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Office of the Provost

October 9, 2017

Planning for the year ahead

Jerry Baldasty

Every new academic year brings new opportunities to address emerging academic and societal trends, tackle ongoing challenges and plan for the university of the future. Here are a few of the key efforts my colleagues and I are focusing on this year.

Classroom climate: Deep divisions within the country have led to heated discussions in nearly every setting, from family situations to classroom interactions. Regardless of our own opinions, it’s crucial that we speak and listen respectfully, even when we disagree with others. This is especially true in our classrooms and labs where civility and respect are essential– and actually, where differences of opinion add to the learning process. I recently reposted a message I sent last March on ways faculty and teaching assistants can facilitate conversations in academic settings. In addition, a few weeks ago, we provided tools and best practices to graduate students who work as instructors and teaching assistants during the TA/RA Conference. Look for more on best practices through the year.

Critical thinking: The ability to think critically has long been a hallmark of a university education. However, the sheer volume and pace of social media today prevents us from having enough time to check facts and think critically about the content we are consuming.

An amazing group of UW faculty and staff have come together, to enhance the UW’s work in critical thinking. In the year ahead, we will see lectures, videos and an online nerve center/central repository with tips and tools on how to recognize the truth, and the falsehoods, in our world today.

International student experience: The presence of international students at the UW benefits us greatly, providing a diversity of world views. We also want to be sure that our international students’ Husky Experience is truly transformative for them. So we suspended the international student fee, which many saw as unwelcoming. And, we have enhanced programs that bring all of our students together. Student Life’s innovative Unite UW connects domestic and international students through weekly cultural bonding activities. In the year ahead, Student Life and other UW partners will continue to work on programs that benefit our international students, and we will report back to you in spring.

Compensation: Salary for faculty and staff remain a key priority for President Cauce and me (and we distributed a message on this issue just last week). Competitive salaries allow us to support – and retain – the excellent faculty and staff who are so central to the University’s excellence.

So what are we doing? We are examining all of what we do to track costs, which in turn determines the amount of money we have available for compensation or new programs.

UW deans and chancellors are working with their elected faculty councils to prioritize spending. I will meet with the deans and chancellors and chairs of each elected faculty council later this autumn to assess progress. More on this here, as it develops.

UW 2050:  What does the University — faculty, staff and students – of the future look like?  The Faculty Senate and the Board of Deans are convening a task force to identify key trends, to help us ready for the future. We are inspired by the statement often attributed to hockey all-star Wayne Gretsky: Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.

 These are just a few of the efforts under way. And throughout the year, we expect many other needs and issues to arise. We will take those on, as well, through collaboration and partnerships. Yes, the list is long. So let’s get going.

If you have ideas or suggestions for my blog, feel free to send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.