Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
As we wrap up our semester under the cloud of the Coronavirus, I hope each of you can take a moment to take stock of what you’ve been able to accomplish during a very stressful time period. Within just two weeks, you transferred all instruction to a distance format, connected to your students and colleagues using technology with which you may not have been familiar, and juggled your workload with childcare and other responsibilities while working from home.
And you continue to shine. Today’s update focuses on faculty success stories, faculty success initiatives and other information you may find useful or inspiring.
Benedum Distinguished Scholars
Today was an exciting day for WVU faculty as we announced the 2019-2020 Benedum Distinguished Scholars. Funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, these awards recognize the high caliber of research and scholarly activity among our faculty.
This year, we are honoring three faculty members who represent the very best in research and creative scholarship at WVU. They are:
- Michael Germana, professor of English in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
- Joshua Hall, professor and chair of the Economics Department and director of the Center for Free Enterprise in the Chambers College of Business and Economics
- John Hu, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Statler Chair in Engineering for Natural Gas Utilization and director of the Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
These exceptional scholars are an inspiration to both their colleagues and students. Dr. Germana has been widely praised for his examination of American novelist Ralph Ellison’s body of work, which is said to be transformingthe field of Ellison studies. Dr. Hall is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of economics and is known for creating an annual index of economic freedom in the world that is widely used for research in economics and other social sciences. And Dr. Hu is a world leader in the development of carbon-neutral liquid fuels, dehydroaromatization and shale gas research.
All of the 2020 award recipients will be recognized by President Gordon Gee and me during a faculty and staff awards dinner at Blaney House, which has been postponed until Fall 2020 due to the University’s closure and COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about these and other awards on the faculty.wvu.edu website.
Teaching MVP Awards
As I mentioned in my last update, this week my office launched a special student-nominated Teaching MVP Awards process to identify faculty and instructors who have gone above and beyond to provide an outstanding learning experience for their students this semester.
Students have been asked to nominate faculty and instructors who demonstrated significant creativity, support and compassion in the transition from classroom instruction to virtual delivery. As part of the nomination process, we asked students to suggest award titles and provide a brief explanation for their nominations.
Since its launch on Wednesday, we have received over 800 nominations so far. We will close the nomination form after today and begin the process of culling through the data to identify our awardees. A committee will review the nominations and recommend their top candidates.
As soon as we have identified our final Teaching MVP Award winners, we will recognize and celebrate them on WVU social media, ENEWS, websites and other platforms along with a commemorative MVP-themed t-shirt.
On the administrative front, I also want to celebrate the extended appointments of two long-time faculty members and administrators at WVU.
Tracy Morris, who has served as interim dean of the College of Education and Human Services since 2018, will serve as dean of the college for a two-year term, effective July 1. In addition to her faculty role, Morris also has held several administrative roles at WVU, including department chair, associate dean and senior advisor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
Jack Watson, who has served as interim dean of the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences since 2019, has been named dean of the college for a two-year term, also effective July 1. Watson has served in multiple administrative capacities in the college, including interim associate dean, acting assistant dean, department chair and as a faculty member.
Both Dr. Morris and Dr. Watson have been leading their colleges, making tough decisions and problem-solving with creativity and grace. Providing them both two additional years in their roles will enable them to continue their work with faculty and staff to position both colleges for the future.
Spring 2020 SEIs
In response to your concerns about the impact this unprecedented semester might have on your Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEI), my office has established a process for faculty to request removal of the Spring 2020 SEIs from Digital Measures.
As student evaluations remain a vital platform for students to voice their opinions about their classroom experience, the Provost’s Office will continue to require that students complete the standard SEIs for their courses for May 2020 semester. Those results will be loaded into Digital Measures as usual.
However, faculty members will be permitted to remove their Spring 2020 SEI reports from their faculty files. Likewise, faculty members can choose to include those numbers as part of their teaching portfolio for the semester. For Spring 2020, I am waiving all college- and/or unit-level requirements to include Spring 2020 SEIs in annual productivity reports.
Faculty should be aware that if they choose to remove SEIs for a course, they still must provide evidence that documents their excellence in teaching for Spring 2020. Rather than relying on a standard one-dimensional metric of performance, begin thinking about how to document the creative, adaptive and innovative approaches you employed to provide students with a quality learning experience in this unprecedented situation.
All faculty should be aware that SEIs that are removed from the faculty member’s Digital Measures file will still stay within the University SEI system. As is always the case, academic leaders have access to the SEI system.
The request option will be available through June 30, 2020.
Finding the Silver Lining
And while I am not a starry-eyed optimist, I do believe that even the most difficult circumstances present new opportunities to learn and grow. In the case of the COVID-19 crisis, I have seen us come together as a community that is focused on serving our students, providing supplies to our healthcare providers, and supporting the people who are the most vulnerable and have the greatest need.
For example, the faculty and staff of the Eberly College decided to band together and help students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With their “Eberly 20for20” campaign, they collected donations for The Rack, WVU’s student food bank. They asked for $20 gifts in honor of the Class of 2020–a group that will, in part, be defined by this crisis but who also will surely come to represent resilience, compassion, community and the Mountaineer spirit. In just over two weeks, they raised nearly $10,000 from more than 150 donors.
During this crisis, I’ve seen many examples of creative problem-solving and forward-thinking that bode well for our future. As we pivot to the Fall, we will continue to need your creative energy and your best ideas to help us address the new challenges we will face – and to help us find those opportunities to learn, grow, evolve and improve.
Stay safe, take care and continue to look for those silver linings.