Program prioritization became a key topic as Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek stood in for University of Idaho President Chuck Staben and presided over the first Faculty Meeting of the year. The provost gave brief opening remarks regarding the university’s goals for faculty this year and recognized new faculty to UI.
Wiencek summarized the main goals for UI in four words: giving, engage, transform and cultivate.
He noted these four goals will be explained in more detail in the university’s strategic plan, which Staben will give out at his State of the University Address.
“Engage is really focused on our outreach, transform is focused on what happens — this should be a transforming place,” Wiencek said. “It should help people be energized and learn and become better learners.”
The meeting turned to the recently released UI program prioritization report after Wiencek concluded his remarks and opened the meeting up to questions from attending faculty members. Several faculty members brought concerns to the forefront, claiming the new program prioritization process was not done on a scientific basis. Therefore, faculty said it had no way to make a fair comparison between all departments, especially when considering interdisciplinary studies.
Administration and program prioritization also received praise from a few faculty members for being open and transparent. Wiencek clarified that unless instructed by the UI Board of Directors, program prioritization is not likely to occur for at least two years. Wiencek also said the process will be modified in the meantime, but major pushes for changes will likely be put on hold as results are still being processed by the university.
This year’s enrollment numbers also became a topic of discussion.
Wiencek said the university would not make claims regarding fall 2017 enrollment until after results from the university’s annual census reports were released, noting that speculation about enrollment numbers caused issues between UI and the local press last year. Wiencek said Staben’s State of the University Address will likely occur after the census this year and the president is to answer questions regarding enrollment reports then.
“I think people have been working very hard. We’ve had some challenges over the past year,” Wiencek said. “I think we also have some great areas we could highlight as successes as well. I’m reluctant to share those numbers. You know the local press took those numbers out of context at last year’s meeting and it led to some confusion — I think it’s better for us to wait until census day and then we can have that conversation.”
When asked about a university strategy regarding enrollment, as opposed to college or department strategies, Wiencek said the university was not consistent or strategic enough with an enrollment plan.
“We haven’t been as coordinated as we should be though. We are not on the same page when it comes to… (enrollment) activities,” he said. “The colleges are doing the best they can, but we need to start thinking as a university instead of a collection of colleges when it comes to recruiting, retention and graduation.”
Wiencek thanked faculty and staff who work many hours, including weekends and summers, to boost enrollment at UI. Wiencek also noted that Dean Kahler, the vice provost for strategic enrollment management, is working on a new cascading enrollment plan which will encompass all colleges and departments within the university.
“In general, you’re going to see some pretty bold moves here to get us moving forward in enrollment,” he said. “If we don’t (roll out new enrollment plans) this next fall, then we’re not really doing what we said we needed to do. I would say we are in a moment of somewhat urgent necessity to clarify what those strategies are and to move forward.”
The next University Faculty Meeting has yet to be announced.
Elizabeth Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org