Academic Affairs

Text: Provost's Perspectives, An Update from Provost Sheerer

December 5, 2018                                     NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE

Dear Colleagues,

As we near the end of the semester, it is impossible not to continue to reflect on the ravages of Hurricane Florence and the challenges it presented to our university and to many of us personally. 

There are so many thank you’s that we need to continue to acknowledge, and there are so many people to applaud for their amazing commitment and dedication to this place. 

Since my primary work is in Academic Affairs, I especially need to single out the outstanding work of the deans, associate deans, Faculty Senate, and many AA staff members who worked together tirelessly to change schedules, find spaces on campus, calculate instructional make-up time, and support faculty as they tried to gear up for teaching. A special acknowledgement should also go to our partners in Student Affairs who handled crisis after crisis in a very caring, skillful manner. 

Bottom line, we DID NOT give up the semester, and students have definitely benefited. We have endured!  And we should feel accomplished relative to our work and successes. 

Yet, at the same time, we need to focus on the future – next week, next year, the next five, ten years. There is no question that we will be stronger and better prepared if another storm chooses our section of the coast. While we will have to continue to adapt as we enter the spring semester, improvements are ongoing; our overall campus will look better in many ways by the summer and fall of 2019. 

Let us continue to support each other and reach out even more than we have ever done. Our coastal university remains strong and is counting on us!


Student success efforts continue to be supported in many different ways across campus. Our newest effort, Starfish, is a web-based academic advising platform intended to support communication and collaboration across campus to help students be successful. With this system, we will be able to remain consistent in how we advise and support students. It provides an efficient way to quickly offer coordinated care to all students while ensuring they receive the right type of assistance and interventions to ensure their success at UNCW. It will also make it easier for faculty and staff to connect with the students they are supporting. Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and ITS have been working together this fall in support of this effort. A small pilot phase across all schools, colleges and some Student Affairs units will take place in spring 2019 with a full launch in the fall. Please stay tuned for more announcements soon.

Campus Facilities – Moves and Challenges

Woody Sutton and Andy Mauk (Institutional Planning and Research) continue to work closely with Facilities to plan the movement of units to the new Administrative Building, Hoggard Hall, Friday Annex, etc. Again, Hurricane Florence interfered with the timing of all of this work. Consequently, the tentative date for occupancy of the Administrative Building is now pushed back to January 15. Once this building is ready, other moves will fall in line according to the sequenced plan that Woody has prepared. 

Work is currently ongoing relative to the creation of parking spaces and the assignment of people to temporary lots until everything is completed. These adjustments will require patience until all new parking areas have been completed.

Dobo Update

Woody also reports that the recovery efforts of Dobo Hall are moving quickly and have yielded a three-phase approach. 

Phase One – Modular Instructional Laboratories
Modular teaching laboratories are expected to start arriving the first week in December. The plan is to have three large and four smaller modular facilities to support both chemistry and biology laboratory instruction. These spaces are expected to be operational for the start of spring 2019 semester.

Phase Two – Temporary Teaching and Research Facilities
Planning is underway to construct 60,000 gross square feet of instructional labs and classrooms, research labs and core facilities, and faculty and graduate offices at the College Road Cinema Property. These spaces are expected to be operational for the start of the fall 2019 semester. 

Phase Three
– Renovations of Dobo Hall
Immediately following the hurricane, facilities assessments of the building were conducted and resulted in the decision that a comprehensive renovation was required. Preliminary plans are underway to develop the scope of work for the project and establish a timeline. The renovation is expected to be ready for the start of the fall 2020 semester.

Many thanks to the Office of Facilities, the faculty and staff of the Departments of Biology and Chemistry, the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, ITS, Parking and Transportation, Randall Library, and all campus partners for their dedication to recover from this unprecedented weather event.


Faculty will remember taking a Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey initiated by Harvard’s Graduate School of COACHE LogoEducation. The results of the survey have been returned to us, and Andy Mauk is assembling a group of faculty and administrators to review the resultant data and discuss ways in which it can be disseminated to the campus community.

Meanwhile, as the Chief Academic Officer, I have received a summary report of the data and wish to share some of the strengths and concerns that the authors reported. When Andy meets with the COACHE group, each of these areas will be further dissected and discussed.

Areas of Strength:

  • Collaboration
  • Departmental Engagement
  • Facilities and work Resources
  • Governance: Adaptability
  • Governance: Productivity
  • Governance: Trust
  • Governance: Understanding the Issue at Hand
  • Leadership: Departmental
  • Leadership: Divisional
  • Mentoring
  • Nature of Work: Research

Areas of Concern:

  • Health and Retirement Benefits
  • Promotion to Full
  • Tenure Expectations: Clarity
  • Tenure Policies


Verification of our enrollment growth figures was very slow in getting to us from the System Office. However, we are now ready to finalize the budget based on the approvals we have received.

Last spring and early this fall, some resources were released to units across campus based on projected growth. We now have the additional money to allocate.

This work will be completed by the Cabinet and Chancellor in the very near future; and units will know what additional resources they might have to work with during the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

A Decline in International Students Enrolled in American Higher Education

The number of new international students enrolled in American higher education in the fall of 2017 declined 6.6 percent from the previous year. This comes on the heels of a 3 percent decline the prior year.

Some observers blame the “Trump effect.” The combination of policies and rhetoric from the president, the thinking goes, is making international students reconsider coming to the U.S. amid a political climate hostile to globalism.

But others, like the “Open Doors” report, play down that narrative. They say the culprits are the rising cost of American higher education; the scaling back of government-funded programs in some countries; and stiffer competition for international students from other countries.

Higher Education Priorities Report

The top 10 priorities for 2018 demonstrate that higher education leaders are laying the foundation for the more dramatic transformation that is still to come. According to the 2018 Higher Education Priorities Survey, they are:

1. In-classroom technologies
2. Digital content and curriculum
3. Cybersecurity
4. Online services/portal/mobile
5. Faculty/IT training
6. Budget/cost control
7. IT infrastructure
8. Campus security
9. Personalized online learning environments
10. Recruitment and retention of IT personnel
Happy New Year

I hope for all of you a very restful holiday break along with lots of fun and family. We will return in January with renewed energy and a commitment to continue to revitalize our university!


Marilyn Sheerer signature

Marilyn Sheerer
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs