Opening of School Letter, 9/12/19

Opening of School Letter, 9/12/19

Colleagues,

Welcome to the new academic year! I write to share updates about the many things that have been happening on campus over the summer months, and to share with you some of the most important initiatives for the coming academic year.

In reflecting back over two years as Provost, it’s clear to me that the new structure for academic affairs has allowed us to achieve a number of goals that we would not have otherwise been able to achieve. These include:

  • developing more extensive partnerships with other divisions of the institution to ensure coordination and support for the academic mission;
  • creatively and thoughtfully utilizing available resources to support strategic initiatives, increase efficiency, and build toward sustainable operations;
  • supporting each school’s unique programs while simultaneously developing new programs and curricular connections;
  • reinvigorating the career center, instructional technology, and broad support for immersive learning;
  • strengthening Drew’s commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for faculty, staff, students, and community members, through the creation of an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
  • developing and implementing a process by which our full-time faculty members who are not on the tenure track can be promoted and recognized for the important contributions that they make to our community;
  • providing more comprehensive and integrated support for our graduate students; and
  • completing a comprehensive review of the Registrar’s Office and creating a roadmap for best practice operations.

Everyone receiving this letter has been involved in these efforts in one way or another. I am grateful that I work with individuals who are so thoughtful and collaborative, and who always put the best interests of our students at the forefront. Thank you.

Because the work of our three schools and the library has become so much more integrated, I am also re-instituting University-wide faculty meetings. We will start by holding one each semester, and we will use this time to discuss issues that are relevant to academic affairs more broadly, share important University updates, etc. The fall meeting is scheduled for November 20th, and the spring meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 18th. The agenda for these meetings will be crafted with representatives of the Theological School and Arts and Sciences Dean’s Councils. More information will be announced as these dates near.

Summer Updates

The class of 2023 is the first undergraduate class to experience Launch, and significant work has happened over the summer to prepare for their arrival.

  • Preparation for Drew 110 (Launch workshop: Preparation for Career and Academic Success) has been vigorous; the full first-year cohort will take the course in the spring and we are piloting it this fall sophomores and juniors who want to participate in it. We have two full 30 person sections running this semester.
  • Launch also now has extensive visual branding, along with content and other tools, that can be used to communicate the Launch approach to education to current and incoming students, the Drew community, and communities well beyond Drew. We have made tremendous progress on a newly designed web space (launch.drew.edu) that integrates the systems that manage mentoring by alumni and community members, job postings, internships, community events, and the full range of immersive experience opportunities. The site also includes the 16 Career and Identity/Affinity communities that are open to participation by all students; overseen by Drew faculty and staff, these curated spaces combine events, mentoring, student clubs, and a range of opportunities and materials aligned with each group. There is still much to be done to continue to develop this tool, but I would like to extend particular thanks to those who have been most involved up to this point: Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, Juliette Lantz, Kristen Williams, Justin Jackson, Margaret Kiernan, Greg Townsend, Sari Pascoe, Steph Mazzarella, Tanya Linn Bennett, and Andrew Bonamici.
  • The Launch curricular conversations will continue this semester as we work together to ensure the full development and implementation of this innovative initiative. A new community wide event, the Launch Communities Expo, will be held on Friday, October 11. This Drew campus event will introduce Drew and broader communities to Launch, as well as to introduce and engage all community members in Launch’s 16 Career & Identity Communities. The Expo will include a showcase of the Launch Communities and Think Tanks, a co-curricular experiences Poster Session, and a networking reception.
  • After spending multiple years in their “temporary” spaces in Holloway Hall, the Offices of Financial Aid, the Registrar, and Student Accounts have moved to the lower level of Brothers College. The offices are bright and welcoming, and this space is also fully accessible with a new ramp and entryway to the lower level on the BC circle side of the building. Please plan to stop by an open house between 2:00 and 4:00 on Tuesday, September 17th, to see this beautiful space. A special thank you to Greg Smith, Stephanie McCormick, and their entire Facilities team for doing an amazing job overseeing this renovation, as well as many, many other major renovation and campus improvement projects this summer.
  • The Theological school faculty completed the first year of their innovative new curriculum with great success and will be continuing to implement it over the next several years. Their work is bolstered by renovations in Seminary Hall, changing selected classrooms into high-flex learning spaces that allow for quality synchronous online meetings and increased accessibility of their programs. Two grants were secured to support faculty development and strategic planning, and five graduate certificates building on the dynamic new curriculum are being launched.
  • This fall we rolled out e-portfolios for all Master of Divinity students and entering PhD students in the History and Culture program and the Graduate Division of Religion. Many thanks to the Caspersen and Theological faculty who developed the curriculum and Peter McLellan (Phd, T ‘19), who expertly led the implementation team.
  • In CSGS, the first Master of Science in Finance students just completed their internships and capstone projects and are preparing to graduate while the first cohort of students in the Data Analytics programs are matriculating. The newly revamped History and Culture M.A. program has also seen a significant uptick in enrollment.
  • Hundreds of undergraduate students participated in revamped on-campus and distance orientation programs this summer, ensuring they arrived on campus fully prepared for the fall semester; thank you to the Campus Life and Student Affairs team, Maria Masucci, Jill Cermele, John Jordan, Laura Arthur and the INTO student services team, Anna MacLachlan, and the many faculty members who participated for navigating so many first-year students through an excellent orientation program and welcoming them to our community. Our new Theological and Caspersen School classes have also arrived. Many thanks to all who put together excellent orientation programs for those groups, particularly Melanie Johnson-Debaufre, Tanya Linn Bennett, Soren Hessler, Antoine Porter, Beth Babcock, and Joanne Montross.

A quick note that the University will be beginning or completing three different accreditation processes this year. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the body that accredits our teacher education program, will be conducting their accreditation site visit this November. Many thanks to Kristen Turner for leading this project and to Brandie Waid and Nancy Vitalone-Raccaro for the tremendous amount of work they did to help get the report submitted. The Middle States and Association of Theological Schools accreditation processes will both begin during the 19-20 academic year and conclude with site visits during the 20-21 academic year. I want to thank Ryan Hinrichs and Hilary Kalagher for agreeing to chair the Middle States steering committee and Kate Ott and Melanie Johnson-Debaufre for chairing the ATS process.

This year promises to be exciting, busy and challenging. There is a lot to accomplish but I am convinced that together we are up to the task. I look forward to continuing our work, and to re-connecting with each of you in this new academic year.

Best,
Deb