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The Weekly Blab 1.11

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 1, Number 11—November 20, 2006


Dear Colleagues,


Here we go with the eleventh issue of the Weekly Blab. Please—share your thoughts!  Bear in mind that some of the items that may appear here may later disappear without a trace upon further consideration, due to their preliminary nature!


First off, some follow-ups on previous items:



ITEM:  Enrollment.  Word from the University System of Georgia is that Southern Polytechnic State University enjoyed the largest percentage increase in enrollment of any 4-year university for Fall 2006.  In other words, WE’RE NUMBER ONE!



ITEM:  Restructuring.  Back about six weeks ago, an ad-hoc committee of department chairs recommended two potential restructures:  In the first, we would keep our current structure, except that Business would become a school.  In the second, all departments would report directly to the VPAA, and we’d have only a Dean of Graduate Studies and a Dean of Undergraduate studies.  I have rejected the second option for a number of reasons, the most important being that I don’t think it would be a good idea to have all the departments report to a single individual (be it me or someone else), since (imho) that would be too much for any individual to deal with. 


We’ve been discussing variations on the first proposal every since.  The context of that discussion has been:

  • On what basis should a department (be it Business Administration or anyone else) be allowed to become a school?
  • In what ways are schools and departments different in people’s perceptions?  How should they be different at SPSU?
  •  Is there a policy that we might adopt that would allow us to add (or subtract) departments/schools as needed, flexible enough to cover our anticipated growth for the next five years or more?
  • Is there a way we can accomplish this without needing to change a big stack of P&P’s in a substantial way?


It may seem to you that an easier thing to do would have been to just say “yes” or “no” to the Business Department’s desire to become a school.  Since we can’t restructure every semester, I wanted a process that will serve us going into the future, and that could be shared with the Board of Regents Staff (who have to approve changes of this sort) up front, so that they could then just nod at future changes as being consistent with that process.


After these discussions, I shared a draft proposal on restructuring with the Deans on Thursday.  The document is available for your review at:

(new link = Restructure)


The main idea is that we will “elevate” the four current schools to Colleges, henceforth reserving the name “school” for single departments or groupings of departments and/or programs that are more complex than a “typical” department.  Aspiring schools will submit a Strategic Plan to the Deans, covering such topics as planned expansion of programs/curriculum and a plan for growth in student numbers, including a timeline with benchmarks for needing/obtaining additional resources.  Such plans would become part of the Academic Planning Process (which will start up this Spring, by the way), and need to be harmony both with it and the University’s overall Strategic Plan.  The Strategic Plan would be reviewed by the Deans, and if found appropriate, the promotion to “School” would be granted.  No reporting or evaluation process would be changed—the School would remain part of its College and continue to report to its Dean.  The new School would be reviewed every semester to ensure it is meeting the goals set out in its Strategic Plan.


Anyway, that’s it in a nutshell.  If any of you have any comments, please share them with me.  If enough Chairs want to discuss this, I’ll put it on the agenda for the next ALC meeting.  If folks think this is a good way to proceed, I’ll announce the plan’s adoption.



ITEM:  Engineering.  A proposal for a new major in Engineering—concentration in Systems Engineering was passed unanimously at the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, and is on the agenda for the next faculty meeting.  The basic curriculum was discussed by the Engineering Steering Committee on Friday the 10th.  They found the initial proposal a bit too constraining, and suggested that courses such as Dynamics, Strength of Materials, and Thermodynamics be categorized as “Engineering Science” courses, and to allow each concentration or major to select a group appropriate to it.  Discussion indicated that the Construction Engineering and Mechatronics Engineering programs could work within this more flexible framework, as could the proposed Systems Engineering and any future programs that we might work on. 



ITEM:  Master Planning.   A presentation of our Master Planning work so far was made to representatives from the Board of Regents staff last Friday.  The presentation was largely the same as the one made to the faculty a few weeks ago, with some of the numbers (relating to space needs in various categories) being a bit more refined, plus a “preamble” section about the history and geographical nature of the University. 


The presentation was extremely well received—it was great seeing all the BoR staff responding so positively and “getting it” with regard to our unique situation and needs.  I think this shows that we are very much on the right track in our planning process.  Of course, we won’t really know until we see the money!


In future meetings, we’ll be getting into what the “pinch-points” are relative to our anticipated growth, and what facilities we’ll need in order to address them.  The Extended Team Master Planning group will, of course, be involved in those discussions.



Now for some New Items:


ITEM:  Capital Equipment.    The Deans Council has finalized the list of capital equipment.  The final list can be seen at the following link:


            http://fac-web.spsu.edu/aa/Equipment 2006.html
(new link = Equipment 2006)


As mentioned in the last BLAB, we’ll be developing a strategic plan for capital equipment for various groupings in the University.  Stay tuned for more details.



ITEM:  New Faculty Hires.  The Deans Council has also finalized the list of new faculty hires (those who would start in Fall 2007).  There are 16 positions on the list to appear in the Chronicle (in addition to the two open Dean positions).  As was the case last year, I’d like to make it clear that advertising the position does not mean that we will definitely be hiring in that area (since sufficient funds may not be available to cover all positions) and that offers will only be made when strong candidates have been identified. 



ITEM:  Six Sigma Training.  A number of people on campus (and from the BoR staff) have gone through the first two rounds of Six Sigma Training here at SPSU.  Yours truly took the course last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  In case you don’t know what Six Sigma is, it’s a management technique that has reducing variability of processes as its major goal—in other words, making one’s processes more reliable and more in tune with customer expectations and requirements.  It’s pretty obvious that methodology can help improve how we conduct some of our administrative affairs (admission of students, financial aid, that sort of thing).  It’s less obvious to me as to how this might impact academic processes, but some of our colleagues in IET (who deal with this stuff all the time) tell me that it can be applied there too.  So, if you hear some new jargon related to processes being “in control” or at a three sigma level, you’ll know where this stuff is coming from.


Perhaps the oddest thing about taking this class was how fast the old student fears come back.  There was a test at the end, which you need to pass to be certified as a six sigma green belt.  You’d be amazed at the number of “will this be on the test” type questions that came up.  After handing in my test answers, I went back to ask the instructor if I could have it back ‘cause I’d forgotten to label the axes on my graphs!  I haven’t gotten my grades yet to find out if I got certified, but if I become a green belt, watch out!



ITEM:  Dave Letterman Show at Open House?  On Saturday, we inaugurated a new way of doing Open House, getting away from the old “talking head” format.  The new format was proposed by Gary Bush and Jim Cooper, and was a take-off on the David Letterman Show.  The show began with the band (Alan Gabrielli, Steve Hamrick, David Stone, David Cline and Barry Birckhead) playing a few numbers, and introducing Jim Cooper (who was the emcee).  We then went through a “Top 10 Worst Reasons to Select SPSU as your University” [e.g., #5—Because Marietta is the Paris of the southeast], followed by Jim “interviewing” President Rossbacher, a student, and Phyllis Weatherly from Career and Counseling.  A question and answer session with the audience asked by Gary Bush and answered by Ron “Big Daddy” Koger was in the middle of the interviews.  The program ended with me telling a few stories/jokes, each of which had as a moral to come to SPSU. 


The program was extremely well received by the parents and students, who made a point of telling us how much they enjoyed it (especially compared to others they had been at). 



ITEM:  Ken Rainey Tree Planting.  Back on the 9th, a beautiful tree planting ceremony was held in commemoration of Ken Rainey, former Department Chair of English, TCOM and Media Arts, who passed away recently.  A tree was planted in a beautiful spot in front of Building J, and a plaque and bench are on order.  There was a very large turnout of faculty, staff and students, as well as Ken’s family and friends.  Thanks to Carol Barnum and to John Mills and the grounds staff, who did a great job organizing this important event.  T-Shirts and hats to benefit a scholarship fund in Ken’s memory are still on sale ($20 each), so be sure to contact Carol Barnum if you’d like to participate. 


OK—That’s it for now.  Let me know your thoughts.  Also, let me know if there’s any topic you’d like me to address, and I’ll try to do it.


Advance Notice:  There will be no Weekly Blab for next week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Everybody have a great break!