Provost's Messages

January 21, 2021  |  Spring Update #2

Dear Faculty and Staff in Academic Affairs,

Welcome back to a new semester! I hope you all had an enjoyable winter break and got some well-deserved rest. During the break, I had an opportunity to reflect on the Fall semester. The amount of effort put forward by faculty, staff, and administrators to support our students during the global pandemic is still hard to fathom. Thank you for your commitment to this institution!

We now begin what I always believe to be the most rewarding period of the academic year. Spring semester brings with it the joys of seeing many of our students graduate and “take on the world.”   It also means it is time to focus our attention on some of the critical “to do” items that we set as goals last fall.

In this spirit, this email provides updates related to the Division of Academic Affairs, with particular attention on those items that we will focus on this semester. I can touch upon these at upcoming coffee hours, townhalls, and other meetings; but I thought it would be helpful for you to have them communicated via email as well. I will try to keep them brief – so if you have any questions or want more information, please reach out. 

  1. Faculty Forum and Bi-Weekly Coffee Hours Starting January 22.
    I would like to thank our Center for Teaching Excellence and our Office of Undergraduate Studies for co-sponsoring the faculty forum last Friday (1/15). That forum allowed several units on campus to share data from the fall semester related to student success. (A recording of the forum should be available online through CTE.)

    I am also pleased to participate in bi-weekly Coffee Hours sponsored by the Faculty Senate throughout the spring semester. These Coffee Hours will occur from noon to 1 pm every other Friday beginning…tomorrow! (January 22) I am grateful to the Faculty Senate for their continued efforts to bring us together as a community.

  2. Spring Courses and Summer/Fall Planning.
    Thanks to the efforts of many, many people, the spring schedule rolled out with minimal glitches. Our course modalities continue to balance our goals of quality instruction, community health and safety, and flexibility. We are currently offering ~50% remote instruction; ~25% hybrid instruction; ~15% in-person instruction; and ~10% OAP. We have outlined options faculty can use in case they need to adjust their course modalities; please see your chair or dean if you have questions.

    We are also starting to plan for summer and fall semesters. Since our summer sessions tend to be primarily online, we will not see many changes in 2021 from a “typical” summer. As for fall, we are beginning discussions about how we can roll out a “typical” fall (i.e., a movement back to primarily in-person instruction) but build in measures that would help reduce COVID spread (e.g., perhaps by keeping in-person class sizes small). More information on these discussions will be forthcoming.

  3. COVID-19 Testing and Vaccinations
    As I shared in a recent campus communication, we are ramping up our COVID-19 testing this spring, including requiring students on-campus to demonstrate a negative COVID test result, and expanding surveillance testing weekly. We are also using some wastewater testing procedures developed by Dr. Larry Cahoon, Dr. Art Frampton, and colleagues to better inform our testing protocols. Please see my previous communications and our Best for the Nest website for current updates on testing and vaccinations. Any questions about testing can be emailed to 

  4. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    We will continue to work on our suite of diversity, equity, and inclusion activities this spring in partnership with OIDI and others. The list of activities in this space is significant, and includes: 
  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. Donyell Roseboro and I plan on presenting updates on these projects at various meetings throughout the semester. I also know that colleges, schools, and departments are working on their own diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and I look forward to learning about the progress with those efforts throughout the semester 

5. Embracing R2
As you know, Dr. Stuart Borrett (Associate Provost for Research and Innovation), is leading efforts to implement recommendations that emerged from the UNCW Doctoral Transition Task Force Report. 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. Growing graduate education and research generates new learning opportunities for our students (UG and G) and our faculty, helps 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 for UNCW. Dr. Borrett and I will hold a university townhall meeting on this topic later in the semester  to present progress on these initiatives.
 6. High Impact Practices Council
The High Impact Practice Council, mentioned in my November update, has been meeting under the leadership of co-chairs Dr. Mike Walker and Dr. James DeVita. Recall that 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. Mike and James are presenting to the Educational Programs and Planning Committee at the Board of Trustees meeting at the end of January. The efforts of the HIP Council  will be shared at one of our bi-weekly coffee hours, a special faculty senate meeting, or an end-of-year townhall meeting.
 7. Organizational Structure
I worked with EAB last semester to conduct a “discovery process” to evaluate the organizational structure of Academic Affairs. I received a report from EAB in early January, and I am reviewing that report. Our goal is to build an organizational structure that best serves our students, faculty, and staff. The next step in this process is for me to share the report with the leadership team in Academic Affairs and begin discussions with various stakeholders on what organizational changes may be implemented.
 8. Interdisciplinary Teaching and Research
I believe interdisciplinary teaching and research is essential in higher education today. The most challenging problems society faces require interdisciplinary problem-solving. And so, we need to build, support, encourage, and incentivize a culture at UNCW that allows us to excel in interdisciplinary activities. After some conversations this past fall, it became apparent that there are some policies and practices that could be revised to promote the expansion of our interdisciplinary activities. Thus, I plan to charge a university-wide committee to make recommendations on how we can solve some of the barriers that restrict interdisciplinary activity on campus. A separate communication is forthcoming regarding this work.
 9. Academic Administrator Searches
We recently kicked off some important searches for the university. First, we have posted the position for the Executive Director of the Center for Marine Science. The closing date for that position is mid-February. I have recently charged the search committee for this important leadership role, and I appreciate their service on this committee. Second, we are working with the Isaacson, Miller firm on the search for the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. We have a search committee established, and the position should be posted soon. Third, with the transitions in leadership in our Enrollment Management function, I am now considering options for leadership in that area and I anticipate launching a search for leadership in that area soon. Other searches may occur due to any Academic Affairs organizational changes, but the nature of those positions and the timing of those searches remains unclear until we have a chance to discuss the optimal organizational structure for our division (per #7 above).
 10. Strategic Planning
The Cabinet agreed to extend by one year the current Strategic Plan with the existing goals. This approach provides us an opportunity to use spring 2021 to do some early planning, and then use academic year 2021-22 to develop a strategic plan in a robust, thoughtful, and inclusive way. This approach will be shared with the Board of Trustees at the end of January for their endorsement and soon thereafter, we will begin consulting governance groups on campus regarding the best process to develop our new strategic plan.
11. SACSCOC Accreditation and QEP Process
We have our 10-year SACSCOC reaffirmation process underway, with a final report due to SACSCOC in April 2023. I know that sounds like a very distant future right now, but we need to begin working on the reaffirmation starting this semester, with a draft report due to SACSCOC in the fall. I have appointed Dr. Andy Mauk to co-chair the Steering Committee for this reaffirmation, and we will seek a faculty member to serve as co-chair. A call for nominations will be released early in the spring semester. We will also seek participants for the Standards Committees as part of the accreditation process. This is a great opportunity for faculty and staff who are interested in assessment and accreditation to become involved in this important work. It may not be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but it's a once in a decade opportunity!
As part of the SACSCOC reaffirmation, we have an opportunity to propose a new Quality Enhancement Program (QEP). Our last QEP successfully reinvigorated applied learning at UNCW, and we are looking for ideas that can similarly have a BIG impact on our university. These should be transformative ideas, and I encourage us to think big, be creative, and work collaboratively. I have appointed Dr. Carol McNulty to co-chair a QEP Identification and Selection Committee. We will seek a faculty co-chair for this committee through a nomination process, so please be on the lookout for a related communication. I imagine we will run this process similar to a RFP process, whereby we will invite brief proposals from the university community and then narrow down to a few for further consideration or piloting.
 12. Improving Policies
We are continuing with efforts to improve the clarity and transparency of UNCW policies and procedures – particularly with respect to the Faculty Handbook and other college-level policies. Dr. Carol McNulty is working closely with the Faculty Handbook Committee of the Faculty Senate on a set of policy changes; and I will be charging the deans to work with their units to review RTP guidelines with an eye towards enhancing clarity. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. McNulty.
13. International Education
International education continues to be important, although challenging, in a COVID environment. Associate Vice Chancellor Michael Wilhelm and his team have been working hard to create innovative international experiences for students and faculty. Please reach out to Michael if you have ideas or want to be involved in these planning efforts. 
14. Distance Education and eLearning
The Office of Distance Education and eLearning (DEeL), led by Dr. Jeremy Dickerson, did a tremendous job last semester working with faculty to deliver content in a remote environment. Instructional designers in DEeL continue to work with faculty members to enhance the remote learning environment. Also, UNCW’s Office of Information Technology Services did a great job outfitting our classrooms with state-of-the-art technology systems. I invite you to visit classrooms designed for synchronous online instruction. Newly installed systems make it quite easy to deliver synchronous online content.
15. Community Engagement
Our engagement with the community is a hallmark of our university. We can only reach our full potential as a university if we remain active in our collaborations with organizations, non-profits, government, and the private sector within our region and throughout the world. Our Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning (OCEAL), led by Dr. Jeanine Mingé, has done a wonderful job building those bridges (and maintaining them under this COVID environment), including enhancing community arts programming and connecting with business incubators and non-profits. I am also excited about the excellent work that colleges/schools are performing with community partners. We now need to focus on our institutional efforts, measure our impact, and celebrate this work. Therefore, this spring, I will ask OCEAL to outline a long-term UNCW Community Engagement Strategy that includes our vision of community engagement and its alignment with our ongoing designation as a Carnegie Community Engaged University. In addition, OCEAL is working towards designation as an APLU “Innovation and Economic Prosperity University,” which has the added benefit of helping us move towards the Carnegie CEU classification.
16. New Academic Programs
We continue to interact with the System Office to advance new programs, and to work collaboratively across campus to develop new programs that align with our strategic plan and vision. The System Office recently announced it will require additional forms and analysis for all program proposals. Dean Paul Townend and Dean Chris Finelli will reach out to deans, chairs, directors, and others on the additional materials needed. The deans are also working on a set of guiding principles to help with program prioritization.

Please have a great start to your semester! Stay well and safe – and let me know if you have any questions or concerns. 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! 



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