Academic Affairs restructuring to enhance interdisciplinarity

    November 12, 2020

    Dear colleagues,

    Over the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of you, in small and large groups, to hear what you are proud of and what concerns you have for our future. While there is great variability in these conversations, one thing is clear: your passion for your work and its impact on our community and world. Building on the report issued this summer from the Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Studies Committee of the Faculty Senate, we have an opportunity to amplify that impact through an intentional move toward interdisciplinarity. Our many strengths in interdisciplinary scholarship, creative activity and teaching make us uniquely poised to do this critical work to solve our world's complex problems.

    At a town hall set for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18, I invite you to join the discussion about academic affairs restructuring to enhance interdisciplinarity. Well-designed and supported interdisciplinary programs would allow WMU to stand out among its peer institutions for its emphasis on integrative learning and discovery and further define WMU's identity as an innovative, relevant and responsive institution. We also will realize cost-savings through streamlining administrative structures and better leveraging our programming.

    During this conversation, I will share details and invite you to join a collaborative process to identify and recommend interdisciplinary programs within and across colleges. This two-tiered structure emphasizes shared governance and shared responsibility to create an innovative and sustainable future for the core mission of the institution.

    I'm excited about what lies ahead for our students and our academic enterprise as we explore this restructuring together. Your ideas and engagement are critical to shaping WMU's future.

    I look forward to seeing you at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18, to begin these important conversations. Please look for a link to the town hall on my website on that date.

    With gratitude and hope,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • More on advancing Interdisciplinarity at WMU

    November 30, 2020

    Dear faculty colleagues,

    I write this note in appreciation for the thoughts and concerns you’ve shared following our virtual town hall on interdisciplinarity on Nov. 18. Your ideas and candor have given me much to consider. Let me take a moment and share some additional thoughts about next steps.

    Higher education is at a crossroads, requiring us to bring new knowledge and approaches to solving the complex problems our world faces. I believe our University has a unique opportunity to bring incredible value to addressing these problems by developing disciplinary affiliations that leverage and extend our existing intellectual strength. In doing so, we will strengthen our community.

    This state of affairs prompted me to begin a conversation more than a year ago with other universities, external partners, deans, the senate and union leadership. At the same time, leaders of the Faculty Senate reached out with interest in examining our University curricula and programs in order to advance greater collaboration across disciplines. They took the next step by convening the Faculty Senate Ad-Hoc Interdisciplinary Studies Committee to study emerging notions of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary programs. I encourage you to  review their report on the interdisciplinarity website and, again, I share my gratitude for their thoughtful work. While this report does not argue for restructuring, many of the advances necessary to embed interdisciplinarity throughout the campus require a more integrated and affiliated set of units and faculty.

    I am confident we are on the right path. And we need to look no further than our own campus to find exceptional interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary programming. I mentioned several during my presentation. Their success can serve as inspiration and understanding as we move through this journey.

    Given this backdrop, many have rightfully asked: Why now? We are grappling with uncertainty in our professional and personal lives which makes it difficult to dedicate time to a critical University initiative. The urgency is created by our past, current and future situation—both our enrollment and its impact on our classrooms and finances. The post-pandemic world will create struggles for higher education but also opportunities to explore new paths that can make our University stronger. The interdisciplinary programs we have at WMU have proven relevant for scholarly and creative activity as well as successful in recruiting new students and launching our graduating students into careers and further study.

    As with so much of shared governance, I see our process of expanding disciplinary collaborations as an opportunity—one that is voluntary. Each of you can decide what is relevant and appropriate for your disciplines. You, as a faculty body, are invited to shape this process. My presentation shared a framework that will engage faculty members and the Faculty Senate at all stages. While this dynamic undertaking does not change certain disciplinary fundamentals, it does advance our view of the world and how our disciplines address present and future problems.

    While I understand the word “restructuring” creates uneasiness, I encourage us all to remember restructuring of our disciplines is common as new knowledge and ideas are presented and interpreted by scholars. Further, our students need us to develop pedagogical approaches that deepen disciplinary knowledge while expanding the breadth of their cognitive skills. It is a tension our disciplines have faced for decades. Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary engagement has proven an effective bridge between student needs and our existing structures and organization. In short, I view restructuring as a process of cultivation and growth through which we can expand and build upon, not tear down, the excellence we have.

    Broad engagement in this process is not only welcome, but critical, because one size does not fit all. As we move forward, we must carefully consider accreditation guidelines and professional and licensure requirements; we must consider how best to account for interdisciplinarity work when it comes to tenure and promotion criteria; and we must build structures across the University that support and reward, rather than inhibit, the coming together of colleagues from across disciplines and colleges.

    I understand some of you worry this vision is solely designed to enable further cuts. After more than a decade of enrollment declines and decreasing state appropriations, resulting in painful budget cuts, I can understand that skepticism. Let me state clearly: This is not a budget-cutting initiative in disguise. I shared that our efforts are intended to reduce administrative overhead and balance workload requirements for our faculty, a pressing concern many of you have expressed over the summer and this semester. My goal is for us to take control of our future, sustainably, and find ways to step off the constant cycle of cutting that has resulted in a culture of loss. Our emerging vision is for innovative affiliations among our disciplines that will lay the foundation for new directions for our University, a vision that honors our history, values and mission.

    Let me end by addressing the timeline I provided during the town hall. I laid a foundation from which to develop our collaborative approach to designing our future. At the town hall, I put forward a time frame that identified April 2021 as a starting point, not an endpoint. By that time, departments and programs may self-identify their wish to participate by putting forth ideas for consideration. As laid out by the Faculty Senate process for curricular and organizational change, we would then take the next year to flesh out ideas and begin down a path of creating sustainable, interdisciplinary programs. We will not have everything figured out by the end of April, nor will this new vision be "complete" a year from now. Instead, my hope is this new approach is an ongoing process that continues to evolve over time to meet the changing needs of our shared academic enterprise. With that in mind, I remain open to suggestions about adjustments to the process that might enable us to move forward effectively and collaboratively, while still mindful of the urgency of our situation.

    I look forward to continuing this important University discussion through open office hours, which I will begin holding Thursday, Dec. 3, at noon. Details can be found on my website.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • New leadership added to WMU University College

    October 8, 2020

    Dear colleagues,

    We are writing today to announce additions to the leadership team for our new University College. In August, we shared information about the new college’s structure and leadership. Today, we’re pleased to provide more details about this important new addition to WMU.

    Dr. Deveta Gardner has been named associate dean of University College, responsible for its day-to-day activities, including overseeing the Center for Academic Success Programs (CASP), Career and Student Employment Services (CASES), Student Success Services, the Office of Student Transitions and WMU Signature Program. Dr. Gardner received both her M.A. and Ph.D. from WMU’s College of Education and Human Development after earning her bachelor’s degree from Howard University. She has served at WMU for nearly 25 years, including in leadership roles in CASES, and most recently as the acting co-director of CASES and acting director of CASP. Dr. Gardner has contributed to a wide range of critical University committees, including the WMU Faculty Senate General Education Ad Hoc Committee and the Black Faculty and Staff Founding Committee. She served as chairperson of the MLK Communitywide Celebration Committee and currently represents WMU as a board member of the American Council on Education - Michigan Women’s Network.

    We could not be more excited about Dr. Gardner taking on this role. She is an outstanding, proven leader at WMU who is well-positioned to help build this new unit and to lead the design and delivery of academic student services and programs that meet the needs of all students in a holistic framework.

    Along with establishing Dr. Gardner’s associate dean role, several other positions in the new college have been finalized. Dr. Ewa Urban, who has long served with Dr. Gardner in CASES, has been named director of assessment and effectiveness. She will provide leadership and guidance to University College units regarding data management and interpretation and collegewide assessment; planning and program review related to student learning and student outcomes; and the ongoing improvement and innovation of programs and services. It is more critical than ever that our student success programs be evidence-based and driven by best practices, and Dr. Urban is passionate about using data to drive decisions and resources in ways that will ultimately benefit students.

    Adrienne Fraaza, who has been serving as interim director of the Office of Student Transitions, will assume the permanent position for that office.

    Rounding out the University College leadership team will be Dr. Evan Heiser, director of WMU Signature, and Katie Easley, program manager senior of Student Success Services.

    In the weeks and months ahead, the University College team will share additional updates about its future direction and implementation of the design team’s recommendations. Updates will also be shared out and posted on the One WMU website. We remain grateful for the many experts across campus who are contributing time, energy and great ideas to this effort.

    Please join us in thanking this team for taking on these new roles and for leading this critical work.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

    Edwin Martini, Ph.D.
    Dean, University College
    Associate Provost, WMUx

  • Spring semester schedule now set

    October 26, 2020

    Dear WMU community,

    Thank you for your efforts to make this fall as safe and productive as possible across the academic enterprise, campus services and all other aspects of WMU's operations. As we are about at the halfway point for the fall semester, I'm pleased to announce the University's spring schedule is now set.

    Following winter recess, spring semester classes begin Monday, Jan. 11,2021, with the semester concluding Saturday, May 1. Spring recess is scheduled for March 29 to April 2. Following the break, classes resume Monday, April 5, in distance education formats through the end of the semester—with the exception of courses that support degrees requiring continued hands-on learning.

    This atypical academic year has asked many things of you and you’ve responded with diligence, hard work, patience and resilience. Amid the considerable challenges the world is experiencing due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, our campus community has demonstrated that, with careful planning and each of us committed to practicing COVID-19-conscious behaviors, WMU can continue offering its high-quality educational experience. I appreciate your sustained commitment in doing your part this fall and for the semesters to come.

    Be smart. Be safe. Be Broncos.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Preparing for WMU's Higher Learning Commission Peer Review

    February 2, 2021

    Dear WMU community, 

    This spring, Western Michigan University will complete our Higher Learning Commission (HLC) comprehensive evaluation. All accredited higher learning institutions undergo this process to verify the quality of their offerings and assess the alignment of their actions with their mission, values and recognized best practices. Western Michigan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and our comprehensive evaluation process will cumulate April 12 and 13, 2021, with a virtual site visit from peer reviewers assigned by the HLC.

    In preparation for our site visit, we have created an educational video series for the campus community. In this series, you will learn about the comprehensive evaluation process, WMU’s past accomplishments and our aspirations moving forward. Celebrating our successes—and reflecting on how and where we can do better—enables us to remain committed to continual improvement.  

    The first two videos, “Preparing for Comprehensive Evaluation” and “So That All May Learn,” are live now at wmich.edu/hlc/story. Please take a moment to watch these videos and keep an eye on our HLC website for updates and the release of upcoming episodes.

    Comprehensive evaluation is a collaborative effort that touches all corners of campus and impacts every individual in our community. Stay informed and get involved at wmich.edu/hlc.  

    With gratitude, 

    Dr. Jennifer Bott
    Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs 

  • Letter of Response to WMU-AAUP
  • Recognizing excellence at WMU, call for nominations

    February 5, 2021

    Dear colleagues,

    Join us for a virtual watch party for the spring celebration of scholarship and teaching at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 5, 2021. As part of this virtual event, we will highlight the incredible work of two of our finest colleagues, Drs. Jeffrey Angles and Leah Omilion-Hodges. Considering the unusual circumstances and the fact that we were unable to properly celebrate in person the way we traditionally do at Fall Convocation, we are provided the unique opportunity to recognize Jeffrey and Leah in a new and focused way. Please note that if you are not able to view the event during the scheduled celebration, a recording will be available for you to view at your convenience.

    About the honorees

    Dr. Jeffrey Angles, professor of Japanese in the Department of World Languages and Literatures, has been named the 2020 Distinguished Faculty Scholar. This honor is the highest annual award WMU bestows on faculty members and pays tribute to individuals whose work constitutes a significant body of achievement that is widely recognized within the national and international academic communities. Jeffrey is an expert in Japanese Literature and was recently awarded the Yomiuri Prize for Literature, making him one of only a few non-native speakers ever to win the prestigious award for poetry.

    Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges, associate professor of communication in the School of Communication, was previously recognized as one of two 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients. The Distinguished Teaching award is the highest honor given by the University to those who characterize instructional excellence and outstanding guidance by fostering critical thinking and inspiring their students to be engaged, lifelong learners. Leah, who earned her award in 2019, was praised by her colleagues and students alike for her exceptional ability to connect with students and commit herself relentlessly to their overall success. Although Leah’s talents could not be appropriately showcased in spring 2020 as originally planned, we do not want to let that opportunity permanently pass us by.

    Fall 2021 Convocation

    Additionally, as we look ahead to recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of our colleagues in 2021 and beyond, I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you some updates about our annual awards and nomination processes.

    • We will be hosting a Fall 2021 Convocation awards ceremony. The date, location and format are not yet known but will be communicated once those details become available.
    • Please take the time to submit your electronic nominations by the March 1, 2021, deadline. You are encouraged to recognize your colleagues for exceptional scholarship, teaching, service and more.

    I hope you will submit your nominations in the coming weeks and mark your calendars for our March 5 virtual celebration. The link for the event will be available via the awards website.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • WMU Higher Learning Commission Student Opinion Survey

    February 8, 2021

    Dear students, 
     
    The Higher Learning Commission, the institutional accrediting association that comprehensively evaluates our University, will be completing its 10-year review of Western Michigan University in April 2021. Part of the review process is hearing from students about their experiences at WMU.

    A survey has been created to collect student input, and your perspective is very important to us. A summary of your responses will be provided to the team of Higher Learning Commission representatives that will be visiting our University. The answers you give on this survey are anonymous. Unless you include identifying information in your comments, the Higher Learning Commission and the institution will not have access to your identity. Your participation is completely voluntary. 
     
    Thank you for taking five minutes to complete this short survey, which will be open through Feb. 17, 2021Click here to begin the survey.
     
    Sincerely, 

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs 

  • Student opinion survey reminder

    February 16, 2021

    Dear student, 

    As Western Michigan University prepares for our 10-year regional accreditation evaluation by the Higher Learning Commission, we are gathering feedback about your experiences at the University through a student opinion survey. An email containing information about this important survey was sent to all undergraduates on Monday, Feb. 8.  

    If you haven't already, please complete this voluntary survey prior to Thursday, Feb. 18. Your anonymous responses are invaluable and will be used to help the visiting team of Higher Learning Commission representatives as they conduct their comprehensive review of the University this April.  

    Click here to begin the survey.

    Sincerely, 

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Mission and strategic planning- new episode in HLC video series

    February 19, 2021

    Dear WMU community,

    The latest video in our Higher Learning Commission education series, “Mission and Strategic Planning,” is live now at wmich.edu/hlc/story. This episode focuses on Western's mission, the importance of strategic planning and the process and outcomes of Think Big, a major visioning and planning initiative for WMU.

    The HLC comprehensive evaluation is a collaborative effort that touches all corners of campus and impacts every individual in our community. Stay informed and get involved at wmich.edu/hlc.

    Thank you,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Introducing the Dream Fellowship Program

    February 22, 2021

    Dear colleagues,
     
    It is with great enthusiasm that I write to share with you a new initiative to develop and diversify our leadership pipeline in academic affairs and across campus.

    The Dream Fellowship Program: A Coalition for Aspiring Leaders is an exciting new opportunity to transform the representation of new and aspiring leaders on Western's campus. Sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) and the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), the Dream Fellowship Program cultivates an environment for leadership development as an institutional priority. Given the underrepresentation of diverse leaders across the nation and within academic affairs at Western, the Dream Fellowship Program seeks to close this gap.

    The Office of the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs will select a cohort of three to four aspiring leadership fellows, drawn from the ranks of tenured faculty, to apply for a job-shadowing role in their academic unit or college. Applicants must identify a specific career aspirational goal and a unit sponsor, who has agreed to establish a professional mentoring relationship to support the development of the fellow for their "dream career."

    The applicant will also be required to choose a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) project to accomplish during their fellowship. The mentor and mentee will identify an agreed-upon area of DEI emphasis to support both the mentor and mentee’s needs and aspirations. Fellows will receive a course release for fall and spring semesters during the academic year; the fellowship must be completed within one year. The program will be facilitated by Dr. Staci Perryman-Clark, director of the Institute for Intercultural and Anthropological Studies, and Dr. Evelyn Winfield-Thomas, executive director of the Office of Institutional Equity.

    Full details on the program expectations and the application guidelines can be found on the 
    Dream Fellowship Program website.

    I encourage you to share this information widely, and I also want to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues in ODI and OIE for working together to make this a reality. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Perryman-Clark for providing the inspiration and vision for this critically important new project. I eagerly await the chance to welcome our inaugural program cohort this summer.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Our fall planning efforts

    February 26, 2021

    Dear colleagues,

    Thank you for all you are doing to ensure our students continue to experience an outstanding education. I've been hearing stories from grateful students excited about their favorite classes and professors, despite the difficulties we’ve faced during this unusual year.

    While we have much of the spring term left, our attention naturally turns to fall as students begin planning their schedules. The advent of highly effective vaccines has created a new phase of the COVID-19 era and additional reasons for optimism. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us vaccines will become more widely available this spring and through the summer. Equipped with lessons learned over the last 12 months and continuously guided by public health expertise, we hope our educational enterprise will look more familiar in the coming academic year.

    Given the positive projections of national experts, I’ve asked that we plan our courses for a normal fall. We’ve proven we can quickly move from in-person to distance education as necessary, but the effort we must undertake now is planning for a return to campus. Pedagogy, of course, should drive decision-making about course modality, as has been our practice over the last two semesters. Faculty members, working with chairs and deans, have been asked to choose the appropriate modality for their classes in preparation for the fall schedule. Similar to last year, I will convene a faculty group to provide recommendations about how to shift our plans, should that be necessary, as fall draws nearer. We will adjust plans as needed.

    These continue to be trying times, and I want you to know my door remains open. I maintain open office hours on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m., so you can easily touch base with me to get a conversation started or share a concern. My offer to take part in meetings for your organization or unit stands, as well. I appreciate the groups that have invited me to engage thus far, as each meeting has been productive, enlightening and builds stronger connections and collaboration. I look forward to additional opportunities.

    To invite me to your organization's meeting or to connect with me one-on-one, please reach out to office-of-the-provost@wmich.edu.

    With gratitude,
    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Spring celebration, nomination deadline extended

    March 3, 2021

    Dear colleagues,

    It is finally starting to feel and look more like ​spring, so I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you our spring celebration of scholarship and teaching is this Friday, March 5​, at 10 a.m.

    Please join me in the virtual watch party designed to celebrate University award winners Drs. Jeffrey Angles and Leah Omilion-Hodges. Getting to know them better during this planning process has been a real pleasure, and I am excited to share their stories—in their own voices—with the greater campus community later this week.

    In addition, I would like to request your assistance in recognizing the exceptional work of our colleagues for the 2021 awards cycle. We cannot adequately celebrate those outstanding members of our campus community without nominations, so I encourage you to visit the Office of Faculty Development Awards website to learn more about the awards and submit electronic nominations as soon as possible. We’ve recently extended the deadline to March 15; I hope the two extra weeks provide you the time and opportunity to submit a nomination or two.

    I sincerely appreciate all you do.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Interdisciplinary Initiative: Progress update

    March 5, 2021

    Dear colleagues,

    Thank you for the time, effort and thoughtfulness evidenced by the many conversations we shared around the interdisciplinarity initiative. These engagements help me better understand both what excites you about the effort as well as where you are cautious or have concerns. We continue to respond as facilitators as we work through this process together. One thing you’ve shared is that you would like frequent updates. That’s what brings me to writing today.

    The response to the call for proposals for year one is outstanding! I’m so grateful for the creativity and collaboration evidenced in the more than 50 proposals that have been received, with submissions from each college. The college-level committees, composed of more than 150 faculty and staff colleagues, are meeting and providing perspective and feedback on the proposals. "Team: Interdisciplinary," composed of more than 45 members, met Thursday for the first time and will be working toward development of a rubric to review both initial and later-stage proposals.

    Interdisciplinary work, both in the classroom and through our research and creative scholarship, has long been an area of strength at Western Michigan University. The interdisciplinary curricular programs designed by faculty members over the years have been outstanding; our efforts today are no different. Foregoing curricular programs were approved through our institutional channels; our efforts today are no different. While the structure and encouragement to hold these critical and innovative conversations around interdisciplinarity was provided by my office, the meaningful ideas and detailed direction starts with the faculty and then grows into collaboration among the departments and colleges.

    Our institution has undergone significant change in the past year and, for some, this interdisciplinary activity is seen as unwelcome and maybe even anxiety-producing. I want to emphasize that involvement is entirely voluntary. There are opportunities both now and in the future. You can choose to engage today, later or not at all. I truly believe as you learn more details about the proposals developed by your colleagues, new possibilities and inspiration that can improve our shared enterprise will emerge. I encourage you to visit the Interdisciplinarity website to learn more about the nature of the efforts and view and follow the progress of proposals, which will be posted online next week.

    I welcome the opportunity to visit your department, college or group to answer your questions directly. My office hours remain open every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. If that time doesn’t work, please send me an email to schedule a time to talk.

    With gratitude,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs