Just about the only thing that would keep me from being outside enjoying this wonderful weather would be a desire to share with you an update on the division.
Topping the list of things to share is some sad, yet happy news: Karin Lewis, who has worked so diligently over the last nine years to build Academic Enhancement, has recently informed us that she has accepted a faculty position at the University of Texas, Brownsville. Even I, who have been in the division only a short time, understand the impact that Karin’s work has had at the university. Her departure will leave big hole for us to fill; though it is hard to remain sad because this is such a wonderful opportunity for her. In her letter to her staff (which she gives me leave to cite), she explains:As many of you know, I am a teacher at heart. In addition to serving in my leadership role in the department of Academic Enhancement and the Division of Undergraduate Education, for more than a decade I have worked towards my dream of becoming a professor in my field by earning my PhD in Educational Psychology, engaging in scholarly work, serving in an adjunct faculty teaching appointment in the College of Education and the College of Health Sciences, and maintaining graduate faculty status in order to teach at the graduate level and serve on masters and doctoral advisory committees…. From the early days of me working from a single cubicle in the Writing Center on the 5th floor of WT Young Library to the robust department that now serves tens of thousands of student visits to more than a dozen highly effective programs and services, it has been an honor and a privilege to lead and work with such dedicated and passionate colleagues, and I will miss the unique and wildly successful enterprise we created together.
Please send Karin a note of congratulations when you get the chance; put August 6, 4-6 on your calendar for a farewell organized by the AE staff in the Boone Center Library.
Fortunately for us, Karin leaves us with a trained and skilled staff who can keep the shop going. Jim Breslin will step in as acting Director of Academic Enhancement. Jim, who has recently competed his Qualifying Exams, has the experience and knowledge it will take to lead the unit through this transition. This experience will come in handy in the coming year as we continue to develop programming in The Annex (Hamilton House), a new initiative to provide services on the north campus, funded through the Provost Office. We’ve recently learned that, because of impending construction on the north side, The Annex will move to new space, specially designed for our programming in the Champions Court Residence Hall. Jim will play a major role in helping design this space.
This new fiscal year also brings changes to another UGE program, AMSTEMM. We discussed this briefly at our last divisional meeting. The brainchild of Sue Scheff, AMSTEMM has had an impressive run helping students succeed in demanding science, technology, and mathematical fields. Last year’s budget cuts required that we make some painful choices and, unfortunately, AMSTEMM was one of the areas that we had to cut in order to spare other programs. We’ll continue to support students who’ve been recruited to UK through this program and I’m pleased to say that Sue has graciously accepted this continuing responsibility even as she accepts a new role in the Honors Program. I’m personally happy that we could keep her and Hannah Trusty, who is moving to Academic Enhancement, here at UK.
On a happier note, kudos to Matthew Deffendall. As if leading a successful summer program for first generation students to London wasn’t enough, Matthew has managed to secure a $100,000 grant from the Gheens Foundation in Louisville. This grant will help UK create a program to recruit promising first generation students from Louisville and provide funds to defray the expenses of a coordinator for First Generation Living Learning Community. Jeff Spradling and the Robinson Scholars program will also chip in to fund this position, with additional support from UGE. The LLC has been shown to have a major impact on retention; this collaboration illustrates what we can do when we work together to support mutual goals. My thanks to Jeff and Matthew—and the staff in both areas—for making this happen.
The staff in the Stuckert Career Center have also been busy this summer as they have recently undertaken their regular external review. The External Review Committee was on Campus in mid-July and met with staff, campus partners, students, and representatives of the business community. The Committee’s report is due on August 12 after which we will continue with the process of sharing the results and generating the unit response. I thank Francene Gilmer, Lenroy Jones, and the staff of the SCC for their work on this to date.
In other news, July 1st marked the beginning of Lisa Broome’s role as Interim Director of the Gaines Center. I’m pleased to have someone of her talent and experience (this is her second stint as acting director) in this leadership position; we’ll start the process of the search for a full-time faculty director once classes begin. And for those of you still reading this… give Connie Duncan a call and ask her how the renovated bathrooms in the Gaines Center look.
Speaking of facilities, this next week will see the move of the Honors Program to our new home in Central II. We are all busy packing and preparing (and praying that the construction work will really be done on time). These new digs will be quite impressive; we are planning on at least two events this fall semester to share them with the campus community. More on that later….
We have also recently posted the description for our vacant budget officer position. Linda Fook has done a wonderful job—especially given that she was supposed to only work 20 hours a week—in getting us through this period. I’m working with Chris Thuringer to develop ways for the new budget officer to work closely with Chris in assessment so that we can more closely align budgeting, strategic planning, and reporting. I am hopeful that we will have a new person in place around the time of the start of the semester.
There are many other developments I should mention (like the renovated conference room in Funkhouser. Thanks, Lynn Hiler and Jennifer Strange!). But I need to end by thanking you all for your patience over the last year and, most importantly, in the last few months. I appreciate that greatly.
Benjamin C. Withers, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
Interim Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education
Director, Honors Program
University of Kentucky