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U. begins implementation of strategic plan

Two pilot sophomore seminars in the spring will focus on ‘diversity and social justice’

The University has begun rolling out specific initiatives in President Christina Paxson’s recently approved strategic plan, taking steps in developing new sophomore seminars, moving toward new online education programs and instituting reforms in post-tenure sabbatical policy.

Administrators will start soliciting proposals from faculty members today for new courses for the sophomore seminars program, which will launch this spring, according to a document set to be sent to the faculty today, wrote Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron in an email to The Herald.

Along with Monday’s announcement of a change in the University’s post-tenure sabbatical policy, Friday’s call for seminar proposals indicates that the task of turning the broader ideas of the strategic plan into concrete actions is underway.

In the coming months, the University will also introduce the annual recalculation of financial need for international students and enhanced support for summer internships, as well as plans for the development of an organizational framework for an institute for environment and society.


Curricular development

The sophomore seminars program, which will emphasize “diversity and social justice,” according to the  strategic plan, will begin this spring with two pilot courses, multiple administrators said.

Professor of Medical Science Lundy Braun, who researches the relationship between race, public health, medicine and technology, will teach BIOL 0290A: “Controversies in Medicine.”

The second course is under development and will be announced soon, wrote Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn in an email to The Herald.

Bergeron said Klawunn, who will serve as interim dean next semester, will be the point person for implementing the sophomore seminars program.

“She’s been spearheading this particular project since last fall when we began talking about it with the strategic planning committee,” Bergeron said. “She’s the natural person to carry it forward.”

Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 said the University aims to offer at least a dozen sophomore seminars next fall.

The call for course proposals suggested that faculty members developing sophomore seminars engage with the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

Up to $4,000 in course development funds will be available to faculty members whose proposals are approved, according to the document.

Efforts to develop the University’s online presence are also in motion. Kathy Takayama, executive director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, put out a call in October for proposals for new massive open online courses to be taught on the Coursera platform, Bergeron said.

Though Takayama has heard back from several faculty members, only one or two courses will eventually be developed, Bergeron said, adding that the selection process must be completed by early next semester.

The University will also request proposals within the next couple of weeks for new online for-credit courses, Schlissel said. Karen Sibley, dean of continuing education, will lead that process.


Changes in sabbatical policy

The new post-tenure sabbatical policy will allow faculty members to apply in their first year after receiving tenure for a sabbatical at full pay for one semester or at 75 percent pay for the full year, with the leave being taken the following academic year, said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12.

Previously, the University had separate sabbatical policies for tenured faculty members and assistant professors on the tenure track, McLaughlin said.

Though newly tenured faculty members accumulated teaching credit as assistant professors, they were usually considered eligible for sabbatical as it would be offered to tenured faculty members — meaning they would be offered a semester leave at 75 percent pay rather than one at full pay available to assistant professors on the tenure track, McLaughlin said.

But most faculty members would say they could not afford a semester at 75 percent pay and would not take the sabbatical, he said. The new policy solves that problem by giving newly tenured faculty members a semester to do research while receiving their full salaries.

The post-tenure sabbatical policy applies to all faculty members who were awarded tenure on or after July 1, 2013, making 12 faculty members eligible to apply for a sabbatical next academic year.

Assistant Professor of Physics Derek Stein, who received tenure in July this year, wrote in an email to The Herald that he is taking a sabbatical next year and called the change in the policy “welcome.”

McLaughlin said the new policy was “less recruitment and retention effort” than a “question of professional development.” Enabling more faculty members to take sabbaticals after they go through the tenure process will allow them to have a “spurt of scholarly activity,” he said.


Other projects

Three searches for new faculty members at the Watson Institute for International Studies are also ongoing in an effort to implement the integrative theme “Creating Just, Peaceful and Prosperous Societies,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel said the University is near the point where there is sufficient funding to hire an architect for a new engineering building. The administration is also considering planning firms to evaluate the University’s use of arts spaces, and it is likely to hire a firm by the end of this academic year.

Administrators are also working with the faculty members behind the Signature Initiative on Environment and Society to work toward establishing an institute that will house “the vast majority of the environmental research and teaching apparatus,” Schlissel said.

Paxson has allotted half a million dollars to increase funding for internships and summer research opportunities at Brown like Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards, Schlissel said.

Schlissel said he expects the internship program to begin this summer to support both unpaid internships and those that provide insufficient salaries.

The recalculation of need for international students who receive financial aid from the University will apply to aid given out for next academic year, Schlissel said.

Schlissel said the measure was adopted to be “more fair” to international students on campus and “protects” them from being stuck with the aid from their first year if their financial circumstances change.



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