Transcript Senate Meeting
November 5, 2013
Larry Crowley, chair: Come to order please. Welcome you to the November meeting. Of the AU Senate I am Larry Crowley the chair of the Senate.
I want to go over some rules of the Senate before I get started. Senators or substitute senators please sign the roll in the back we don’t have anything to vote on today and will not need clickers, we did establish a quorum by counting names on the roll. If you’d like to speak on an issue, go to the microphone, when recognized, state your name, indicate if you are a senator and state what unit you represent. The rules of the Senate require that senators or substitute senators be allowed to speak first. After all comments by senators on an issue are made guests are welcome to speak. There are currently 88 members of the Senate so a quorum requires 45 senators and we have established a quorum.
The first order of business is the approval of the minutes of the October 8, 2013 meeting. The minutes have been posted online and I would like to hear from anyone that might have changes or revisions to the minutes. There are no corrections to the minutes so the minutes stand approved.
I would like to call on Don Large, he is going to be giving remarks for the president.
Don Large, executive vice president: The president would have been here but he’s not feeling real good today and he was out yesterday as well and hopefully he will be back tomorrow, but communicating with him a couple of things he wanted to bring out; one recall the two-part raise to your salaries, the permanent part for this year went in place October 1 in your paychecks, the second part is the one-time letter should be coming out this week to you telling you amount. I think our target is December 6 for distribution. Kind of good news there. [2:10]
Otherwise it is kind of quiet. The president wanted you to know that we do have our Trustee meeting not this Friday but next Friday. Even that is one of the shorter agendas that we can remember. There are no financial areas to discuss. Property and Facilities, there will be approval of the campus Master Plan, but that’s been discussed with long and many, many groups on campus so there should be no surprises there.
In the academic affairs area, there is some renamings, a BS in Medical Technology, a BS in Medical Laboratory Sciences, and there are 3 or 4 name changes in Pharmacy but I won’t read those, and the proposed changes in the faculty personnel policies that we were trying to get on last time but we hadn’t had all those discussions with the chair of the academic committee at that time, but we have now so no surprise there. There will be an Academic Affairs update by the Provost. That’s it, it’s kind of a weirdly quiet time. We’re enjoying it. Happy to answer any questions. Thank you.
Larry Crowley, chair: Dr. Boosinger is in China, so he is not here. We have two agenda (information) items. One is the Huron Group is here to give us an update on the budgeting process and to introduce Andrew Law is Drew Clark.
Drew Clark, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment: Thank you Larry, I’m Drew Clark. I direct the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, I am not a senator, but I began my career here as a senator for the Department of English and I am pleased to think back on those days. Because Provost Boosinger is out of the country her asked me to introduce your guest today for the presentation. Perhaps I’ll step back to the microphone for a slide or two. I am joined by Andrew Law of the Huron Consulting Group, he is a managing director as you may know or may not know Huron is a consulting firm that brings advise and good practices to clients across a number of industries. They are also active in advising higher education partners. We’ve worked with them before. Andrew will do most of the heavy lifting today. I agreed to do a few repetitions of light weight before he gets started. [5:32]
This is one in a series of conversations going on this semester. The slide says ‘strategic budgeting initiative,’ it might better be titled ‘strategic budgeting conversation.’ We are engaged in a 12 week listening and talking period to determine some basic questions about our budget model, how it might be improved. They have been meeting so far with each of the deans with their business officers, following along behind that are meetings, with the dean’s prerogative, with other college and school leadership, for example department chairs or associate deans. Some of those have occurred already others have been scheduled. There are two open forum opportunities so those you represent, if you are a senator please know that there are opportunities coming up for all campus constituents to attend. The first will be on November 19 at one of the series of Provost’s Open Forums, a second is scheduled for January 15 of next year and that forum will probably take a little bit different shape from some that we have had before because it will likely involve persons who work at other universities who have looked at their budgeting process to come in and talk to us about how that’s gone for them.
So because those conversations are going on we wanted to make sure that faculty representatives through the Senate had a chance to hear this. It’s essentially the same presentation. We’ve met previously with the elected leadership of the Senate. Had a very good meeting with them and other meetings are planned. [7:16]
So the background for this conversation or initiative, you can tell this story starting in any number of places, but the basic questions if front of us are whether or not our current budgeting system is well adapted to our current needs. In 2011 the Provost had a retreat with all of the Deans. They talked about a number of subjects, but a persistent theme of that conversation was some limitations of the current budgeting model. If you are not familiar with it I’ll steal a moment from Andrew and talk and just say we essentially have an incremental budgeting model so that each school or college gets next year what it got the year before plus or minus a percentage point, plus or minus in belt tightening years.
When that was discussed amongst the Deans and the Provost the points on the slide were brought out as potential limitations of what we are currently doing. It creates and perpetuates inequities amongst colleges particularly with reference to revenues from student fees. Some colleges have some colleges do not. Another form of that inequity happens when students move from one college to another, though we have seen over the last decade or so fairly large migrations of enrollment from one college to others. There’s not been a ready way to move funds with the students when they move. And so that’s another feature of our system. You probably know that the current budget system allocates very few resources to the Provost directly for funding strategic initiatives. In the presence of an incremental model, like our current one, there is not a good way to change that.
There are challenges in funding core curriculum courses and other high enrollment courses. A part of the student migration pattern that I mentioned before, and again all kinds of flexibility are harder with an inflexible budget system. Addressing salary equity and market compensation competitiveness for faculty is difficult. So those were the themes the Deans and the Provost discussed at that time. Not a great deal has changed since then, but I will point out one thing that’s changed. We have formally adopted a strategic plan for the 2013 to 2018 period. The first 4 broad elements of that plan are missionary; to improve student success, faculty success and vitality, to enhance our research creative scholarship, and to improve our levels of engagement with the world at large as a land-grant university. [10:01]
The fifth plank of the strategic plan calls for a budgeting system that will allow us to align our investments with our priorities. So this conversation revolves around that theme. There is no commitment at the current time to do any particular revision of the budget model, but it’s a conversation that we think we need to have and it’s in full swing right now and we’re glad to involve you in it. With that I am going to call Andrew Law to the microphone and he’ll take the slides from here.
Andrew Law, Huron Consulting Group: Thank you for letting me have some time on your agenda today, I appreciate it. Some quick background, I am with Huron, I have worked for 30–40 different universities, you can tell from my accent I am from the South. I live in Oxford, Mississippi. So it’s nice not to have gone so far to come here today. Two of my other clients right now are New Hampshire and North Dakota, so it’s quite a bit harder to get to those places and not quite as welcoming once I get there.
We’ve bee engaged on this initiative at Auburn for about 16 weeks plus or minus. Drew noted that the story started back in 2011 at this Dean’s Retreat with the Provost’s Office. A couple of things I want to talk about are just issues that have transpired since 2011. Of course I haven’t been here that whole time, but I understand some of the context and some of it is market driven items as opposed to specific context at Auburn.
Just to walk through some of those quickly, I don’t know if you can see the slides way in the back but we’ve noted kind of 5 things here. We knew we had problems with how we were allocating and managing our resources in 2011 in terms of the stakeholders were not quite happy with the outcomes. Since then what we’ve experienced is some sharp reduction in state appropriations. We’ve seen out tuition dependency increase dramatically, going from about 44% up to about 63% in terms of our general funds budget. It’s about a 43% increase. During that same time we saw much of our tuition dependency fall to non-residence students as opposed to residence and that came at a time of increased price sensitivity on the students behalf. I don’t have the metrics in front of me, but anybody that picks up the paper day in and day out over the last 36 months has seen them. The family income, savings, and all these numbers are dropping, so financial need for our students is going up while prices are going up. So that has really impacted our sensitivity. There’s been increased competition for both students and faculty. [13:05] At the same time we’ve seen changing demographics. So while the state of Alabama has seen a slight uptick in the number of high school graduates, five of you surrounding southern states are all seeing declines in high school graduates. As 63% of our general fund dollars come from tuition and 62% of those dollars come from non-resident tuition dollars we are facing this reduced competition of a declining student pool to draw from.
So what are some of the consequences that we have seen in Auburn as a result of this? Don just talked a little bit about the two-part faculty salary changes, but certainly we’ve seen increased salary compression over the years. Drew talked about the amount of discretionary funds we have centrally to invest in strategic initiatives, so that’s been a constant challenge. We’ve seen our facilities footprint grow pretty dramatically, you can walk around campus and see the new buildings and stuff with limited operating funds to continue supporting that increased footprint. Then this is as much of a national trend as an Auburn trend, but certainly continues pressure on student affordability. So some of the things that we are seeing.
Again this conversation started perhaps earlier but at least in 2011 and some of these market items came up, some of these pressures faced Auburn, so no decisions were made to necessarily to change the way we approach resource allocation, but a decision was made to study it to do due diligence and to understand what the challenges really are. Of course we talk about the process to allocate resources. Anytime there are not enough resources we can always kind of blame it on the process because it didn’t give me enough, so one of the things we want to study is, is it really a process or a resources issue.
We came in and really Don and Tim charged the steering committee of about 12 people that included four deans, it included a couple more representatives from colleges, it included faculty representative, Beverly Marshall, so about 12 people on the committee and asked them to get together for a period of 16 weeks and study the process identify the gaps and so. We started that by interviewing about 45 individuals across campus. We then asked the committee to spend some time coming up with the list of guiding principles, so if you were to start this process from scratch and blue sky budget process what are the 5 or 7 things that you would like the process to do. So they drafted a set of principles. We then analyzed what we consider our four components of your budget process. When we say that we mean we looked at the funds flows organization; what are the revenues coming in?, then who has authority to allocate those revenues?, who has authority to then spend those dollars?, and then how are the dollars actually spent? So we did this funds flow modeling. Then we looked at the budget timeline as the second component to understand who are the stakeholders involved and what conversations are being held at what time and what is the nature of those conversations.
We then created what we call an inventory of incentives. As a dean or a department chair, one of the stakeholders, has a new idea that they need funding for what are the different levers that a stakeholder could pull to get funding for their initiative? [17:15] Alright, so are they enrollment incentives, are there research incentives, are there quality incentives, are there productivity incentives, what are the different things that Auburn stakeholders have their disposal to influence the amount of resources that come to their unit. So we inventoried those and then finally we did an assessment of the management reports and the tools that are given to stakeholders in order to manage their funds and understand whether or not thoses tools are appropriately distributed, maintained, utilized, some of those things.
And then the last step that we did was we created a budget model or funds flow model that is created essentially with assumptions so that we could kind of prototype what Auburn University would look like under various budget models, under various allocation decisions. So again not making any decisions if we need a new model or what the model should look like but just to understand in a more of a data driven way what some of the implications would be if we decided to change.
As that 16 week period came to an end several things came up in terms of, this says ‘need for initiative’ I should probably have called it ‘need for additional due diligence,’ because the way we want to consider this is we are constantly peeling back more layers of the onion and to ultimately decide if we need something new. So we did that first 16 week study which suggested we want to, as Drew said, have more conversations, and now we are out visiting with the deans, the business managers, the department chairs, visiting with all of you, etc.
What are the reasons that we decided that additional due diligence was necessary? [19:24] Probably the most salient one is this first one which is the realization that our resource allocation should match our strategy not our history. In many cases we talked to the deans and the unit leaders about what their budgets were, they talked about my budget is this because that’s what I got last year. So we talked about there is a possibility that after 15–20 years of percentage bumps up and down we got it exactly right, but in all likely hood it is not exactly right after multiple years of pluses and minuses.
The second piece is we wanted to make sure that our approach to funding units across campus enhanced decision-making. So we want to make sure it reflects our prioritization of activities, so what we care most about. And we want to make sure that it is methodical. By methodical we also mean justified. In most cases we asked a unit why they got what they got or ask how changes in activity levels or changes in production or changes in whatever the metric is; quality, graduation rates, etc., programs, how that impacted funding levels. Which usually it doesn’t. When a department chair decides to start a new program or something like that too often the decision was that program would be great please start it but we need you to do more with the same or more with less as opposed to having additional funding that follows those opportunities. We needed something that is more methodical.
The third thing here, the individuals that we interviewed and the steering committee felt that we needed something that increased stakeholder authority, responsibility, and accountability. To often there was not a connection between how someone was responsible to generate resources and whether or not they had the ability to control how those resources were spent. So there were disconnects in those places. We wanted something that tied these three things together. Then finally we wanted something that promoted our long-term interests not short-term goals. So we wanted to insure that we didn’t do something that has wild fluctuations or volatility year-in and year-out.
With these four components the committee felt that we should continue this due diligence process. [22:23]
From here I want to step back a little bit for what I call two more pages and share a little bit of the conversation that we shared with the committee. The value in doing this is to try and put us all on the same playing field in terms of terminology etc., so when I am talking about resource allocation, what do I mean, when I am talking about budget model, what do I mean. So really one of the first conversations we had with the committee was what is budgeting? And we asked them in many ways to shift their frame for how they think about budgeting. Really when we talk about it we mean resource allocation, management, and planning. [23:17] But too often when people think about budgeting they think about the left side of the page up there, which is an inventory of expenses, some type of control mechanism, some type of a backroom operation, something that happens in the spreadsheet annually that is not really a strategic function. What we wanted people to do is to think about this initiative on the right side of the page, which is what we consider strategic budgeting which is we are asking people to think of their budgets as a plan for developing new resources, as a prioritization of their strategic initiatives, as an explanation of the internal economy. As a mechanism for incentivizing activities that we want, as a way of funding and promoting entrepreneurial activities and in many ways a baseline level of accountability. So we are not asking that finances be the first level…or the only place for accountability. Of course there are many other places that our colleges/schools/departments need to be accountable for, but this is an additional one that we need to bring into account in many ways we are maybe missing.
So with that kind of request that we ask people to think about this initiative on the right side of the page we then talked about four different types of models that we see at other institutions. Of course there are a litany of different models, but most of them can fit in one of these four buckets. The spectrum here is not meant to be good or bad or right or wrong but generally speaking from left to right it reflects centralized to decentralized. [25:11]
So as Drew said, Auburn currently operates under an incremental model, which puts you on the left side of the spectrum, which is generally considered to be the centralized commanding control model. These are ones that typically operate with a base budget, they focus on expenditures, they may have some incorporation of revenue incentives for things like summer credit hour production or online credit hours or something like that, indirect cost recoveries on grants, but generally speaking they focus on expenditures and they focus on base budget with pluses or minuses up and down.
If you jump to the far right, the most decentralized model is generally considered an incentive base model. Within this incentive base model is the model responsibility center management that many people will no doubtably heard of, ETOB, which is every tub on its own bottom which is kind of a more extreme version of RCM. These are models that allocate out revenues to recognize activity levels. They ask unit leaders to be accountable for their direct expenditures and then they ask units to cover the indirect cost that they consume, so basically to cover centralized costs such as HR, IT, Facilities, some of those things so that we can get a true accounting of the revenues and expenses. We can try and match them and understand the net contribution or consumption of resources by portfolio function.
So those are kind of the two bookends, within the two common models are formula models and performance models. Those are both very similar. The formula models are generally the input base models so funding is allocated based on quantity. So things like credit hour production, number of students, etc.
Performance based models are generally output based, so they have resources allocated based on retention rates, graduation rates, SAT scores, ACT scores, GPAs, things like that. Other than that they are both data driven, they are both fairly easy to understand. So when we started our conversation with the community we started with these four pieces. Not to suggest again that one is right or wrong, all of these have benefits and all of them have considerations. Some people would suggest that an incentive base model has too much of a financial focus, so it’s bad. Many people would suggest that an incremental model on the other side is good because it gives extreme flexibility to leadership teams to make investments in strategic initiatives. [28:19] They don’t have commitments of resources via formulas and those types of things.
This is where we started and this is how we tried to get the committee on the same page for the conversation. Then we essentially asked:
So we then asked the committee to think about how can we cherry pick out of these elements etc. of those four models to think about the creation of an Auburn model. Is that appropriate and is that needed? [29:28] I’ll let Drew talk about the guiding principles.
Drew Clark, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment: Just very quickly, a 4 year old once said to me, I’m not making any choices and I don’t want to hear any big long speeches either. So the committee didn’t not make a choice amongst the four budget models up there, it’s too early to do that kind of thing, but we are talking through it and what we did agree to were some guiding principles that should characterize just about any budget that the university adopts. This is implicitly a way of considering the effectiveness of our current budget model too.
So what the committee set forward as guiding principles would be any model we adopt should allow us to prioritize funding for our mission and our strategic initiatives. It ought to deliver consistent, accurate, realistic financial projections, both about revenues and about expenditures. It ought to allow flexibility for us to respond to future opportunities of things we cannot imagine yet. It ought to promote authority, responsibility, and accountability both at the university level, but also at the school and college level. It has to provide incentives for effective management of both revenues and expenses , and I’ll underscore that, both revenues and expenses and it should reward creativity and innovation. Because models that involve data can get very complex and if you don’t watch it, it can evolve into procedures that may take a 280 page implementation manual to explain. We also need to set a principle that an eventual model needs to be simple, transparent, logical while still fitting the financial reality.
So this is really just another way of saying what the guiding principles would lead us to. If we move to a new model it ought to be designed to allow us to align resource allocations with the principles I just articulated. It ought to expand the university leadership and ownership team to include many more stakeholders than currently are involved. It ought to facilitate data informed decision-making. It would not be designed, and I want to emphasize this, to reorient accountability away from academics outcomes to financial outcomes only. Academic outcomes, mission outcomes are the first four parts of the Strategic Plan, this part is designed to help those other parts get accomplished.
The new model would not be designed to create autonomous actors where each school or college would essentially be renting the term Auburn University, they will still be an Auburn family and it would not be designed as a cost reduction initiative. In fact we would begin with current level expenditures and if it all were to work out, would phase in from there. So I just want to add those statements about the principles.
Andrew Law, Huron Consulting Group: I want to make sure I leave time for questions, but a couple more pages, three more things to run through quickly. Drew just talked about what the model would not do. Some of the preliminary elements of the structure that we are thinking about are: it should be all funds. So we feel like a university cannot make optimal decisions about resources unless all the funds are on the table. So we are suggesting that and the steering committee feels that the model should include both restricted and unrestricted funds and all divisions of funds.
The second thing is that we feel like it should have some incentive based component. Selected revenues should be allocated based on incentives for instruction, research, public service, etc.
The third thing is that the model should balance the authority and responsibility in terms of central retention of funds. So we both want to have funds to make central Auburn University investments so that we are not autonomous actors and we are one university, at the same time we want to create material opportunities for units to create local reserves and build up funding for their own strategic initiatives.
Fourth we think the model should incorporate indirect costs. In this I don’t mean F&As or your research indirects, but overhead costs. So the university central costs so we can understand the true cost of activities and we can have ownership of those and make sure that we are chasing good revenues and not revenues that cost more.
Again, I want to questions but the last real topical slide is What are we doing the next 6–9 months? Right now we are working with the schools and colleges for us to understand better what model they want and then for us (the steering committee, Auburn’s leadership team, etc.) to share some of these pros and cons and to talk about the need for change and to talk about how we think we can do things better.
So that is begun, we’ve met individually with all the deans, we’ve met with all the business managers, we’ve had meetings going college by college with department chairs, focus groups and meeting. We have done that now with five of the colleges. We are working with the steering committee to conduct analysis and understand what are potential incentives or algorithms that could be included in a model? [35:33]
The final step here is the development of support tools, of course you can’t change the way you allocate resources, ask people to have authority over that process and be accountable for that process unless you arm them with the right materials, tools, support, etc., so training and tools. We’ve got here listed 6–9 months but from my other experiences I can tell you I have studies about 35 case studies of institutions that have changed their approaches and generally speaking the average is 2.6 years. So this is a multi- year change. It would likely be 2–3 years at Auburn if the decision is made to do it. So this 6–9 months is kind of our process to go through that continuing level of due diligence to determine if that decision is right for Auburn.
Drew mentioned these November 19 and January 15 are two open forums, we are going to be asking people to come and share their thoughts and ask questions on items similar to this with a broad (voice dropped off)
Larry Crowley, chair: I have a question for Andrew or Drew. If you would come to the microphone and state your name, whether you are a senator of not and what unit you represent. [37:06]
Andrew Sinclair, senator, aerospace engineering: Andrew, you mentioned the preliminary study to understand the current budget situation at Auburn. Are the results of that publically available or will they be made available?
Andrew Law, Huron Consulting Group: We’ve talked about whether or not there needs to be some type of a Web site or communication that more broadly embraces this. Since a decision has not been made about whether or not a model should be implemented or changed I think the fear was that putting some of that out there would create too much anxiety. I can go back and ask if that should be shared. Right now the steering committee has it, the deans have seen I believe most of it, but we have not posted it on any public site. I’ll look into that.
Rusty Wright, senator, fisheries: You mentioned that you looked at a lot of these other case histories. Have you lead one of the processes before and what were the outcomes maybe at another university?
Andrew Law, Huron Consulting Group: I’ve helped about a dozen to a dozen and a half institutions go through this, Ohio, Kentucky, Perdue, Drexel, to name a few off of the top of my head. They’ve gone both ways in terms of the outcomes. So some institutions have decided to implement decentralized models, so pretty aggressive RCM type models; some institutions have decided to move the other way and to kind of pull back and adopt more centralized models. Ohio University is an example of one that’s implementing RCM, George Mason University is an example that I am working with now that’s kind of moving the other way down the spectrum. Vanderbilt is an example of one that’s moving to the centralized side, so it kind of goes both ways in the outcomes. In terms of outcomes after implementation as opposed to outcomes of what they decided to implement, I was saying earlier I just published a book on this and we did 9 case studies and of those there are some horror stories and some successes. I went to one place the first day I was pitching this and the president said is there ever been a provost or a president that’s lost their job trying to implement this? Unfortunately, yes, so there have been problems like that. On the flip side, you see a lot of examples of enhanced collaboration; Indiana University has a more decentralized model and they have a faculty group that does a 5-year review and posts that review online. And they posted on there that one of the quotes was that “There are many barriers to collaboration, the budget model is not one of them and collaboration has increased because of this.” In many cases that is because institutions or units understand better the funds flows that go with an activity, so they can make better agreements and decide to collaborate in kind of a an eyes wide open fashion.
You often see in a decentralized model, administrative efficiency increase, so the bureaucracy gets smaller because you have this allocated cost component and so the administrative units have to effectively answer to the academic units and justify their existence in many ways. So that gets smaller. You see better utilization of space, if you have space cost allocated, some of those things.
David King, senator, geology and geography: When we talk about the budget, I guess a lot of questions come to mind, but are we talking about what’s been called the nine-month budget or are we talking about summer budget, or is all going to be one budget?
Andrew Law, Huron Consulting Group: We recommend, Huron recommends that it all be one budget. When we talk about the budget we talk about all funds, that’s every nickel, dime, and penny that flows through Auburn University. [41:55] And we ought to think about those in a comprehensive fashion. You should move away from an idea of recurring funds versus one-time funds, while you should respect and always fund restrictions, you should treat money as green, not ten different colors of green depending on what restriction is has on it, so all dollars not nine-month or summer.
Larry Crowley, chair: If you have questions you would be well advised to attend one of the open forums.
Drew Clark: I don’t know if a room has been set yet for the open forum. So Larry we don’t know at the moment, it will be publicized. Before we step away I want to recognize, Hymay Montivarus, Kyle Blanco, both from Huron Consulting who are the people that you may see if you interact with Huron. They are here 4 days a week and have done terrific work. [43:08]
Larry Crowley, chair: Our next information item is the Biggio Center, Raj is the associate director for the Biggio Center and is going to talk a little bit about how the Biggio Center is enhancing some of the other strategic initiatives that we have in the ? (Lost the voice, microphone must be not picking up some words)
Raj Chaudhury, associate director of the Biggio Center: Good afternoon. If anyone needs to take a ten second stretching break this is a great time to do it. Listening to people lecture for a long time is not good for information retention. You guys are great, all right. [44:00]
My name is Raj Chaudhury, I’m from the Biggio Center and also assisting me in the presentation, the preparation of the presentation was done by Stacey Nickson and Gisela Buschle-Diller. Good afternoon. The Biggio Center is located, we moved from the Library, some of you may have know us when we were in the Library that’s where it was established, so we moved to Foy a little over a year ago. There is our Web site and the phone number and the mission of the Biggio Center when it was established was, “to promote the professional development of all instructional, administrative and professional staff” here at Auburn. And we focus that in 3 different areas; programs for faculty, programs for graduate students, and then other programs for the university in general.
Many of you know Jim Groccia, who recently stepped down in terms of his administrative position as director of the Biggio Center, that’s why I put a little star, he’s been here about 10 years. I’ve been here just about 5 years completing my fifth year and our assistant director Stacey Nickson has also been with us about 5 years. We work with faculty fellows, Bill Buskist spent a bunch of time with us, Gisela Buschle-Diller from engineering, who is also secretary-elect of the Senate has also been spending time with us, and Jarod Russell from education. For almost 2 years now the Office of Distance Learning and Testing Services has also come under our wing.
In terms of thinking about how to present the Biggio Center to this august body I really tried to look up the recently passed Strategic Plan and try to fit in terms of how do we in fact meet some of the strategic priorities that are now out on the table. So enhancing student success of course is a major item and just focusing on ways that we can help with student retention, student achievement, and then the whole section on e-learning especially related to Distance Education we feel we have something to contribute there.
Priority two in terms of supporting faculty vitality that is a huge part of the Biggio Center’s mission, so we are doing ongoing faculty development programs and then helping create that strong environment for academic work. The language you’ll see in my slides was cut and pasted directly out of the Strategic Plan.
Finally, it was interesting but I couldn’t really find a lot of stuff on graduate education in the Strategic Plan, so to really think about how our graduate student related programs fit seemed like enhancing research and scholarship was the best way to put it.
So under priority 1, enhancing student success many of you in this room have participated in our instructional feedback programs. One of the very popular ones especially leading up to about mid-semester is our mid-semester formative assessments, where we really help faculty and students come and match their expectations about how teaching and learning is going in the classroom before it’s too late. End of semester evaluations don’t really help the students that semester in terms of improving their learning, so that’s part of the feedback loop that we hope to provide.
Just a little bit of data in terms of our activity level, we usually, per year do about 60 of these in-person, what we call SGIF, Small Group Instructional Feedback sessions where we visit you class and actually collect data from your students and that whole process takes about 2 hours per session. So you can do the math there about how many visits that we do. We also for some large enrollment classes do electronic feedback surveys. Same thing about mid-term and we do about 40 of those per year. Just looking at the data from the last few years we’re gathering feedback from about 5,000 students per year across the university, because we are working with English composition all the way to CVM, College of Veterinary Medicine. I just put that down at the very bottom, the faculty appreciate it, students appreciate it as well, to provide them some way that their voice is heard in terms of how their learning process is going in the classroom, and we tell people look we are not the ‘teaching police’ nobody sends us here to check up on the professor’s teaching. We are here on the invitation of professors who are actually interested in getting feedback to improve their own performance. [48:47] And students really buy into that very well.
Staying with the priority one, enhancing student success, just focusing on the e-learning distance learning side since we have been in charge of the undergraduate distance learning we’ve developed a number of new distance learning courses primarily in the undergraduate arena and in a sense different colleges have different resources available to them in terms of developing new distance courses. One of the things we can provide centrally under the Provost’s Office is instructional design assistance, assistance with audio-video materials, some financial incentives to get the time, David King is a great example here in terms of getting some release time to be able to develop an online course, thank you David. And then the whole approval process, UCC, the University Curriculum Committee, and the Graduate Council Curriculum Committee, those are committees we work with to ensure that the paperwork gets passed through in a smooth fashion so that you get to offer the course in the time-frame that you would like to offer the course. Partly as a result of our effort parts of the general education core are now available fully online. For some colleges like Liberal Arts there are more parts of the core online.
So we do have some faces, if you run into some of our people, this is across all of our programs, some of the faces who will help you out. We have some graduate assistants working with us as well as some various staff members.
Here are some things that we are really (think) of might be attractive to a lot of different faculty members. In Biggin Hall there is a testing center that we’ve been running for about two years. There are 100 seats for proctored online exams. [50:49] This has become very popular with some groups of faculty here on campus especially if your students are going to end up taking some professional exam, some looking for their licensure such as Nursing. So students need practice in doing online exams. Though you assistance we can actually set up exams, we are doing all the exam testing for comm1000, which is like 900 students for final exams. Finals week we are open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. pretty much, people coming and taking exams.
There is a smaller testing center at the original testing center in Foy. This is where we actually do some commercial testing. We are starting to bring some exams that were never available at Auburn to Auburn to make it available to our students. Examples are the GMAT is now available online through the Foy testing center, GED is available, not a target for Auburn Students but it turns out there are all the people from Atlanta who are driving down here to take the GED exam at Auburn because we set up a very hospitable testing center. We have the GRE subject test coming in the spring and the new revised MCAT online starting 2015 will be available at Auburn. So I think those are all going to make it easier for our students who currently have to drive to Montgomery to take many of these exams. And thank you to OIT for a lot of help with some of the infrastructure and the networking support for making this happen. Thank you Bliss.
Just a comment on another big area, supporting faculty vitality. One of the big programs that we run at the beginning of the fall is new faculty orientation. Depending on how many hires Auburn has the number of new faculty go through orientation goes from anywhere from about 45 to about 70. This past fall it was low and was about 45 of the names that we got from the Provost’s Office, two years ago it was like 70. Some of those people about 25 per year participate in our new faculty scholars program where we have sort of a year long program of seminars, workshops, and mentoring for them and it’s always nice to see there’s some in the audience, people I saw start as new faculty, scholars with us and are now tenured or about to be tenured. That’s really great to see.
We run the Breeden Endowed Instructional Grant Program, those applications are due in the spring. And working with the Teaching Effectiveness Committee, I saw Don Mulvaney here, so that committee definitely helps with that. We run about ten to fourteen of those per year and then we run for the general university campus about 10 or 12 professional development seminars on various topics related to teaching and learning.
This past year was a very interesting, actually this past semester we’ve done cosponsored things with chemistry, with industrial systems engineering, and one other department. So we also work with other departments to bring teaching and learning seminars. Oh, psychology was the other one.
We don’t work completely blindly, so we do some needs assements surveys, the last one we did was in fall of 2012, had about 200 people across campus participate in it and some of the items that came out of that were things like the top 5 requests from faculty and things that they needed help with, and I’ve highlighted the second one “incorporate active learning strategies’ because one of the things you might be hearing about is this new incubator classroom in Haley Center. (Do we have time to run the video real quick?) [54:55] Thanks.
I’m going to show you a video that we made. There is a soundtrack to that but I’ll just talk over it. So this is the classroom that has been outfitted by the Provost’s Office. It was an old classroom in Haley 2213 and it’s one of our new active learning classrooms. The walls have these multicolored glass white boards, well they are color board, I guess all the way around. The furniture styles are all designed to test out different types of seating arrangements and different types of cooperative learning arrangements. There are these LED monitors, about 5 of them in the room, and the focus is really not to have the center of the room [56:21] where everybody is looking in one direction, but really to promote different kinds of group work and in fact promote students working things out on the board, discussing, talking, and engaging in those types of interactive activities. [56:36] So this is the first of hopefully a place, because it’s an incubator classroom we are really testing out, does this really work? How do faculty have to adapt their different teaching styles to work in here. How do students react to these types of environments, if they walk into a place where there is not an obvious front of the room? That can be quite disconcerting for students.
So in doing this room we worked with Wiebke Kuhn, you can see in the bottom picture, from the College of Liberal Arts. She’s has been working a lot on the design and what’s really neat about this particular classroom is that we started with the faculty development first. So way before, six months before the room was even built we started working with faculty that identified that they were interested in working in this room. We worked with OIT to think about how do we set up all of the technology in this room, worked with Facilities to think about what are the electrical requirements in a room like this, how do you arrange the furniture, how do you change the walls, how do you do the lighting, all of those kinds of things, it was and entire group working together to think about what is the optimal design of a learning environment and then what is the optimal design of learning activities that take advantage of that learning environment?
Just going over the faculty vitality piece, there is a strategic [58:14] commitment within the Strategic Plan for an intellectual environment, cultivating an exciting intellectual environment. And this is treated from the way that we do that, one is providing ongoing opportunities for faculty dialogue and then some special events. So the ongoing opportunities…one of the programs that we have related to that is our cultural insight program where Dr. Stacey Nickson, who is trained in this Culture Bump method of intercultural communication, works with faculty and grad students in a number of different ways to incorporate this type of approach into their courses, as well as doing some special pre departure seminars for people going on international study trips. So you are going off to Korea for a week, going off to South Africa for two weeks, you know give students some types of tools to deal with some of these cultural differences that they are bound to encounter.
Some of the special things that we’ve been doing is typically every couple of years the Biggio Center puts on some type of a large symposium or conference related to some aspect of university teaching. [59:22] There is one in 2008, 2010 we did that one on Cross-cultural Perspectives, and then this past spring we did one that was called Global Perspectives in College and University Teaching based in part on a book that Jim Groccia and Bill Buskist published called The Handbook of College and University Teaching which collected approaches to special topics in college and university teaching from around the world. So we had speakers from Korea, from Chile, form Saudia Arabia, as well as from a number of universities here in the U.S., Estonia was another place where we had people from.
So then the last big leg, priority three, Enhance Research and Scholarship and looking at graduate school professional development. This is some of the programs we are very proud of with support from the Graduate School, so thank you Dean Flowers. We’ve been running preparing future faculty program for our doctoral students who want to go on to faculty careers. One of the outcomes of the program always is that once students find out what life in academia is really like, they say never in my life am I ever going to work at the university. Which is a great outcome, right? If they know how to direct their future careers based on this that is good.
The program’s gone through 30 doctoral students per year. We have Engineering, CoSAM, Human Sciences, and College of Education are the best represented colleges, and usually in any given year any given cohort is at least 10 to 12 different department represented. They come in spirts, one year we had 5 Political Science, we had 5 Kinesiology, this year we have a bunch of Math people, but we always have a consistent stream of Engineering, across Engineering, they are very, very good. Especially engineering students who want to learn more about U.S. universities.
So here’s some of the comments that they provide, but all of you who’ve gotten into university careers without ever having had any training in how to be a university professor, you will recognize that there is a lot to learn beyond getting that PhD. So we just try to give our students a little leg up in that regard. And it comes out in job interviews or when they start the job depending on their own preparation.
Another big area, especially related back to this issue of student success is working with GTAs. We not only do orientations for graduate teaching assistance at the beginning of the year, just last year we decided to start one in the spring, because a lot of people come here as new grad students in the fall but they don’t actually get a teaching assignment until their second semester. Historically we haven’t had anything for them. So we very pleased that the very first time we offered this last January we had 75 people sign up and were there and at least got a half day’s worth of some kind of training because this university there are some departments that do a great job of GTA training, lot of programs and some departments just don’t have the resources to do that. So we want to make sure that our students…many students have their first encounter is with a GTA, so they have some access to good training in that area.
If you know any good GTAs in your department who might be ready for a leadership program, we are running a program for about 10 GTAs for those who want some leadership, those who want to go beyond what they are just doing in terms of a teaching assignment to demonstrate that maybe they want to be university professors themselves some day, but they want to do a little bit more. So we have some special training for them and one thing that we’ve made available to the entire community, we actually have a wiki based Auburn University GTA Survival Guide, fully compiled and edited by GTAs. If you want links to that it is on our Web site. But this will be historical resource, each cohort of GTAs will add to as they go through their programs. So we are hoping to build up as different groups come through from different disciplines; what are the tricks of the trade in teaching kinesiology or physics or chemistry or management. So we hope this will be something because when I went to grad school there were, UCLA had a very famous GTA Handbook, I came to Auburn we didn’t have one. This has been one of my dreams to try to get done. And when our students contribute to it they then become authors and can say, look I authored a chapter in this Wiki based handbook.
We are involved with grantsmanship and scholarship because that’s a part of the life of the university. Worked on a number of STEM Education grants and then a number of scholarly publications through various typical type of venues.
I will leave you on one last slide, after my service slide, the Provost’s Office calls us for various kinds of service. So this is the fun slide. Under the innovation collaboration page on the Strategic Plan Web page there is the picture of Zach Watson, undergraduate materials engineering major, playing guitar, very interested actually in using new kinds of materials to study musical instruments. He is a very bright student, but not only is he a bright student he’s actually also the sitar player in the Auburn Indian Music Ensemble that I actually direct. So we have these pretty amazing talented students at Auburn and ultimately that’s who we are here for. So that’s really great to see.
I am now open to take any questions, thanks. [1:05:02]
Dennis Shannon, substitute for Beth Guteral, crop soil and environmental sciences: I have a question and a comment. The question is have you looked at the number of undergraduate distance education students who are true distance education students? And the comment is that we’ve had some students look at the cost of taking undergraduate courses at Auburn University by distance education and we are by far the most expensive. We’ve looked at over a dozen universities and even our instate tuition is about double that of non-resident tuition for University of Florida. So it’s just not competitive. So is there any thought of addressing that issue?
Raj Chaudhury, associate director of the Biggio Center: Dennis, currently the number of full-time fully online students at Auburn is essentially zero because we don’t have any fully online degree programs, but the Strategic Plan does call for Auburn to develop some fully online degree programs in the near future. So the Provost’s Office is working on that part of the initiative.
Larry Crowley, chair: Is there any new business? Any old business? We are adjourned. [1:07:09]