Provost's Messages

March 4, 2021  |  Spring Update #3

Dear Faculty and Staff in Academic Affairs, 

I hope you are all doing well! The semester is quickly moving along – and I know this is the time of year when several forces collide: first, there is the push to complete projects that we wanted to see finished by the end of the academic year; second, there is the desire to help our students graduate on time; and third, there is the exhaustion that we all start to feel as we move into the “fourth quarter” of the academic year. Given the challenges of this year, have a little grace for yourself this spring and be sure to take care of your body, mind, and spirit!  

Speaking of ongoing project work, this email provides some recent updates on various workplan items in Academic Affairs. 

  1. Bi-Weekly Coffee Hours. We continue to have successful bi-weekly coffee hours with faculty and staff, co-sponsored by the Faculty Senate and the Office of the Provost. During the last coffee hour on Feb. 19th, Dr. Stuart Borrett, Associate Provost for Research, updated us on the work being done to realize and resource a more research-intensive university. The next coffee hour on Friday, March 5thwill include Dr. Brian Victor and Dr. Katrin Wesner-Harts, who will share information regarding COVID-19 testing and updates on vaccinations for the campus community.
  1. Fall Course Planning. Thanks largely to the hard work of our staff, course planning for fall 2021 is well underway, with about 75% of our courses built. We are moving forward using a set of assumptions that include wide availability of efficacious vaccinations, continued vigilant behaviors including the 3Ws and testing protocols, and course caps at pre-COVID thresholds.
  1. COVID-19 Testing, Vaccinations, and Attendance Capacity at Campus Venues
    1. UNCW continues to test residential and off-campus students, and encourages faculty and staff working on campus to receive testing.  Testing has been going well, with the Health Center conducting thousands of tests with a relatively small number of active cases (see our UNCW Data Dashboardfor updates).  
    2. On February 24th, Governor Cooper lifted the Modified Stay at Home Order and eased some of the restrictions previously in place. 
    3. On March 2nd, Governor Cooper announced that all Group 3 segments (which includes higher education) would open on March 3rd. I alert you to an OUR email communication distributed at ~3 pm on March 3rdregarding the impacts of this decision on our campus population.  
    4. Please see the Best for the Nest websitefor additional information and direct any questions to
  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We continue to work on our suite of diversity, equity, and inclusion activities this spring in partnership with OIDI, Student Affairs, and others. Two quick updates on some of this ongoing work:
    1. The 1898 Curriculum Grant Program, co-sponsored by OCEAL, CTE, and OIDI, received a lot of enthusiastic support from faculty. I know the co-sponsors are working hard to process a large number of proposals and identify grant recipients in the coming weeks.
    2. Faculty searches are proceeding well under our new structure, whereby AARM is providing search support to colleges and their search committees. Our search committees have worked hard to ensure diverse pools for these positions, and I appreciate everyone’s help in this regard.
  1. High Impact Practices Council. The High Impact Practice Council continues to meet to review current high impact practices (and pathways) and recommend improvements to propel UNCW as a national leader in this area. Dr. Mike Walker and Dr. James DeVita, co-chairs of the council, will share the committee’s efforts in more detail with the larger campus community before the end of the semester. 
  1. Organizational Structure. At my request, EAB completed a “discovery process” to evaluate the organizational structure of Academic Affairs. They presented a report in January and, since that time, I have garnered feedback from the Provost Leadership Team and others both on and off campus. I am finalizing the details of this organizational revision and believe they will be ready to share bythe end of March. Although the revisions are not drastic, I do think they are important improvements to our current structure that will better meet the needs of faculty, staff, and students and will address our current and aspirational vision of the Division of Academic Affairs. I intend to host a town hall meeting to present these organizational changes once finalized. 
  1. Interdisciplinary Teaching and Research. I believe it is important that we build, support, and incentivize a culture of interdisciplinary teaching and learning at UNCW. A university ad hoctask force of approximately 15 faculty members was created to inform this work. Established by the President of the Faculty Senate and me, the task force will identify existing campus barriers and potential solutions for increasing interdisciplinary programs. The first meeting of the task force is planned for later this month. 
  1. Administrative and Faculty Searches. Ongoing administrative searches include the Executive Director of the Center for Marine Science and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Interviews for the VC of Student Affairs have been completed, and we look forward to welcoming a new collaborator to Academic Affairs. We will also soon launch a search for a leader to facilitate our enrollment activities, and other searches may develop as the Academic Affairs organizational changes mentioned above are solidified. Meanwhile, approximately 5 faculty searches have been completed thus far, with another 75 still in process. While I know these searches require a tremendous investment of time, hiring is one of the most important decisions we make, so I appreciate your efforts as we bring new colleagues into our community.
  1. Strategic Planning. The existing strategic plan will end next May (2022). Thus, we need to begin development of a new five-year strategic plan for the period 2022-2027. Cabinet has discussed the importance of kicking off the planning process this spring, and more information on this process will be forthcoming. Cabinet is committed to engaging the entire campus community in this important activity.
  1. SACSCOC Accreditation and QEP Process. Our 10-year SACSCOC reaffirmation process is underway, with a final report due to SACSCOC in April 2023. As part of the accreditation process, we will identify a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for the university. Calls for co-chairs to lead these efforts in SACSCOC and QEP have been extended and updates will be provided soon. There are multiple ways for faculty to engage with these important processes that will have major impacts on the university. If you bring passion and energy to these topics, we need you!
  1. Improving Policies. We are continually striving to improve policies as outlined in the UNCW Faculty Handbook. This academic year, the Faculty Senate has revised and clarified policies related to RTP/PTR postponement, RTP pre-mandatory decision dates, standing committee membership and duties, and emerita/emeritus status. If you identify areas of the handbook that need attention, please reach out to Dr. Nathan Grove and Dr. Carol McNulty.

If you have any questions or comments about this update, please let me know and I will do my best to address them. I will also look forward to answering questions at our next bi-weekly coffee hour. 



James J. Winebrake, Ph.D.
UNCW Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Pronouns: he, him, his