As we look toward the future and UB’s top 25 ambitions, the College is reorganizing the Dean’s Office structure in an effort to better support departments, programs, centers and institutes and to improve and streamline processes and procedures.
Goals of the reorganization:
The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs is the primary designee for the Dean of the College in matters involving the administration, operation and oversight of graduate and undergraduate education in the College. The position is charged with representing the interests of the College in all discussions related to the operation of the university curriculum. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs is also responsible for ensuring that all departments comply with College, University and SUNY-level academic policies, and that course schedules are optimized to ensure student success and fiscal responsibility. This position works closely with the Sector Associate Deans and the UB Dean of Undergraduate Education to ensure the strategic management of UB’s general education program, the UB Curriculum.
Q: How do you see your role in the College as fitting with the plans to move UB into the top 25 public research universities?
A: I will do whatever I can to enhance retention, which is a critical value for our university. The Blue Ribbon Commission has provided us with important data on retention broken down by course and discipline. The critical next step is to plan the most appropriate next steps in order to enhance retention while maintaining the high academic standards that make UB such a great place to get an education.
In graduate education, we talk about “attrition”, which reflects the very same problem. The Blue Ribbon commission focused only on undergraduate education, though as per the analyses of the PhD Excellence Initiative committees, keeping graduate students on track is also a critical issue, and plays an indirect role in UB’s ranking given that strong, directed graduate students contribute to our research mission.
Diversity in the student body is likewise a critical area for improvement. This past year has seen a particularly strong realization of the continuing problems of systemic racism, though these issues have been with us for centuries. Also, any discussion of diversity must go hand-in-hand with consideration of equity and inclusion for students from diverse backgrounds.
Q: What are some of the opportunities you see for the College in pushing forward our research and academic mission?
A: I find myself thinking about one of the features that really sets UB apart: experiential learning. In my soul-searching moments as a faculty member, I have often considered why a student should attend a large school with large classes as an undergraduate, as opposed to a small college. One of the most compelling answers I come up with is the fact that UB offers students an opportunity to take an active role in ongoing research that will be published and make an impact. I think we already do a good job at this, but I think we could do even more by including more students, giving them even deeper experience and broadening the range of disciplines for which this activity is standard. In my role, I look forward to exploring how I may help enhance experiential learning for students and to realize greater benefits for students and faculty alike.
Q: What are you looking forward to learning and accomplishing in your role?
A: The first thing I am looking forward to is learning more about academic programs in the College. When I became chair of Psychology, I didn’t anticipate how much I would enjoy getting to know chairs of other departments and learning more about how other departments operate. The College is a cornucopia of intellectual diversity, and it’s fascinating to learn about how these different areas of study conduct research and teach. I am also constantly impressed by the genuine kindness and generosity of people at UB. The faculty and staff here are great people to work with. As a chair I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues better and I really enjoyed working with the phenomenal staff in my department. I also look forward to working with the excellent team in the College.
Q: What do you see as the priority areas within this domain?
A: Falling back on my earlier theme, I really see retention and the enhancement of diversity as incredibly critical and the two ways in which I can have the strongest impact in this position.
Q: How will academic affairs help to promote new opportunities for students?
A: I plan to work with the directors of undergraduate programs and College administrators to enhance opportunities for experiential learning; student success and retention; opportunities for continuing education and graduate study that embrace a broad range of career choices; and to promote practices in graduate training that likewise enhance student success here and after graduation.
Q: In your position, how will you operate to maintain student needs as the highest level of importance?
A: First, keep track of relevant data concerning rates of student success and what factors seem to benefit student success. Second, I hope to remain in active communication with faculty and staff who are closely involved in undergraduate programs at the level of departments and programs.
Q: Is there anything else you think is important for readers to know?
A: This is an entirely new experience for me. I look forward to and expect a great amount of learning on the job. I am grateful for the tremendous support and faith shown by the Dean and others in the College that I am up to the job, and humbled by the opportunity. One thing I learned as chair is the critical importance of university staff who have skills and institutional knowledge far beyond what I could offer on my own.
The Sector Administrative Directors, a position developed as part of the College’s reorganization, are vital administrative support roles for each sector. The administrative directors will work closely with the Associate Deans in their respective sector as a strategic partner and advisor. The Sector Administrative Director will assume responsibility for key administration functions and management of processes for the sector.
Representing the range of disciplines from across the College, a committee of full professors met with candidates for the five associate dean positions and served as advisors to the dean.