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General | Priority #1 | Priority #2 | Priority #3 | Priority #4 | Priority #5 | Budget Model

General Academic Transformation

How do you envision that the University will be different once we get through all of the transformation we are doing? How do you think the University will actually transform and be different from others in the market?

Ultimately, we need to reassert our mission as a land-grant university. We are fiercely land-grant, and that is a strong differentiator. We also need to create a living-learning laboratory within the state so that our research, teaching and service are always accumulated on behalf of the people of the state to provide both hope and opportunity. And finally, we want to be sure WVU is doing its part to help create an atmosphere in which people want to stay in the Mountain State by ensuring a high quality of life and a high quality of education. Finally, we must ensure that the programs we offer distinguish us from other institutions. These efforts combined will help us be an institution that has both purpose and kindness attached to it.

What is the plan for transformation in the academic realm on anti-racism?

There are a number of groups on campus that remain focused on these efforts, including the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of the Provost. ( See DEI’s resources and training webpage.) All of these groups are steadily working to address racial justice issues raised in focus groups with our faculty and in student petitions. Most of these initiatives can be found on the Inclusive Campus website.

Specifically from the Office of the Provost, we have the University Mission Hires and this program has been very successful in hiring underrepresented faculty at our institution. The Faculty Justice Network launched in Fall 2021 as a network of support for racialized and minoritized faculty and can be found at. There are also a series of badges that address racial justice for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff either approved or in process. Watch for them on the new WVU Badges website. Finally, the Faculty Rewards and Recognition Committee has been working to ensure that justice, equity, inclusion and diversity work is recognized and credited in the annual review and promotion and/or tenure process.

Priority #1: Determine the viability of academic programs in the current portfolio

Will the graduate program portfolio review process be the same as the undergraduate process? Will you be recommending programs for discontinuation?

The graduate program portfolio review process will be similar to the undergraduate process in that we will be using a data-driven approach to identify programs that are doing well and those that could improve. What we do with that data will be a slightly different process, however, as there is a lot of data and context that needs to be considered to fully understand how these programs are doing. We also want to engage as much as possible those academic units to help better understand what the data tells us and their plans to address any deficiencies. Graduate programs across WVU are vastly different and difficult to compare with one another. It is a complicated process so we will be taking the time needed to do all the necessary information gathering – both internally and externally as we look at similar programs at peer institutions. We plan to share this data with the colleges and have a series of conversations with the deans and academic program leaders in the colleges.

Does the data for graduate education program portfolio review take into account faculty who departed through VSIP programs? These programs encouraged the departure of the faculty who were most active in advising students. If those faculty were replaced at all, they were replaced with junior faculty who don’t typically advise as many PhD students as a senior faculty. Without this consideration, the blame for declining production could fall on the degree program itself as a deficiency.

We all aware that some programs were hit harder than others by retirements and that it affected the number of students that can be advised. It is certainly one mitigating factor – and one that makes this process nuanced and complicated. Again, this is why we envision a series of discussions with the colleges and programs so that we can learn more about these types of mitigating factors.

When looking at job placement data, how will the University take into account jobs that aren’t directly tied to majors and degrees? Also, the metric of starting salary after graduation can be misleading. Can WVU reframe these metrics to more accurately represent career prospects and salaries for all majors?

Often the numbers we use include the first job after graduation or salary within a year or two of graduation. We know that many of our graduates (typically in the humanities) go on to pursue additional education. We do have ways to track that data and look at it, and it's really convincing that our humanities students, for example, do very well. We need to have a discussion with our stakeholders about why looking at these numbers in a more nuanced way gives a more definitive picture of what and how our graduates are doing.

If the stakeholders aren't ready to listen to why we can and should be looking at other data, it makes these types of discussions a real challenge. Educating our stakeholders about that nuance needs to be part of the process. We need to help them understand why the numbers are not simply what they look like on the surface and why we should be looking at data that is more complex and descriptive of what our graduates are actually doing.

How are we extending educational transformations to the international students by creating novel programs, such as online three plus one post-graduates, that would go beyond our traditional teaching and learning?

Right now, we are an expansion of how WVU is interacting with the online space. During the pandemic over the last two years, we noticed that our instructors became much more familiar with ways to instruct students remotely. As for international students here, we have had some challenges getting those students here over the last couple of years. However, the adjustments made due to the pandemic have been useful in allowing us to reach out to students who may be place-bound somewhere. This is an area in which we can certainly expand efforts even more.

There are always cultural adjustments we need to prepare for with international students. The Office of Global Affairs does a great job with programming and support networks, and we need to ensure their services are reaching students in all units.

Priority #2: Identify opportunities for academic restructuring

What topics or subjects and programs are the first priority for the intercollegiate hub? And are you open to suggestions?

WVU already does have a few interdisciplinary programs, such as biochemistry and interactive media design. We envision the incubator as a way to support the programs and support the students and faculty that are engaged. We will be looking at new and emerging opportunities in higher education, such as AI, energy and sustainability. We are open to having conversations with our faculty. Whether those are in groups or individually, you can contact us with thoughts and ideas. As we work through this process, we will have opportunities for faculty to engage in ideation and planning.

How does academic transformation envision mechanisms to facilitate collaboration between units and colleges, especially for cross-campus programs? How can each unit get full credit for the students enrolled in a cross-campus program?

One of the priorities this year is to create an intercollegiate innovation hub as a centralizing way to bring programs together across campus and to eliminate some of the barriers that currently exist with cross-collegiate collaboration, particularly when it comes to program development. Once we land on a name and a structure, we will determine partnership agreements between those programs that will be involved and engaged in creating interdisciplinary education. We will also work to develop timelines, reporting and staff structures, and a template for agreements. Our new institutional budget model will also be a factor in how these collaborations work and how participating programs will be revenued from their work in interdisciplinary programs. The hope is to launch the incubator by the Fall 2023 semester.

Ultimately, this will need to be a grassroots effort to be successful. While we certainly won’t force collaborations, we will look at market trends in higher education. We will examine what the workforce needs are and make suggestions for programs to be incubated.

Priority #4: Enhance opportunities for student success

Why the focus on academic advising?

One of the reasons we are focusing on academic advising is because that is where typically students start when they are seeking information and trying to plan what they need to do. Students present a wide range of issues to their academic advisers – more than questions about scheduling and what classes to take. They have questions about financial aid and mental health issues and so much more.

A recent survey of our students in a number of challenging classes asked what kinds of support they knew about and were utilizing. The first thing that came up was instructor office hours. The vast majority of respondents noted they visited instructor office hours – or at least said they did when they had an issue. Secondly, survey respondents said they visited their academic adviser. Third, they said they accessed tutoring resources - but only about 45% of students who were struggling said they reached out for tutoring. Academic advisers are a high-frequency, highly trusted touch point for our students and that makes them highly effective at encouraging student success.

There are other student success support systems – such as coaching, mentoring, supplemental instruction – and these are resources that exist at WVU. However, we need to do better at connecting students with those resources. We are looking at ways to try to integrate these options into the classroom.

Surveying the students to see what they want and what they are willing to use will also help us see where we need to expand and what initiatives need more effort.

Is there any focus that will be or is currently placed on academic support initiatives?

WVU historically has only focused on content tutoring as the main academic support on campus, but we need to explore more dynamic and nuanced support systems, such as supplemental instruction and academic coaching. There is a large world outside of pure content-based or typical drop-in tutoring that would further our students’ academic survival skills rather than just mastering or understanding course content. We are looking at different opportunities from an academic support perspective.

Are you planning for a centralized advising unit? How will that impact my contact with students as a faculty adviser?

No, at this point we are not looking to create a completely centralized advising unit. We are, however, looking at introducing more professionalization of advising and more consistency. We believe that advising will continue to stay within the units, and there will be other opportunities for faculty to engage as mentors as part of our new model. We are still formulating a plan and working with multiple groups on campus. The planning for this has been a very inclusive process - through two specific committees as well as other engagement opportunities and discussions. We are hearing everyone’s concerns.

The February 24 Campus Conversation will focus on student success initiatives and advising.

Will all academic advising move to a professional advising model, and if so, how will that shift be funded?

The short answer is no. However, our efforts began with considering a whole-scale transformation to all professional advising, but as we studied the data, we discovered that there were units with faculty advisers that were doing really well with freshmen retention. There were also units with professional advisers that, for a variety of reasons, were not resulting in the same level of retention rates. So now, we are having conversations with the academic units and continuing to review the data to identify best practices and better understand areas that need improvement and why. Ultimately, we want to reinforce the models that we know work on campus and implement those best practices across the University. We do think, however, expanding professional advising when it makes sense is how we will best serve our students.

This effort will require an investment, and we are anticipating an investment of little over a million dollars over the next two years. In the short term, we will be making some investments out of the Provost’s Office, and we will be working with the colleges to access some of their reserves for this effort. But ultimately, we believe student success will pay for itself. Every time we retained students and their tuition it contributes over time significantly to our bottom line.

How can we work to improve the campus and student image of our academic advisers?

Generally speaking, advisers are tremendously appreciated by the units that value their contribution to the University. However, there is some room for improvement on how the career of professional adviser is constituted across campus – and this is one area we definitely want to improve. There is not always a clear evaluation process or opportunities for professional development. The technology and best practices change very quickly, and we want to be able to support more development for advisers. We also need to provide some sort of certainty and career path for our advisers. We currently have committees working on these type of issues and helping to identify what that path and opportunities might look like.

If the University receives more funding from the State for improving its student success metrics with specific groups of students, will the unit serving those students be compensated for their efforts?

A change like this would be tied to our budget model, which is undergoing its own transformation. In short, though, yes. Units that are more successful across the student success metrics will likely receive more funding.

What is the timeline for this and how will this impact staff currently in advising roles? Will staff advisers need to reapply for their jobs and will there be a job reclassification?

If you're an adviser, you can plan to keep working for your unit or college as we move through this process. We support our advisors know that surveys say that our students appreciate their work, and we do not have any plans to make them reapply for their jobs. Reclassification is something Talent and Culture is always evaluating, but we don’t have anything in the works currently.

Will programs that primarily work to retain students to the University be rewarded for their efforts?

Yes, we certainly look at retention to the University. As with any data, we can use it as a starting point for discussion. We need to understand your students and what the obstacles are in some majors, especially if the unit serves students that are more at risk than students in another program. While we are not sure yet how the units would be rewarded, necessarily, for serving their students, we do feel as though we need to make sure that units that support at-risk students are resourced properly.

In this new model will each department still have designated faculty advisers? It seems that these advisors would know their programs the best.

What we are ultimately trying to do is coordinate best practices across the University. While there is certainly value in having expertise in a particular program, we are finding that it is most beneficial when an adviser has expertise across several areas of the academic unit and even other academic units so that they can support students who change majors to another college at the University. That process needs smoothed out and we need to bridge the knowledge gap somehow between advising staff across colleges. However, having a dedicated sociology adviser, for example, who is very familiar with the type of students they serve is certainly beneficial, and that's part of the model that will likely remain. Of course, it varies across colleges, and there has been a lot of success with variations on a standard model. We want to figure out what will work best for WVU and our students.

Are there plans to customize advising for students in our online programs?

Our focus for this transformation is primarily undergraduate academic advising, and many of our undergraduate “online” programs are hybrid and have a mix of online and on-campus coursework. In fully online undergraduate programs, the offering unit should have dedicated advisers. As we look ahead, we know that we need to differentiate that undergraduate online audience from the undergraduate on-campus audience, and that will mean dedicated (or cross-trained) advisers will likely be necessary where they don’t already exist. There are entirely different types of resources for online students, and the demographics are very different from our typical 18-year-old incoming freshman making specialized advising necessary.

Is there any concern that this change moves faculty and students further apart from each other? How do faculty build mentoring relationships with students if they only see them in class?

This is certainly a concern, and one that we are considering. For example, without having a faculty member physically remove a student’s advising hold, there is little incentive for the student to foster that student-mentor relationship. We are looking to codify faculty advising at the University level the faculty mentor position. This would allow us to tie a faculty member to a specific student just like we do currently with advising – but for different purposes and related to a mentorship role. This doesn't mean faculty still won't continue to advise students in some units. What it means is that for faculty who enjoy engaging with undergraduate students, we want to be able to count that effort, evaluate it and give credit for that service. Some faculty may choose to not use that capability, but we want to add it in because mentoring students can be a significant portion of what faculty members do and they should be evaluated and rewarded for it. We don’t have a clean way to do this now, so our first step is to build this in Banner. Then the second step is for our committees to work on defining what it means to be a faculty mentor.

Students often seem to ignore messages from faculty and advisors until it is convenient for them. Can you provide some clarification on how we can better encourage students to respond to communication related to advising and instruction?

We all know there are consequences for not engaging with your adviser – the largest being a student can’t register for classes without meeting with an adviser. That won’t be changing any time soon.

The important thing to keep in mind is that students often reach out for that help during periods of difficulty – such as during midterms and finals. They are also likely to reach out during breaks in the semester, such as spring and winter break or in the middle of summer. These timeframes don’t necessarily align with faculty members’ schedules, as they are focused on research, grading finals and other priorities.

Professional advisers can help with that process by standing in at those difficult times in the semester and being available. From a holistic perspective, it's important that students know they have a dedicated person who is there for them on campus, and the primary thing that person is concerned with is their academic success.

If a department is already successfully utilizing faculty advisers, will they be allowed to continue?

We know from the data, that some departments are doing an excellent job with a faculty-driven advising model, and we are going to have discussions with them to determine if the college and departments are content with the way their model currently works or if there is still room for improvement. We may need to look at ways to supplement that model with professional advising for those peak times throughout the year. These folks might focus on questions about financial aid, available resources or course plan of study. They would participate in University-wide training on topics like advising best practices, evolving software products and the day-to-day business of advising students. This would essentially “free up” the faculty to spend more time focused on their teaching, mentorship, research and service.

Does the University plan to address professional growth opportunities and pay inconsistencies for advisers?

The short answer is yes. We know those are issues we need to address. We are looking at ways to develop career paths for advisers and to create consistent ways of rewarding our advisers so that every student has the same level and quality of professional advising. In the end, we want to attract – and retain – really good people in these important roles.

What efforts will be made to balance or improve inconsistent salaries and caseloads to make the professional adviser position more attractive for both current and prospective advisers?

We will be looking at both of those things and have a committee that has begun discussions about these topics. We also need to understand from the units’ perspective what those limiting factors are and figure out how we can address them and make things as equitable as we possibly can. It may be we need to talk about resources, or it might just be that advising tradition in the unit is preventing meaningful change.

Are there any upcoming investments in advising technology?

There is nothing specific in the immediate future. There is an upgrade in Degree Works that just went live, and Navigate has become a much more valuable tool to advisers because of some of its functionality. It’s a long process, of course, to get everyone involved in a new software or technology, and we need to make sure we're getting consistent engagement with the technologies we do have. We need to do more to demonstrate the usability and the ease of use of the product, so that others can use it to improve what they're doing already. From a bigger picture perspective, however, the University is looking at the enterprise system of what we’re using for technology. There are a lot of working groups across campus looking at how we can improve our systems for both the students as well as those who use the system behind the scenes.

Will expectations change regarding work hours? Will students have better access to advisers after 445 and on weekends?

That’s not something we have specifically looked at yet. One of the things we did learn during the pandemic is that we can advise very well online, and that some students prefer the virtual space. Of course, others don't like it at all. And now that we have all these different models for conducting appointments, it makes things more complex. The feedback we've been getting is mostly positive, though. Students appreciate the flexibility of choosing to meet online or on campus. As for “after hours” advising, I think we have a lot more tools in our arsenal than we probably did a couple years ago, and I think we can find ways to use them to their full potential.

Budget Model

Will the new budget model ensure colleges receive revenue for students pursuing minors, as they only receive revenue from majors now?

We do believe this needs to be built into the model. The budget model will look at things such as student credit hour production. Minors are something we want to ensure are rewarded in some way.

Is there anywhere that we can access the current and proposed budget models?

The current model is based on whatever the colleges received last year – and that has been the case for many years. There is also an entrepreneurial model that rewards colleges and units for developing online programming, and it has had unintended consequences. Right now, we don't have a new model to share as we are continuing to work with a consultant.

The budget model will be covered in depth during the March 10 Campus Conversation.