From the Provost

A Newsletter From Linda Katehi

October 13, 2008
Volume 1 Issue 7

A Message From the Provost

Dear Colleague,

The deans of all our colleges and schools meet with me as the Council of Deans (CoD) every second week during the academic year, and get together for more informal conversation about issues facing the university in the off-weeks. Each summer the CoD holds a two-day retreat to assess the progress of the prior academic year and to define priorities for the coming one.   The work of the Council of Deans is essential to our ability to realize the goals of the strategic plan. This Newsletter features a brief report of the 2008 CoD summer retreat.

With the new academic year well underway, several critical initiatives have been launched.   One of particular importance is the Illinois Mandate.  Faculty thrive when they participate in national and international activities that support their scholarship, remain active in their professional communities, and teach at the highest level of quality with the appropriate tools.  Implemented over the next five years, the Illinois Mandate will provide faculty access to funds to enable them to prosper in their fields.  The first phase of this initiative, the Humanities/Arts Flexible Scholarship Support Fund, is described in this newsletter.

Linda Katehi

Council of Deans' Retreat Outcomes

Since 2006, CoD annual retreats have focused on strategies needed to achieve the goals of the Strategic Plan.

Our retreat this year was influenced by campus-wide challenges and by national trends, including flat state funding support at a time when the public concerns about the ability to access low-cost, high-quality education have intensified.  We identified a theme to focus our discussions on actions that will help us respond effectively to our challenges.  As a result we selected Re-envisioning the Institution as the theme of the 2008 CoD retreat. 

We have come to recognize that simply reacting to the present financial and intellectual challenges will not help our campus achieve its goals. The typical methods of addressing such challenges lead to loss of quality, and they slow, compromise, or obstruct progress toward critical goals and objectives. We recognize that we need new methods to help us

  • to re-invigorate ourselves, rather than withdrawing
  • to redefine our identity, not simply to perpetuate what the past has created for us, and
  • to move ahead aggressively in place of retrenching until better times are restored.  

CoD members shared individual concept papers to generate discussion and identify priorities for the 2008- 2009 academic year.  The specific goals of the retreat were to:

  • understand the institutional context for the 2008-2009 academic year
  • create specific model(s) for re-envisioning the institution
  • refine priorities for 2008-2009 academic year and
  • develop new methods for moving forward aggressively on priorities for 2008-2009

After evaluating each concept paper in the context of the challenges facing the institution, the group identified key priorities for the current academic year that included:

Academic Initiatives:

  • reform general education
  • create multidisciplinary majors
  • launch Division of Biomedical Sciences
  • implement thematically clustered program reviews

Financial Initiatives:

  • implement new budget allocation models
  • assess the optimal staffing size and mix per college/unit
  • develop space allocation and usage practices

Service Infrastructure Initiatives:

  • integrate student services
  • create service centers for support functions

A summary of the report can be found on the Provost’s website at

Humanities/Arts Flexible Scholarship Support Fund

In order to address the nearly complete lack of discretionary research funding in certain sections of our campus, a lack that has put us at a considerable disadvantage in relation to peers in some pivotal academic areas, the campus will introduce immediately a first phase of the Illinois Mandate, called the Humanities/Arts Flexible Scholarship Support Fund.

The members of our faculty most in need of discretionary funding are humanists and artists in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Fine and Applied Arts. The Humanities/Arts Flexible Scholarship Support Program will make available to these faculty members $1,000 in research funding per faculty member per year.

During the first phase of this program, the campus will provide funds to about 450 faculty in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Fine and Applied Arts. To make implementation possible, the two colleges are contributing some of their own funds towards this program. These colleges will match about half the Provost’s contribution. 

The program will apply in the following units: in LAS – Anthropology, Communication, English, History, Philosophy, School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics; in FAA – all departments.  Allocations will be determined by tenured and tenure track faculty head counts in these units, a distribution that will include faculty with joint appointments in traditional humanist departments and in ethnic/race/gender studies units. Some LAS humanists will have 100% of their appointments in one or more ethnic/race/gender studies units; in such instances, appropriate funding will be provided the faculty member’s home unit.

This program presents a strategic investment for our campus during financially difficult times because we believe in the importance of having intellectually vibrant humanities and arts departments. As Arden Bement, the director of the National Science Foundation indicated recently, the future leadership of our nation will depend on our ability to solve critical problems facing our society. The solutions of these problems can only be found at the intersections of engineering and sciences with the arts and humanities. Our campus will not be able to contribute to the solutions of these problems unless our humanities and arts disciplines contribute to these intersections with a quality commensurate to the quality of our institution. We have hopes that this program will provide our humanities and arts faculty with the environment they need to excel in their scholarship. We will be looking for indicators of progress and we will try to find ways to assess it. This program will be will be assessed annually, with a major review in the fifth year.


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