Dear Howard Faculty, Staff and Students:
In January 2011, the Board of Trustees made far reaching decisions that over time will strengthen Howard for the future. I am pleased to report on the campus’ progress in implementing these decisions. I also want to inform you that we will launch a new web site soon to serve as a central access point for tracking developments and progress on an on-going basis.
The entire Howard community is vested in the success of academic renewal; as a community, we will make changes that are absolutely essential for positioning Howard for the opportunities and challenges ahead. Strengthening Howard is not about change affecting a few departments and programs; it is about planned, orderly change that spans the entire university. It is about increased focus, strategic use of resources, and leveraging the innovation and commitment of the campus community, our alumni and supporters. It is about taking advantage of opportunities, openly confronting our challenges and delivering on our still unique mission in ways that are more intentional, effective and efficient. Change is never easy, and change of this breadth and scope is particularly difficult, but we must, we can and we are making change that will strengthen Howard. Here is my progress report.
The essence of Howard is its faculty, most of whom are eligible to retire. In recognition of faculty service and to ensure a smooth transition as many faculty retire over the next few years, I will propose to the Board of Trustees that Howard offer a voluntary program in which tenured faculty who choose to retire receive financial incentives and the opportunity to continue teaching and engaging in scholarly work and service for a specified period, perhaps up to five years and optionally with a reduced workload. I appointed a committee, chaired by Dean Kurt Schmoke with the Faculty Senate Chair and Vice Chair as members, to recommend and review designs for such a faculty retirement plan. A survey was sent to retirement-eligible tenured faculty with their responses intended to inform the design of the program. A statistical summary of the survey results will be shared with the campus which indicates significant faculty interest in the program. Retirements under such a program would likely be following the 2011-12 academic year. Faculty retirements under such a program will be offset by corresponding hiring that is consistent with our strategically realigned academic programs, research foci, and available resources. Faculty new to Howard will be hired with compensation and support levels that are nationally competitive. Based on performance, current faculty will be brought up to such nationally competitive levels on an aggressive schedule on the basis of a faculty compensation plan which I will announce.
To meet our strategic goals, we have exercised increased fiscal discipline, which turned years of operating deficits into a modest operating surplus last year. Independent assessments by the two leading financial rating services accurately capture both our successes and challenges. They conclude that the University’s renewal program, new leadership and fiscal stability now enable Howard to approach the capital markets for significant funds for use in capital projects, particularly new buildings, renovations and modernization. Last week the university floated new bonds, which will be supplemented by internal resources so that by Fall 2011 we will see construction and renovation projects beginning across the campus. The first phase includes the renovation of numerous buildings in all areas of the campus; a high performance computational science center with applications ranging from medicine and the sciences to linguistics and the arts; and an interdisciplinary STEM research building. There will be two new student residence halls constructed.
Colleges, schools and departments across campus are placing increased emphasis on their local planning and decision making. This includes emphasis on fund raising and growing revenue streams to support their programs, sharpening the focus of programs to achieve excellence within available resources, and increasing the use of externally grounded metrics to measure their progress. While specific academic degree programs have been called out for the most significant changes, including program closure, planning for continuous program improvement is an on-going responsibility of every program. Where necessary, we need to narrow the range of what we do, and continuously improve efficiency, so that performance across the realms of teaching/learning, research, service and administrative support operations is fully nationally competitive and recognized as such.
We all have a responsibility to contribute to the enhancement of Howard. As noted previously, Provost Wyche and Senior Vice President Higginbotham are leading the implementation of the academic renewal changes approved by the Board. Open meetings to keep faculty informed and engaged have been held in each Division. In Academic Affairs, the Provost has held meetings with the faculty of each department which has one or more programs to be merged, transformed or closed. Current students in these programs have been notified and are being provided appropriate academic advising; prospective students interested in programs which will no longer be available have been encouraged to select another degree program.
While there are many aspects of academic renewal which are underway in Academic Affairs, I will single out two for this report. The first of these is substantial revision of our undergraduate program; the second is the creation of a Diaspora Studies Center and the Ronald Walters Center. The work of the last three years, including Middle States Self-Study groups, the Presidential Commission on Academic Renewal (PCAR) and various faculty-led efforts, has already set a solid foundation for both these efforts, eliminating the need to backtrack and re-plow the same ground. After consultation with the Faculty Senate and others, Provost Wyche will appoint a broad-based committee which will recommend a comprehensive, integrated set of changes to Howard’s undergraduate program to assure that each graduate acquires the foundation of a liberal education while being well prepared for citizenship, graduate study, careers, and which opens the door to a life of meaning and service. Based on the work of PCAR and the Board of Trustees’ decisions, the proposed program should include a well-designed first year experience; University learning outcomes; a revised General Education/University Studies program; a program for on-going formative assessment of student learning and related student advising; and an integrative capstone experience. I am asking that the committee’s recommendations increase intentionality and rigor, apply best practices and the latest findings in learning sciences, and promote approaches that increase student responsibility for their own learning (e.g., more flexibility in each student’s program of study as overseen by faculty). I would encourage the committee to consider a mandatory service requirement.
The development of a Center for the Study of the African Diaspora is a core component of the academic renewal plan approved by the Board of Trustees. The importance of creating the Center is embedded in the centrality of Africa and the African Diaspora in the legacy of our institution. The Center is critical for developing a Howard University community around a diverse range of historical and current issues related to experiences, achievements, sensitivities, challenges and the potential of people of African descent, and will facilitate the development of partnerships with governments and civil society. The Provost will appoint a broadly representative faculty committee to develop plans for the Center.
Under the leadership of Senior Vice President Higginbotham, the Health Sciences Division recently completed its strategic plan which will guide its direction in the years ahead. As with Academic Affairs, Health Sciences has notified affected departments and students of Board decisions that affect them and is preparing detailed implementation plans. Senior Vice President Higginbotham, in collaboration with Dean Adderley-Kelly, appointed a committee to make recommendations about the alignment of Health Human Performance and Leisure Studies (HHPLS) with Nutritional Sciences, including the possibility of combining these programs, and a second committee to make recommendations about Health Management, Pre-Physical Therapy and Radiation Therapy degree programs, with recommendations forthcoming in May 2011. Departmental planning and financial modeling are proceeding across the Health Sciences, including initial planning for new hiring as faculty retire.
I am also happy to report that progress is being made in the development of the university’s Faculty Performance Evaluation System (FPES). School and college FPES instruments are being piloted during the current semester for implementation beginning July 1, 2011. The process that will result in the revision of the 1993 Faculty Handbook is underway. After consulting with the Dr. Eric Walters, Chair of the Faculty Senate and Drs. Higginbotham and Wyche, I have appointed a committee to develop a revised Handbook for my review and approval by the Board of Trustees. As recommended by the Faculty Senate, I plan to initiate the process of creating an office of the Ombudsman by the end of this academic year. Additionally, I will appoint a faculty-led group to recommend how to best broaden the impact and visibility of Howard’s expertise and its related policy implications through the creation of a Howard Think Tank.
In parallel with the academic renewal efforts described above, the on-going “Administrative Review and Restructuring Program” (Administrative Renewal) will continue to systematically and thoroughly review the university’s service and support operations with the mandate to increase service levels and reduce cost to reach ‘best in class’ benchmarks. Our Chief Operating Officer Troy Stovall is leading this initiative.
The Students First campaign, which I began shortly after I arrived at Howard, continues with major impact: student voices and concerns are consistently listened to and considered; every major decision in any area is considered in light of its impact on students; and all the above mentioned changes are for the purpose of strengthening learning, the campus environment and the quality of student life here at Howard. Our efforts to construct new student residence hall facilities, build new teaching/learning facilities and bring older facilities up to date, improve administrative operations, revise the undergraduate experience, and enhance our graduate and professional programs, have one thing in common: they put students first.
Howard’s commitment to renewal has not gone unnoticed, having received significant attention in the regional and national press and from alumni and the broader community. Other universities are inquiring what is happening here and about our approach to managing change; notably, potential donors are beginning to step forward to further support our upward trajectory. We all need to continue to reach out to our communities, telling our story and requesting the support we need.
Our love of Howard and our strength as a community will see us, together, through the changes we must make so that Howard will be here, strong and vibrant, serving future generations of students and doing what we have for so long: producing leaders. I am asking each of us to do everything we can to guide, support and enhance our university and then a little bit more.
As we approach our 2011 commencement and the annual ceremony that will send forth another class of graduates to provide leadership for and serve our nation and the world, I want to thank you for all that you are doing for Howard University. I look forward to your continued engagement with our historic academic renewal initiative.
Sidney A. Ribeau