September 26, 2023

Message From the Provost

Dear colleagues,

As you know, over the last few weeks, colleges and departments have been having conversations about the way we are organized. I am writing this morning to share the news that I have asked Deans Kelly, Mellinger, and Tabak to co-lead an effort to craft recommendations for how we might more effectively organize Academic Affairs to address the challenges that lie ahead and to accomplish our many goals. They will be joined by six members of the teaching faculty (Jackie Gallagher, Dave Henderson, Brooks Kuykendall, Lynn Lewis, Angela Pitts, and Jennifer Walker) in a working group on organizing academic affairs.

This work comes at a critical time for the University. As the four-year institution situated in Virginia’s fastest growing region, we have a vital role to play and must continue to adapt and evolve to meet current and future workforce needs. This is important work and it will require us to peer into the future, eschew self-interest and disciplinary identity, and create space for innovative and creative thinking. There are several objectives which should guide this effort:

(1)   Revitalize our curriculum to offer programs that students will find attractive, and to create a nimble environment that more easily navigates future changes in our faculty and student body. Consider ways in which we are organized (and even geographically arranged on campus) to create the space and support to reduce silos and revitalize programs in ways that are uninhibited by traditional disciplinary boundaries.

(2)   Maximize what is distinctive or what could become distinctive, leveraging the wide array of expertise among our faculty and our strategic location.

(3)   Reduce the imbalance of the current faculty distribution across the three colleges to strengthen shared governance, reduce the service burden, and provide a more even distribution of administrative support and efficiency.

(4)   Bolster recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts.

This working group begins immediately and their recommendations should be submitted to me by December 1. Many offices, units, and individuals are logical and appropriate resources for this work and the working group is encouraged to take advantage of these resources and perspectives. There should be multiple and multi-method opportunities for input and engagement with programs as well as regular outward communication. The working group’s process should be both transparent, and inclusive. Deliverables should include:

1)    Recommendations for adjustments to our current organizational structure that would support our efforts to achieve these objectives.

2)    Recommendations for implementation tasks to be initiated in spring 2024 so that we may begin to take advantage of these recommendations in fall 2024.

3)    Recommendations about processes to facilitate curriculum changes that will flow from organizational changes. This process will clearly require additional time.

I am grateful for the time, effort and energy being invested in this task, look forward to supporting this effort and am eager to hear and learn from the many ideas and conversations that will take place in the coming weeks.


Tim O’Donnell

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