Memo Banner "Message from Provost Storrs"

November 18, 2021

To: UNCG Faculty

From: Debbie Storrs, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor

RE: Campus Update

Fall 2021 Semester

  • Please do not cancel classes after the Thanksgiving break to ensure you provide students with the required contact hours. It’s important that we maintain our contact hour requirement for SACSCOC accreditation and student academic success.
  • Fall 2021 Grades: Grades are due by 5:00 pm on Dec. 13th for courses offered in the standard, 15-week term. Part of Term ‘B’ course grades are due by 5:00 on Dec. 9.
  • Face Coverings: On Monday, Nov. 15, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to lift the county’s indoor mask mandate. UNCG will continue to require face coverings be worn indoors, and outdoors when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. Please continue to help protect our campus community in these final weeks of the fall semester by wearing a face covering. The University made this decision for several reasons including, but not limited to:
  • CDC guidelines for colleges and universities differ from the general public guidelines and we seek to Shield Our Spartans and keep our community healthy and safe;
  • Face coverings remain an effective tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19; and
  • Instructors who agreed to teach face-to-face classes, and students who registered to take these classes, did so with the understanding that policies regarding face coverings would be in effect for the semester.

Spring 2022 Semester

UNCG will continue to require face coverings in instructional settings for the Spring 2022 semester, regardless of vaccination status, until further notice. We will be reviewing campus-wide face covering requirements for other indoor settings and outdoors, and will communicate University expectations in early January. Please know we will continue to monitor vaccination rates in the community and COVID-19 positivity rates, and may adjust this requirement if conditions allow.

We will provide an updated syllabus statement that we ask you to include in your spring 2022 syllabi. That statement will be distributed and posted before the end of the fall semester.

Please plan to provide your courses in the spring as currently scheduled (face to face or online). If you need to change your course delivery method after the start of the spring semester, please first confer with your head, chair, or director and then your dean for approval, and then submit the change of course delivery to the Registrar’s office. Updating the Registrar’s office is important for multiple reasons. For example, course delivery will determine whether unvaccinated students are fully online and whether they need to test regularly for COVID-19. We also must document delivery methods for SACSCOC accreditation and for reporting to the UNC System.

Please keep the following in mind as you plan:

  • ‘Face-to-face’ means that all scheduled instruction in the course is delivered in person.
  • ‘Online’ and ‘Remote’ mean the course content is delivered completely in a web-based format, either synchronously or asynchronously.

Faculty who teach face-to-face courses should determine whether to make  occasional accommodations for students who need to temporarily engage with the class in an online format.

Summer 2022

In recent years, summer sessions have been run through UNCG Online, but we are now managing summer sessions in much the same way as we handle fall and spring terms. This should allow flexibility in planning, as well as budget clarity. We are anticipating higher enrollment than in recent past summers owing to the 30 Hour Challenge, through which students opt-in to complete 30 hours this academic year, including summer. The Division of Student Success and advising units in the colleges and schools will conduct outreach to Challenge students in January and February to assist them in choosing appropriate summer courses.

In the meantime, Dean Andrew Hamilton is working with deans, associate deans, heads, chairs, and directors to make sure our summer course inventory maximizes student degree progress while not replacing Fall and Spring enrollments next year. The current draft schedule consists of 821 sections, of which 511 will be taught online. Of these, 311 are undergraduate courses. It is likely that we will add seats and sections as demand becomes clearer over the coming months.

International Travel Approval

All University-affiliated international travel must be approved by the International Travel Committee in accordance with the UNCG International Travel Policy. As of September 15, 2021, any faculty, staff, or students who will travel internationally for work or academic-related purposes, must provide proof of vaccination status.

Enrollment

To assist departments and programs with understanding and acting upon recruitment opportunities, the Division of Enrollment Management will be providing a digital packet of information unique to each department and program. The packet will include data on top feeder community colleges and counties that drive departmental enrollment to assist in identifying target partners and recruitment priorities. In addition, Enrollment Management is looking to work with departments to create newsletters that highlight their departmental successes, faculty stories, research wins, and more. Strong recruitment means making a prospective student feel special and wanted, and Enrollment Management will work to send each admitted student a personalized letter from the dean of their respective unit to welcome and inspire them. Finally, departments and programs will receive a faculty-specific annual calendar of events as well as information on the seasons of recruitment, helping departments understand how best to focus efforts during phases of the recruitment cycle and help plan engagement opportunities. By compiling a breadth of information, content, and planning materials for each department, Enrollment Management seeks to foster a new era of collaboration and data-sharing to help departments serve as active, informed partners in their own enrollment growth.

Integration of the Institutional Research Office and the Information Technology Services

In mid-October, we integrated the Institutional Research Office and the Information Technology Services (ITS) Data Strategy, Reporting and Visualization group to create a single unified team of data professionals who will provide a coordinated approach to institutional data management, availability, and usage. This joint team reports to ITS. Coming together as one team creates expanded capabilities that will allow us to deliver high quality data to our campus quickly. The merger has already yielded impressive results by enabling us to move critical data initiatives forward with unprecedented speed. We are excited about the opportunities this partnership creates.

Ombuds Search

One of my first decisions at UNCG was to support the request to recruit and fill an ombuds position. My decision was based on the demand and thoughtfulness of your previous work. Thank you for your engagement in bringing this important position into reality as a resource for our campus community. I convened a small committee consisting of Lisa Pluff from the Staff Senate, Laurie Kennedy-Malone from the Faculty Senate, Senior Vice Provost Alan Boyette, and myself to review initial proposals for the ombuds position. Upon our review, we decided we needed stronger proposals and launched a second request that has been posted to the NC Interactive Purchasing System. If you know someone who is well-suited for this position, please feel free to send this link to them. Applications are due January 5, 2022.

Our Integrated Approach to Student Success

UNCG is committed to an integrated, institution-wide approach to improve our students’ retention and academic success. Student success activities are integrated, data-informed, and include a campus-wide set of efforts involving students, faculty, and staff. Below are some of the actions underway:

The Spartan 30-Hour Challenge: For most students, completing 30 hours each year leads to higher grades, better persistence, higher probability of graduation, and decreased time to degree completion. The 30-hour challenge provides incentives for students to complete 30 hours on an opt-in basis. For a short informative video on the 30-hour challenge, see:  https://youtu.be/YyAzY3XXmtE

Extended and Enhanced New Student Orientation: Our new students have let us know that spending roughly the last 18 months in an online environment has created challenges in terms of their transition to UNCG and preparedness for the academic demands of college.  To assist them, the Division of Student Success is offering an orientation program that lasts all year, and includes events and services that connect students to campus, develop personal and academic support systems, and introduce them to campus resources. The team is also offering programming for returning sophomores, who largely did not have the benefit of engaging in campus life in the 2020-2021 academic year. (This work is being partially funded with institutional HEERF III dollars.)

Starfish Early Reporting, Data Collection, and Advising: We have asked instructors of undergraduate courses to complete Academic Status Reports (ASRs) for their students. Raising flags and making referrals helps coordinate early interventions (ASRs 1 and 2), creates a large, detailed, and actionable pool of data about the challenges students face, and gives advisors information relevant for enrollment in subsequent terms (ASR 3).  Starfish use has increased substantially this term, pointing many more students to the academic and psycho-social support they need to succeed in class, and creating a more nuanced data picture of when students struggle, in which courses or programs, and why. This information will direct our investments in the coming months as we work to improve metrics like course-level performance, annual retention, and graduation rates.

A team from ITS and the Division of Student Success has been busy behind the scenes all semester working to integrate Starfish with Canvas, so the process of raising flags and referrals is much more streamlined for faculty. That project is currently in beta testing. We anticipate a full implementation early in the spring semester — likely before the first Academic Status Report.

Direct Academic Support: The Academic Achievement Center has expanded its tutoring, supplemental instruction, and academic skills training operations in an effort to serve more students and be more responsive to Starfish referrals. The three Multiliteracy Centers are also delivering enhanced support for students as they develop skills in writing, speaking, and digital content creation.

The Business of Being a Student: A campus-wide team continues to make student-facing processes like applying, registering, and receiving financial aid simple and seamless. One outcome of this work is Spartan Central, a single website that houses everything undergraduate students need to know about tuition, billing, financial aid, transfer credit, course registration, and graduation.

Data Dashboards: A team from Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, and ITS have developed dashboards that put important student success data in the hands of school, college, department, and program leaders. These dashboards provide timely information about enrollment patterns, semester credit hour production, seat availability, and grade distributions to deans, heads, chairs, and directors, who can then detect trends, direct resources, plan interventions, and improve outcomes.

Successful Course Completion Initiative: Using information from the Data Dashboards, deans, heads, chairs, and directors are working with the Division of Student Success and the University Teaching and Learning Center to identify gateway courses with low rates of successful completion, diagnose root causes, and work toward improving student performance in those courses. Higher rates of successful gateway course completion are a priority because they point toward higher student retention.

Examination of Undergraduate Academic Policies: The Academic Policies and Regulations Committee of the Faculty Senate is considering new policies and policy changes that will address several challenges students face as they work to make degree progress, encourage or require behaviors consistent with successful completion, and guide students toward better academic outcomes.

Transfer Advisory Council: A 16-member group of faculty, staff, and administrators has been charged with the task of improving the transfer student experience, making UNCG a more transfer-friendly institution, and ensuring ease of access to UNCG for transfer students. The Transfer Advisory Council is working toward more and better data sharing and analysis, improved relationships with partner institutions, and higher rates of retention and graduation for transfer students.

Expansion of Mental Health Support Services

Focused on fostering a culture of care, UNCG offers suicide prevention and mental health/substance use trainings. The first is UNCG Cares: Question Persuade Refer (QPR), a Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper training focused on how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to Question, Persuade, and Refer someone to help. QPR is 1.5-hour training and is tailored to UNCG, offering UNCG specific resources. For further information on QPR and to schedule a training, visit the Question Persuade Refer (QPR) website or contact Jamie Stephens at jlsteph2@uncg.edu. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training scaffolds learning from UNCG CARES: QPR suicide prevention course and builds comprehensive skills and abilities to identify, understand and respond to mental health and substance-use concerns. MHFA teaches participants an action plan that can be used in a variety of situations with students varying from panic attacks to nonsuicidal self-injury and alcohol or drug use. MHFA is focused on giving faculty and staff the knowledge and skills to respond to students in an informed, effective, competent, and confident manner. MHFA is an 8-hour training that is typically segmented into two or three sessions, and, like QPR, is provided by UNCG community members and tailored to UNCG procedures and resources. For more information or to schedule a MHFA training, contact Jennifer Whitney at jmwhitne@uncg.edu In addition to the websites and contact persons noted here, additional resources and information, as well as a comprehensive list of trainings designed to create and support a Culture of Care can be found on the DSA at the Culture of Care website.

Provost Fellow for Student Success

Regina McCoy, Provost Fellow for Student Success, has expanded her calendar with meetings, conversations, and coffee-chats with faculty, students, and administrators to share their sagacious perspectives, needs, and concerns. Her notes from these thoughtful discussions are filled pages of mental maps of our interconnected services, with side margins cataloging questions that will guide the initiatives we will develop this spring. Our students tell her they are hurting and worried about the future post-pandemic world and struggling to stay focused. Our data tells us when students report feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, this can potentially lead to disengagement and academic and personal distress. As presented in the October Senate Faculty Forum, our campus has a comprehensive network of services for student retention, engagement, and academic outreach. To make our services most effective, we need to ask and answer questions such as the following: Do we have a marketing problem where students and faculty aren’t aware of our existing efforts? Are there service gaps or blind spots we need to address? How do we increase our students’ sense of purpose and belongingness? What do students need to feel engaged and what are the faculty-supported roles in these efforts? How do we sustain students through moments of transition or milestones? What opportunities for equitable community-building are we missing? How do faculty see themselves engaged in the solutions for student retention, especially given the increased faculty workloads and personal concerns for health and balance?

Fellow McCoy’s initiatives will focus on bolstering systemic support and inclusive resources on the mental health challenges currently facing our students and providing guidance on how faculty can take steps to support their mental wellness. She needs more input from you—what would you like to see the university do to improve student success? What is missing from the narrative that could inform our strategies? Please reach out to her anytime at rlmccoy@uncg.edu if you have questions or ideas you believe would help strengthen our community of care for our current and future Spartans.

Provost Fellow for Faculty Development

Tracy Nichols, Provost Fellow for Faculty Development, is working at the intersection of two critical areas: faculty development and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Her priority is to facilitate ways of supporting and rewarding the EDI-focused work of our faculty. The need to “formalize incentives and accountability measures for EDI work” is one of the recommendations made by the UNC System’s Racial Equity Report. This work often remains invisible and when it is not built into our reward systems (such as annual and promotion review), faculty must engage in the work in addition to the traditionally recognized activities needed for advancement. This creates an inequitable double burden.

There are multiple individual and collective efforts currently underway at UNCG to support and reward EDI-focused work. Therefore, her first task has been to develop a deeper understanding of the work being done at the different levels (department, school/college, university, and system) to help synthesize the work going forward. Towards this effort she has been reading reports, analyzing data, attending faculty senate committee meetings, and talking to key stakeholders. UNCG has done similar work to incorporate and reward Community Engaged Scholarship (CES) and we continue to push the envelope in supporting CES. She has been engaging in dialogue about these processes to understand what has worked and what still needs to be done. However, understanding what is being developed here at UNCG is not enough. We also need to understand and glean ideas from other institutions that are leading in this area. She has also been identifying those institutions and collecting and collating current best practices for us to consider. Immersing herself in this work has been enlightening and she will continue on this path throughout her fellowship.

Fellow Nichols is working closely with the EDI subcommittee of the Faculty Senate, along with the Faculty Senate Executive committee to develop a plan for moving forward with this initiative. As we continue to do this work, it will be important to keep a broad understanding of what support entails.  A narrow strategy focused on promotion and tenure review alone will not create the change that is needed. Instead, we must understand that faculty development and support for EDI work starts from the hiring agreement and intersects with mentoring, work plans, annual review processes, and opportunities for leadership and professional development. Policies and procedures are critical starting points for these efforts, but they cannot affect change unless we also provide support at these other levels. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are excited and committed to helping us move forward. We hope you will join us.

SACSCOC Reaffirmation

The University has started its next SACSCOC reaffirmation process, which allows us to demonstrate to our accrediting agency that we meet all of the standards expected of a quality higher education institution and remain accredited. We’ve identified experts to lead the drafting of responses and collecting of evidence, and they are working with colleagues across campus in this important endeavor.  If they ask you for help, please help them out!  In the end, we will provide a comprehensive report that reflects the impressive work you and others do to support our students, faculty, and staff. We look forward to UNCG’s successful reaffirmation in 2024.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. I wish you a wonderful and well deserved Thanksgiving break. I am grateful for you every day and will continue to work to ensure we live up to our mission and create a work and learning culture that is inclusive and supportive.