President's Message Regarding Academic Leadership Structure, 2/8/17.


President’s Message Regarding Academic Leadership Structure, 2/8/17

Dear Members of the Drew Community,

As has become my custom, I am writing early in the semester to bring you up to date on important topics that impact the university. I wish each of you a happy, healthy, and productive spring; it’s hard to believe that we are only three weeks into this very busy semester.

The main purpose of this communication is to provide an update regarding the academic leadership structure.  In several previous written communications and open forums, I described the need to move to a provost structure in order to achieve coherence and collaboration between the the three schools and to direct resources away from redundant administrative tasks and toward academic and co-curricular programs. As a result, more of my own time and attention can be directed towards fundraising and leadership outside of the academic areas.

My intent was to conduct a national search for a provost during the current academic year, and to appoint a successful candidate effective July 1, 2017.  Under that timeline, the new provost would have been tasked first with developing the “provost function” and the various structures associated with it.  However, other changes—like a consolidated deanship for CLA and the Caspersen School—and my own reflections, along with other Cabinet and APBC members, about both structural issues and potential new academic programs, led me to the conclusion that it is preferable to create the new structure first before appointing a provost.

We have realized that the key to a successful transition and to the development of the structure is internal knowledge of the workings of the three schools and the libraries, as well as existing administrative functions.  We need a team of key leaders who supervise these areas to devise the structure, and we need an individual leader to play “point person” for instituting the structure as we work toward the hiring of a provost.

I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Debra Liebowitz, currently Associate Dean in CLA, will assume the role of Associate Provost, effective immediately.  In this capacity, Deb will report directly to me.  I will continue to serve in the role of de facto provost until such time as we are ready to fill the position of provost.  As Chair of our very successful Periodic Review process, Deb exhibited an institutional orientation, a facilitative manner, and a systems-oriented way of thinking.  These are key attributes for University-wide leadership.

As Associate Provost, Deb will be the key point person in developing the provost structure and helping me manage resources toward a successful transition and a sustainable provost function.  As that structure evolves, Deb will assume the initial leadership for those activities that fall in the provost’s domain. Since Library, Instructional Technology, and User Support Services belong within a provost structure, Deb will continue to supervise these areas, and they will be integrated into the new structure as it evolves.

Also in support of a successful transition, I have created a new leadership team, Academic Leaders, to manage the transition and to make key decisions about structure and the appropriate “home” (school/libraries or university) for the myriad of academic administrative functions both strategic and operational that we carry out every day.  Academic Leaders is currently meeting on a weekly basis, and is already making significant progress in developing a skeletal design for the provost’s office.

As appropriate, this group will engage with other academic and administrative constituencies and leaders to discuss plans for the provost’s office. Members of Academic Leaders include Deb, Chris Taylor, Dean of CLA and CSGS, Javier Viera, Dean of DTS, Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, Associate Dean of DTS, Jessica Lakin, Associate Dean of CLA, and myself.  It is my expectation that this team will continue after the transition, with my own role eventually filled by the provost.   At present I have suspended planning for a provost search.  Academic Leaders will evaluate the status of the structural transition at the end of this semester.  When we feel that we have moved far enough along in restructuring to ensure a successful provostship, we will launch a search process.

One of the concerns about the development of a provost structure is financial: Will we need to hire more administrators?  The answer to that question is “no.” In fact, one important goal of Academic Leaders is to strategically realign leadership positions to reduce duplication in workload, and to increase collaboration between the schools and the libraries.  That realignment has already begun with the consolidation of the Deanships of CLA and CSGS, and the assumption of leadership of the Libraries, Instructional Technology, and User Services into the nascent provost structure.  With Bill Roger’s retirement in June 2017, the associate dean position in CSGS will be eliminated. Thus, I have already restructured three positions—Dean of CSGS, Associate Dean of CSGS, and Dean of Information, Innovation, and Technology—such that there are three fewer FTE upper-level administrative positions across the University.

The inverse of the consolidation of administrative positions, and its associated savings, is the concern that particular individuals will be overloaded with work and unable to execute their responsibilities fully.  In this case, the particular concern is with workload for the remaining Deans and Associate Deans, and for Deb in her new role.  Even in this early stage of their work, the Academic Leaders group is making significant progress in untangling and delineating school work and processes (to stay with the schools and libraries/technology) and university work and processes (to migrate to the new provost’s office).  While we are far from working out the details, we have already identified many areas of triplicated work that can be moved into a more efficient structure.  As we work through this process, I will stick close to the members of this group to ensure that each individual receives the support necessary to both lead and manage.  This support, however, will come from realignment of work in academic, administrative, and/or support areas, not through new hires.

During the transition, all current supervisory roles of the Deans and Associate Deans will continue “business as usual,” and all office functions in their area will remain the same until further notice.  A first priority is to streamline Deb’s existing CLA workload, and to provide project management support for the transition.

As one example of this approach, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Jill Cermele, Professor of Psychology, has agreed to assume the role of Director of the First-Year Experience.  Jill served this past semester as a First-Year Seminar instructor and was instrumental in helping to design the new academic advising website and think through how academic advising would work as the First-Year Experience was redesigned. To this role, Jill brings 20 years of Drew teaching experience as well as her own history as a Drew undergrad.  She is eager to support this successful program and its connection with the General Education curriculum, in partnership with Campus Life and Student Affairs.  This leadership transition is one key strategy in freeing space in Deb’s workload, without adding additional burdens to Chris Taylor and Jessica Lakin.

We have much more work to do as we proceed to a healthy, sustainable academic structure, but with the wisdom, leadership, and hard work of this team, I am confident that we will get there.

Many of you, particularly members of the faculty, will have many questions, now, and as we continue this process.  Many of those questions will not yet have an answer, but we are committed to sharing progress throughout the process, and we will update the community on a regular basis.  Shortly after the Board of Trustees meeting later this month, I will begin my semester communication cycle with a University-wide Open Forum, followed by visits to Deans’ Councils, Faculty, University Senate, Drew Staff Association, and Student Government representatives.  In those meetings, I will give a progress report on the new academic structure and other actions to help stream-line our work and dedicate our resources more directly to the academic and student development mission of the University.  I look forward to seeing you at these events.

Best wishes,