Provost's Messages

November 12, 2020  | Academic Affairs Updates

Sent on behalf of Provost Winebrake 

Dear Faculty and Staff in Academic Affairs, 

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday (and the end of the fall term), I want to thank you for your continued efforts and vigilance in ensuring our fall semester comes to a successful close. The past few months have been tiring but rewarding. It has been inspirational to see this community come together to create a positive living and learning environment for our students in spite of a global pandemic that has affected us all so deeply. Teaching, scholarship, and creative work continue to thrive at UNCW, and I know we will emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever! 

I would like to use this email to provide a handful of updates related to the Division of Academic Affairs. I can touch upon these at upcoming meetings, but I thought it would be helpful for you to have them communicated via email as well. Here goes: 

  1. Coffee Hour on Friday, November 13. I will have the pleasure of attending the Faculty Coffee Hour at noon this Friday the 13th (hopefully not an omen…J). These have been great events, and I am grateful to the Faculty Senate for their continued efforts to bring us together as a community. Dr. Carol McNulty and I will use the Coffee Hour as an opportunity to present results from the recent “Pulse Survey” on faculty and staff well-being. There are some interesting results from the survey that we would like to share and discuss. We are also looking for an opportunity for Dr. McNulty and me to present results to our staff.

  2. COVID-19 and Spring Planning. Thanks to the efforts of many, many people, the spring schedule is out and students have started registering for the ~3600 courses now available. Our course modalities continue to balance our goals of quality instruction, community health and safety, and flexibility. We are currently seeing ~50% remote instruction (non-OAP); ~25% hybrid; ~15% in-person; and ~10% OAP. We understand there could be ongoing requests for modality shifts (for example, we just satisfied a request to move some online courses to in-person). I am discussing options with the deans, AARM, and the Registrar’s Office about the processes we should implement to consider these requests. Further communication on this will be forthcoming.

  3. COVID-19 Testing Opportunities on Campus. As shared in a recent campus communication, COVID-19 testing is available on campus for students, faculty, and staff. Students can schedule testing through the Student Health Center (910-962-3280), which will have extended hours on Saturday, November 21, to help students get tested before they head home. Faculty and staff can visit the community testing site located at the intersection of Hurst Drive and Hamilton Drive on campus. The testing site is open Tuesday through Friday from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. through November 24. Beginning November 17, these hours will be expanded to serve the UNCW community from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Faculty and staff can register at this link for testing at the community site. More information will follow regarding any additional testing days beyond November 24. Any questions about testing can be emailed to

  4. Diversity and Inclusion. We continue to build a strong partnership with Dr. Donyell Roseboro (Interim Chief Diversity Officer) and her team in OIDI, and we are making progress on a number of joint projects, including:
    1. 1898 Research and Curricula
    2. Africana Studies Major
    3. Black Lives Matter Art Exhibit
    4. Bridge Programming
    5. Diversity Scholarships for Students
    6. Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program
    7. Faculty Partnership Pathway Program for Diversity
    8. Faculty and Staff Professional Development Initiative
    9. Living and Learning Community
    10. Search Committee Process Improvements

      Dr. Roseboro and I have presented updates on these projects at various meetings, and we would enjoy the opportunity to do so again. In addition, I am well aware that many colleges, departments, schools, and other units have their own diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives in place – thank you for doing this! I strongly believe in the importance of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, and I know we can build a culture here at UNCW that supports these principles.

  5. Embracing R2. Under the leadership of Dr. Stuart Borrett (Associate Provost for Research and Innovation), we are moving forward with implementing recommendations that emerged from the UNCW Doctoral Transition Task Force Report (circulated via earlier campus communication). The implementation plan includes five major areas: (1) Support for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work (RSCW); (2) Faculty Workload, Expectations, and Compensation; (3) New Academic Programs; (4) Support for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars; and, (5) Building Research Infrastructure. Detailed updates on each of these areas will be provided in future communications. I want faculty and staff to understand that the continued evolution of UNCW to a Doctoral University – High Research Activity is a process that takes time and requires input from many, many different stakeholders. We will be working with the Steering Committee to identify opportunities and best approaches for the deep engagement of faculty and staff in this process. Growing graduate education and research generates new learning opportunities for our students and our faculty, helps to solve critical problems for the public good, and creates a community of inquiry that remains curious, imaginative, and creative.  The goal is to accomplish this sustainably, and to nurture a strong future UNCW.

  6. Flexible Work Arrangements. I know this semester has been a strain on everyone, and I appreciate everyone’s willingness to provide flexible work arrangements where feasible. We will continue to encourage flexibility, and this likely means continued remote working arrangements for faculty and staff. Staff may be most affected by this, and I encourage supervisors and staff to discuss appropriate, flexible remote work arrangements.

  7. High Impact Practices Council. In partnership with Student Affairs, and under the leadership of Dr. Jeanine Mingé (AVC OCEAL), we have established a new High Impact Practices (HIP) Council. The purpose of the HIP Council is to review our portfolio of high impact practices and recommend improvements that will help UNCW become a national leader in the delivery and innovation of these practices. The Council will be co-facilitated by Dr. James DeVita (Interim Director of Applied Learning) and Dr. Michael Walker (AVC/Dean of Students). The Council membership is extensive, so I won’t list the entire membership here – but members cover a wide cross-section of programs and units working on high impact practices. Dr. Brian Victor (Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs) and I will ask the HIP Council to share regular reports with faculty and staff on the Council’s activities and accomplishments.

  8. Organizational Structure. One of my items on this year’s workplan for Academic Affairs is to assess our organizational structure and determine how we can be organized to better serve our students, faculty, and staff. I have engaged EAB to undertake a process of discovery, whereby they will provide feedback on the pros/cons of our current structure, as well as best practices found in similar and aspirational universities. More will follow on this topic once EAB has completed its work.

  9. Pass/Fail. The SGA passed a resolution requesting implementation of a Pass/Fail option for fall semester. That resolution went to the Academic Standards Committee of the Faculty Senate, which – after much deliberation – unanimously rejected the resolution. A formal communication to all students is scheduled for release on November 12 informing them of this decision. As we continue with our original grading processes this fall, I am hopeful faculty will consider some of the exceptional and challenging situations that students have faced this semester, particularly those students who had to leave campus or manage health issues for themselves or their families. I received a number of student emails regarding such challenges, and I have encouraged those students to contact their faculty to explain their specific situations and how those situations may have impacted their course performance.

  10. Spring 2021 Testing Protocol for Students. We are implementing a required testing protocol for all residential students returning to campus for the spring term. Residential students will be required to provide indication of a negative COVID-19 test three days prior to moving back to campus on January 14, 15, or 19. Students who test positive will not be allowed to return to campus until after an appropriate isolation period. Residential students who arrive without a test will be tested before they move into the residence halls. I realize that this could cause some challenges, especially for in-person course formats, if some residential students are not able to return to campus “on time”. I am hopeful that faculty will work with any students who test positive to ensure they receive instructional materials consistent with how faculty would handle any student who is absent from class due to illness.  In addition, we are discussing opportunities for “surveillance testing” during the spring semester as well. More information on this will be forthcoming.

  11. Survey of Students. How have students perceived their learning experiences this semester? And, are there general observations they can share regarding effective practices for both remote and in-person instruction that faculty may find useful? These are at least two questions that we would like to explore through a survey of students, conducted in partnership with SGA and the Division of Student Affairs. The survey is still in development and will likely be distributed in the next few days. We will share results with faculty and staff once those results are processed.

If I do not see you before Thanksgiving, please have a peaceful and restful holiday. You all deserve it! As I “count my blessings,” this wonderful community will be high on my list. I thank you for your support, your commitment to our students, and for all you are doing to support this noble cause of higher education!



P.S. If you have any questions or comments on the information above, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at

James J. Winebrake, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
University of North Carolina Wilmington
Pronouns: he, him, his