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Bearings: News and Perspectives for Academic Affairs

Bearings: News & Perspectives for Academic Affairs

It Only Feels Like the End of Something

Apr 28, 2013, 10:05 pm - Carey Adams

The "winding down" of the semester is an illusion.  Oh, sure, classes are, in fact, ending.  Graduates are preparing to walk across the stage.  Faculty will finish grading their last papers and exams, perhaps imitating their students by pulling an all-nighter to beat the grades submission deadline.  But even as Spring 2013 is winding down, the 2013-2014 academic year is already gearing up.

Well over 100 incoming freshmen registered for Fall classes at the first Navigate session this weekend.  Dozens of faculty members -- including myself -- are busily preparing their summer courses.  Instructors scheduled to teach the First Class seminar this fall are going through training this week.  Phyllis Panhorst, Coordinator of Faculty Information and keeper of the university catalogs is busy putting together the 2013-2014 bulletins.  Department heads are finalizing and/or revising their fall class schedules based on the outcomes of faculty searches being concluded.  Business & Finance staff are putting the finishing touches on the FY14 budget.  And the list goes on.

I used to have a sign in my office that read, "I try to take one day at a time, but lately several have attacked me all at once," and sometimes I'm tempted to substitute the word "semester" for "day."  The truth is that, while our years are puncutated by semesters, our success at all levels of the university requires us to take the long-term view.  It isn't just that the next thing comes before we can get the last thing finished; we have to be cognizant of how the last three things are going to affect the next four things.

Right now we are watching carefully the Fall 2013 enrollments, but Admissions is already beginning the recruitment cycle for Fall 2014.  The new tenure-track faculty who are just now signing contracts will shape their departments for the next decade and more.  And we all know how far in advance curriculum changes have to be planned.  The issue is not that things in a university take a long time to happen so we have to be patient.  My point is that our planning and decision-making must be that much more urgent, because the long-term consequences of our decisions can be so difficult to alter.

So, everyone take a quick breath in May, because you've earned it.  Then let's keep working on the things that will determine what Armstrong looks like next month, next year, and beyond.

Sails up,

Carey