Monday, August 01, 2011

Goals, Challenges, the Future

The Franklin College, after four difficult years of budget drawdowns, remains a strong and vital part of the University of Georgia.  With the national economy’s slow movement towards recovery, and state tax revenues beginning to grow, we now turn to the task of building for the future.  In some cases rebuilding means restoring faculty lines and programs lost to budget reductions.  In others it means focusing on new programs that build on our core strengths and meet strategic needs of the university and the state.  It definitely means working to improve faculty and staff salaries.  But it also means, in the broadest sense, building for the future.

While traditional departmental and disciplinary boundaries continue to define the superficial structure of the Franklin College, interdisciplinary connections and collaborations are fundamentally altering its shape.  These connections are evident across the College.  The sciences are now fundamentally interdisciplinary.  The developing Institute of Bioinformatics offers an example of a program that is being built across departmental and collegiate boundaries.  Another is the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences graduate program, which involves ten departments (six from Franklin) across five colleges and is administered by the Franklin College Dean's office. Faculty members in English have worked with the new School of Medicine to develop curricular modules for teaching humanities and arts to medical students, and Franklin has successfully recruited a number of jointly appointed faculty members with the UGA/MCG partnership campus here in Athens.  Franklin College faculty members make up the majority of UGA’s growing Faculty of Engineering.  The four arts units—Music, Art, Theatre and Film, and Dance—have begun meeting with the Georgia Museum of Art and the Performing Arts Center to discuss mutual issues and plan events that utilize their diverse talents.  The new Director of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, Nicholas Allen (whose appointment begins in January 2012), has been charged with developing interdisciplinary connections among the arts and humanities at UGA.

Intra-college and cross-departmental initiatives in research and instruction are an essential part of the Franklin College profile.  As UGA’s oldest and largest college, the Franklin College appropriately must serve as a leader in breaking down boundaries and forging partnerships that benefit the faculty and students of the university as a whole.  The extent to which Franklin can accommodate and adjust to such new initiatives and lines of development in the immediate future will be a major measure of its success in providing students with the best possible education, and for faculty a teaching and research environment reflective of the best practices and finest institutions of  higher education in the nation and the world.

Franklin must therefore also look to create and/or strengthen its partnerships with other units on campus.  These could include (but not be limited to) the Grady College (film and television studies), the Terry College of Business (art and music business programs; economics; capitalism studies), the College of Education (teacher education), and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (genomics, bioinformatics, all the biological sciences).

As in the past, Franklin must continue to hire faculty of the first rank with proven reputations in research and teaching.  New faculty must bring to the College a record in research and creative activities that will enhance our research programs.  We must strive to increase external funding, even as federal support may diminish.  Partnerships with private corporations and foundations may offer new funding sources.  In any case the College must encourage faculty who seek external funding by providing a strongly supportive research environment.  This will include providing, when appropriate, staff positions that assist in the development and writing of funding proposals.  It will mean working with other offices on campus to improve resources for research computing.  (The College is considering a college-level research computing position as one part of that strategy.) It also means working to ensure that research space is appropriately allocated and shared, that funds are available for faculty whose scholarly work requires travel, and that faculty have the equipment they need, whether funded through private or external funds or through funds from the University, to conduct their research.  The development of a reasonable system that allows faculty extended periods for research is essential.  The best teachers in Franklin College are often the strongest researchers and artists.  An environment supportive of both research and teaching benefits everyone.

Current and new faculty must not only be able to teach well using proven methods, but must also be proficient in new and alternative methods of instruction.  Although the University undergraduate student body has a fairly traditional profile (most first-year students having just graduated high school), it is not unreasonable to expect new student populations to develop—adult students, distance students, disabled students, international students—whose needs faculty must be prepared to address.  The College has recently employed a college-level instructional technologist to help faculty take advantage of new technology-based instructional resources.  Other such positions may be needed.

Franklin has an excellent record in developing opportunities for students to study abroad.  Working together with the Office of International Education, and with other units on campus, Franklin must over the next few years continue to encourage and support study abroad.  We offer a number of excellent opportunities for study in Great Britain and Europe.  We have developed opportunities on all seven continents, but we need to deepen and expand our global reach. The strongest need for study abroad programs is in South and East Asia, especially China and India; and we must also expand our programs in Africa and South America.  A strong administrative interface that puts students in touch with programs sponsored by UGA and other institutions, and that facilitates their study abroad, will remain important.  So also will be courses and programs that promote literacy in international languages and cultures.  The Franklin College already offers an impressive array of language courses (more than two dozen languages, from Arabic to Zulu, are regularly taught) along with a growing number of internationally focused majors through our language departments and area studies institutes and centers.  New language sequences, sometimes using alternative means of instructional delivery, will be necessary as we move further into the global 21st century.  Recently Franklin College has worked with other units to develop a summer Intensive English Program, which is bringing more international students to UGA.

In the coming years external funding will become even more important for Franklin College.  It will be a source of support for academic and cultural programs, professorships, lectures, and scholarships, especially need-based scholarships that open UGA’s doors to students from diverse backgrounds who may need help in order to attend.  To make this possible, we must continue to define and convey the Franklin identity to the University’s many constituents, but most specifically to our alumni.  We must continue to build a strong, involved Dean’s Council and enhance our cadre of major donors to all areas of the College.  The future health of the College depends on a successful and vigorous development program, which in turn rests on a strong foundation of outreach, communication, and visibility of the Franklin College among alumni, friends, and citizens of the state and beyond.

All of these areas of growth represent tremendous opportunity, some risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit, and the prospect of organizational change going forward.  Faculty, students, and staff are naturally inclined to resist change.  We all tend to be comfortable within structures and programs we have known for years.  Franklin must continue to evolve, not just by fitting new ideas within old models of operation, but by creating new models to support state-of-the-art programs and practices with greatest impact and efficiency.  It must be receptive to internal and external proposals for constructive change.  It must plan to work in partnership with other colleges and units of the University and with the external community on a local, state, national, and international basis.  An important way to begin reducing resistance to change is to begin discussions among faculty, staff, and students about where the College should move in the coming years.  Such a discussion will of course be tied to the broad themes of the University’s strategic plan, but it may include new themes as well.  Franklin College must be a leader in implementing university-wide objectives while creating new areas of strength which advance the interests of the university as a whole.  In the coming year we will lay the groundwork for a college-wide strategic planning process, opening conversations with all of the College’s constituencies to generate ideas and proposals for the future of the Franklin College and the University.

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