University News

U. to change dept. names, expand professional programs

Faculty members adopt new professional title, establish new environmental center

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Faculty members unanimously passed a motion to rename the Department of Geological Sciences the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at a faculty meeting Tuesday.

Faculty members and administrators also voted to rename the Department of Slavic Languages, adopt the new title “professor of the practice,” establish an Institute for the Study of Environment and Society and reschedule the annual Convocation ceremony starting this September. Expansion of the Office of Continuing Education also emerged as a key point of discussion.

The faculty of the geological sciences department includes academics trained in a wide variety of disciplines, such as physics, mathematics and Earth sciences, which “should not be grouped under one name,” said Timothy Herbert, professor of geological sciences.

The new name more accurately describes the department’s course offerings, faculty members’ research focuses and partnerships with other groups on campus, Herbert said.

Some faculty members expressed concerns that the new name of the department is too long and complex. Herbert responded that the new name is longer, but it is more representative of the work of the department. Most of the Earth science departments at peer institutions have compound names, he added.

One faculty member voiced concern about whether the name of the geological sciences concentration will also be changed. Herbert said the department is unsure of whether the concentration name will change, but the possibility is currently under investigation.

Department members do not think students will confuse the new name with other environmental activities on campus, Herbert said. The name change will hopefully “make students more aware of the department, even before they come to Brown.”

A motion to rename the Slavic languages department the Department of Slavic Studies was also passed unanimously.

Svetlana Evdokimova, professor of Slavic Languages and chair of the department, said the department’s current name does not accurately represent its work.

Both undergraduate and graduate degrees granted by the department are already named “Slavic studies,” Evdokimova said.

The new name acknowledges the department’s depth and brings its work in line with other departments at Brown that focus on a specific geographic-cultural area, including East Asian studies, French studies, German studies, Hispanic studies, Italian studies and Portuguese and Brazilian studies, Evdokimova added.

President Christina Paxson led a discussion on the Office of Continuing Education and a potential change to its name. The office currently offers online and on-campus programs for high school students, summer sessions for undergraduate students and executive programs such as the IE Brown Executive MBA and the Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership.

The department’s current name “sounds like education for retired people … it does not sound like a Brown degree,” Paxson said.

The administration considered new names such as “Professional Studies,” because the office’s programs are focused on administrative issues instead of academic matters, Paxson added.

Dean of the Office of Continuing Education Karen Sibley said enrollment in the undergraduate summer session and online pre-college program has grown over the past decade. Over the same period of time, the popularity of the on-campus pre-college program and executive program has grown even more substantially, Sibley added.

The office hopes to develop new programs in areas such as engineering management, strategy and big data, analytics, finance and communication, international health delivery systems and public arts, Sibley said.

These programs target professional masters students who have different needs than do traditional, academically-oriented masters students.

According to a recommendation from the Advisory Board Company, a consulting firm based in Washington, the office’s expansion will likely bring financial benefits to the University, Sibley said, citing the fact that Johns Hopkins University’s executive programs have brought over $30 million to their School of Arts and Sciences.

In the past five years, revenue from the University’s Continuing Education programs has increased by over 11 percent, while similar programs at peer institutions have increased their median revenues by over 31 percent, Sibley said.

Over the same time period, the gross annual revenue of the University’s Continuing Education programs is over $21 million, while the median of Brown’s peer group is between $41 and $50 million, Sibley added.

Sibley said the new programs at the Continuing Education office will create teaching opportunities, bring a new pool of students to campus and generate additional revenue.

The University’s current budget deficit “enables (administrators) to be risk-takers,” Sibley added.

Additionally, the office’s downtown location at 200 Dyer St. contains sufficient classroom space, and is equipped with a dining area where professional students would be able to interact with their peers, Sibley said.

A motion to establish an Institute for the Study of Environment and Society was passed unanimously. The institute will serve as a foundation for interdisciplinary work, including biology, political science and environmental studies, said Amanda Lynch, director of the Environmental Change Initiative and professor of geological sciences.

A motion to amend the Faculty Rules and Regulations was passed unanimously to change the official date of Convocation from Wednesday to Tuesday following the first Monday in September. This measure will move Convocation to the day before the first day of fall classes, rather than on the first day itself.

A motion to amend the Faculty Rules and Regulations was passed with two abstentions to establish the new faculty title, “professor of the practice.”

Some faculty members suggested the Faculty Executive Committee amend the term “sabbatical leaves” to “sabbatical leaves and scholarly leaves,” which professors of the practice will be ineligible to take.

One faculty member expressed concern about the misuse of the general title of professor, describing the professor of the practice title as “a bad idea.” Practitioners do not deserve the title of professor because they do not necessarily publish scholarly work, he added.

“The new title is a name change for an existing position,” Paxson explained, adding that the proposal was brought up by the School of Public Health.

The current title of “clinical professor” is not commonly used across the country in the public health field, said Terrie Wetle, dean of the School of Public Health. Other departments, such as the Department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies, agreed on the need of a more appropriate title for practitioners in their departments, she added.

Iris Bahar, professor of engineering and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, announced that the University’s Committee on Faculty Retirement and the University’s human resources department have jointly organized two sessions on financial planning and retirement planning for faculty members.

Bahar and James Allen, professor of Egyptology and ancient Western Asian studies, presented a FEC plan for ensuring excellence in teaching.

Some faculty members expressed concerns over the necessity of the document, with one member asking “why are we fixing problems that we don’t have?”

The faculty will vote on the adoption of the document as an official guideline for teaching and evaluations at its next meeting, Bahar said.


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  1. Brown Student says:

    Here’s hoping people call it the EEPS department

  2. johnlonergan says:

    The “meat” of this story deals with the Office of Continuing Education. This should form the core of a significant expansion in Brown’s reach to millions around the world, from 8 to 80.

    Brown’s behind its peers–earning ‘only’ $21 million when its peers are earning twice as much or more. The top performers are well-ahead.

    How can Brown not only add “incremental revenue,” but develop significant revenue while expanding its brand to alums, high school students and those not currently interacting with Brown?

    There are a number of barriers–lack of a risk culture at Brown, unwillingness to innovate, and concern about titles and prestige. I found it particularly funny in this article that one objects to using the title “Professor” because the person is not publishing scholarly articles! How delightfully 19th Century!

    Brown’s greater challenge is overcoming irrelevance and embracing new techniques to extend its reach around the world. It requires conversion from 20-in-a-classroom to millions online.

    Brown, are you ready for that challenge?

    • Why 8 to 80?

      Surely we can include pre-school.

      • johnlonergan says:

        Dumb questions deserve smart answers.

        We should start to form relationships with students from the age where their curiosity takes hold. Starting in high school would be too late.

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