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Sept. 10, 2019 - Message from the Provost

September 10, 2019

A Time of Transition and Continued Progress

With the whirlwind of the first days of the fall semester behind us, I wanted to take a moment to welcome you all—new and returning faculty and staff—as we begin a new academic year. Wherever your summer journeys took you, I hope you found the right balance of restfulness and productivity, and feel recharged and invigorated, as I do, for the year ahead. This is an exciting time in the academic year, when we reconvene to pursue our common mission. I appreciate the energy and commitment that each of you brings to your work for our students, our university, and the state.

The 2019-2020 academic year will be a time of transition for the University of Wyoming, but also a period of continued progress. Acting President Theobald has established his priorities for the University and the expectation stands that we will press ahead on key efforts that will advance the University’s mission and strategic plan, and continue to build upon our strength as the state’s flagship and land-grant university. These priorities include ensuring affordability and excellence in student preparation, an expansion of our physical and digital presence throughout the state through our academic programs, and fostering excellence among our faculty through recruitment and retention efforts, as well as facilitating their pursuits in research and creative endeavors, teaching, and service.

Yesterday afternoon, I provided the Faculty Senate with a report on several initiatives that are underway within the Office of Academic Affairs aligned to these priorities that will significantly shape our activity in the coming months. These include the University’s HLC reaccreditation, an expansion of Distance Education offerings, the expansion of WyoFolio and launch of WyoVita, a new Graduate Wyoming initiative supporting transfers to UW, a revised approach to delivering financial aid, and changes in Graduate Education. I wanted to be sure that these efforts were communicated to those of you who were unable to attend yesterday’s meeting. In each instance, we plan to share additional information and engage our partners across campus as these initiatives advance and plans are developed or implemented.

This is just a sampling of the many exciting efforts underway as we begin this new academic year. I look forward to the opportunity to reconnect with each of you—or perhaps connect for the first time—and discuss these efforts with you at upcoming meetings, events, or as our paths cross on campus.

Go Pokes!

Dr. Kate Miller

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

 

HLC Reaccreditation (http://www.uwyo.edu/accreditation/)
One of the most important endeavors we are pursuing right now is a reaffirmation of our accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission, or HLC. As most of you know, Associate Vice Provost Anne Alexander and teams of faculty and staff from across the University have spent the last several months preparing for a site visit by HLC reviewers as part of our reaccreditation process. The dates for the visit have been set and will occur November 18-19, 2019. As we approach this date, we are nearing completion of our Assurance Argument and Evidence File, which provide the argument and evidence of how we meet HLC Accreditation Criteria and each subcomponent, or “Core Component”, of the criteria. During the visit, faculty, staff, and students will have the opportunity to speak with reviewers through a set of onsite meeting drop-in sessions. We will announce times for the drop-in sessions as we finalize the site visit schedule in the coming weeks.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the accreditation process is also encouraged to attend the Accredi-Carnival on September 26, 2019 from 11:30 am-1:30 pm in the Wyoming Union Yellowstone Ballroom. We also created a website explaining the accreditation process and timeline, which contains a great deal of information that is useful to anyone who would like to better understand HLC’s reaccreditation process, the University’s responsibilities, and their own role.

 

Expansion of Distance Education Offerings
Efforts are currently underway to build on the University’s strength in delivering distance education to the people of Wyoming through online delivery modes, propelled by a convergence of factors, including Wyoming’s educational attainment goals, economic diversification imperatives established by ENDOW, and priorities articulated by Acting President Theobald and the Board of Trustees. Several current and new programs have received innovation funds in the current academic year in order to grow our capacity to provide asynchronous online education and expand our online offerings in areas of high student and market demand. In order to better serve the needs of the state and its citizens, as well as our mission, there is a strong expectation that UW will need to develop and deliver new online undergraduate and graduate programs in the coming months and years. Discussions have begun with the colleges and many departments to identify targets for growth and expansion, and efforts to centrally support the development and delivery of high-quality online education are moving forward. We welcome input from our colleagues on the faculty as we seek to grow our offerings online and deliver a high-quality educational experience through digital media.

 

WyoFolio and WyoVita
Last year we implemented a new online review system for academic personnel, branded WyoFolio. It was used for the first time for submitting and reviewing sabbatical applications and annual performance evaluations. In the College of Business, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and UW Libraries, it was also used for reappointment, tenure and promotion (RTP) reviews. This year we will extend implementation of WyoFolio for RTP reviews in all academic units.

We will also roll out a new faculty activity reporting system this fall that will enable faculty members to create up-to-date personal vitae about their scholarship, teaching, service, and extension activities. WyoVita will allow you to automatically pull information about your scholarship and its impact from databases like ORCID, Web of Science, and Google Scholar; grant information from InfoEd; and information about your teaching from Banner. You will also be able to input information about other activities such as professional and university service, outreach and engagement, and contributions to extension efforts. This new system will also allow the university and the colleges to produce timely and accurate information for accreditation. We expect to share additional information about the implementation of these systems soon, so stay tuned for more.

 

Graduate Wyoming Initiative
The University of Wyoming has long been committed to leading conversations and efforts to improve student experiences as they progress from Wyoming’s seven community colleges to the University—and ultimately toward baccalaureate completion. Beginning this fall, UW will launch Graduate Wyoming, a new umbrella initiative to expand our existing articulation and transfer work. Graduate Wyoming will complement our established 2+2 articulation efforts by elevating transfer experiences and degree completion through reverse transfer, development of Transfer Planning Guides, and direct student support initiatives such as peer mentoring, registration days, and comprehensive student onboarding. Academic leadership through the colleges and faculty across the institution are key to UW’s continued success in student retention, attainment, and experience. As we prepare for the Wyoming Articulation Summit on October 4, we expect to share more information about Graduate Wyoming and its role as a fundamental component of our response to statewide and legislative priorities for higher education.

 

Revising Our Approach to Delivering Financial Aid
As we welcome the fall 2019 class, we also sequentially transition to the recruitment and retention of our quickly approaching fall 2020 cohort. This year’s recruitment cycle brings many exciting changes. One of those changes resulting from discussions and action taken at the July Board of Trustees meeting is the approval of a new awarding strategy for financial aid, to be effective fall 2020. As outlined in a July release, UW will transition to a new awarding strategy that brings increased opportunities for Wyoming residents (see Cowboy Commitment), a new metric for awarding aid for non-residents (see Brown & Gold Commitment), and additional incentives for both Transfer and International student populations. The most significant shift is moving to university commitments, which will be initially funded through the generosity of Foundation donors and, as necessary, will be supplemented by other institutional aid. This differs from the separate and more insular approach previously deployed by Admissions for scholarships such as Wyoming Scholars, Rocky Mountain Scholars, UW Transfer, and others. In response to this change, the Division of Enrollment Management has been working diligently to effectively implement the new awarding strategy and address issues that this significant pivot will have on our recruiting strategies. A large part of successful implementation will be through conducting campus wide trainings for the following areas:

  • Deans and Department Heads (In-Person presentation at September 16th Meeting)

  • Staff (In-Person trainings to Campus Recruiters & Scholarship Liaisons)

  • One-on-one training, as necessary, for programs, departments, and key personnel

We understand the great importance of delivering this information as soon as possible and commit to providing these trainings before the month of September is over. We appreciate your partnership and patience as we all learn and adjust to the new direction for optimizing aid to students.

 

Changes in Graduate Education
In the last academic year and at UW’s request, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) conducted a strategic consultation review of graduate education at the university, including the administration of graduate education, graduate enrollment management, and the assessment of graduate student learning outcomes. In its report, CGS made a number of recommendations that Associate Vice Provost Jim Ahern and his team are in the process of reviewing and implementing. In addition to working to rebuild and better support graduate education at UW, the Office of Graduate Education is also leading an effort to review how allocations of state-funded graduate assistantships are made in order to make sure that allocations align well with Academic Affairs’ strategic plan. As plans are developed over the coming months, members of the faculty and the Faculty Senate will have opportunities to discuss these issues and contribute input.

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