Published: May 1, 2019

As the semester winds down, Academic Futures (AF) has completed another year of rich conversations that are now yielding considerable progress.

“In September of last year, the release of the Academic Futures report was greeted by great interest across the campus,” said AF convener and former Vice Provost Jeff Cox. “We were pleased to hear from our community that they felt the report reflected their concerns and aspirations.

“The report’s core message of the importance of being a public university resonated across our community and served as the cornerstone for our continuing conversation,” Cox said. “After consideration, we decided to move forward with several of Academic Futures’ larger projects, along with several smaller but highly important efforts.” 

Cox said a considerable amount of effort was spent on the recommendation of creating a student-centered campus, based on the fact that “many of the components of expanding our vision of a student-centered campus were already underway as part of the Foundations of Excellence effort and the IDEA Plan.”

Cox indicated Academic Futures’ movement forward on several other key components.

Creating a student-centered campus

In February of 2019, the campus announced the establishment of the Center for Teaching and Learning, starting July 1, 2019, with Professor Kirk Ambrose, chair of Art and Art History, as the founding director. “This spring, Kirk has been meeting with stakeholders across campus to begin to define a set of support structures, communication channels, and both broader pathways and specific efforts that CTL can use to build a community of practice that engages and supports educators at all levels,” Cox said.

Academic Futures has been exploring with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences how to better identify and quantify teaching excellence as part of both annual review and promotion and tenure. “Right now, we are exploring how to use institutional data at the course and at the unit level to paint a better picture of our teaching and how to improve it,” Cox said.

A conversation on common learning goals, literacies and/or curricula—to be led by Senior Vice Provost Katherine Eggert—will open in the fall, Cox said.

Cox and Academic Futures facilitator Emily CoBabe-Ammann of CU Boulder’s Research & Innovation Office (RIO) also cited progress this year on the report’s other lead recommendations:

Interdisciplinary teaching, research and creative work 

Starting this spring, led by Interim Dean Jim White, a committee has been meeting to look at how this work can become a hallmark of our campus life.

“The committee has generated some grand ideas (e.g., incubators for both research and teaching) and identified critical road blocks (e.g., the funding models for teaching),” said CoBabe-Ammann. “We anticipate a set of draft recommendations will be presented to campus in September with the final report delivered in December.”

Teaching and technology, online and distance education 

Beginning this spring, led by Dean Robert McDonald, a joint Academic Futures-Financial Futures Online Strategy Working Group was convened to develop a more nuanced picture of where our campus needs to be in this area, based on the Provost’s philosophy for online and distance education. “The committee has been looking at peer institutions for inspiration, while at the same time, outlining critical structures, incentives and challenges in this arena. We anticipate a working draft of their report will be released by the middle of May,” CoBabe-Ammann said.

Governance

This spring, the provost requested that every school and college begin to design an appropriate faculty governance structure to support shared governance within their unit. “We anticipate that this work will be developed and implemented over the next year,” Cox said.

Defining impact 

“For many of our faculty members, the impact of their research and creative works moves beyond the traditional academic world into realms that require measures of societal and economic impact,” Cox said.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science has undertaken a pilot project to look at how to measure those non-traditional impacts as part of their promotion and tenure process,” CoBabe-Ammann said.

What’s next?

With the large number of strategic efforts underway across campus, Cox said, “The question we hear most frequently is, ‘How does this come together and what happens next?’”

“Unsurprisingly, most of the strategic initiatives have emerged with converging goals and efforts,” he explained. “As an example, online and distance education has shown up not just as an Academic Futures key component but also within important lines of work in Foundations of Excellence, the IDEA Plan, Financial Futures and the Strategic Facilities Visioning process.”

CoBabe-Ammann said over the coming fall semester, as all of the strategic efforts continue to map their work and recommendations onto each other, “We expect we will see the emergence of a number of ‘centers of gravity’—key areas of work now informed from all angles that can then be integrated into a single cohesive effort.”

And that, said Provost Russ Moore, means Academic Futures is “highlighting our intellectual and educational goals that must structure all of these efforts.”

“We’re in an exciting phase in which members of our community have taken up the various projects set by Academic Futures and are helping to move them forward from vision to definition to implementation,” Moore said.

CFO Kelly Fox praised the collaborations going on between and among the various initiatives and pointing toward a truly transformative outcome for the campus.

“We are seeing our strategic initiatives converge, integrate and combine, and that positions us well to innovate and respond to the demands that our own community—and our stakeholders in Colorado and across the nation and the world—are placing on us,” Fox said.

Stay tuned for progress updates in CU Boulder Today or visit the strategic initiatives webpage to learn more about each of the initiatives and to see schedules for town halls, meetings and other engagement opportunities. You can provide feedback on the strategic initiatives to the provost and senior vice chancellor by sending an email to vcaa@colorado.edu.