Academic Forum 2018

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On March 1st, Student Government Inc. hosted its annual Academic Forum. This event gives students the opportunity to sit in front of a panel of faculty and academic deans to discuss their academic concerns on campus. In attendance this year was Dean Russell DiGate from the College of Pharmacy, Dean Norean Sharpe from the Tobin College of Business, Dean Katia Passerini of the College of Professional Studies, Dean Jeffery Fagan of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts, Dean Michael Sampson of the School of Education, Dean Valeda Dent from the Library. The event was moderated by Dr. Robert Mangione the University’s Provost. Many students had the opportunity to stand a voice their questions. Here are some questions and answers posed at this year’s Academic Forum.
1. With the passing of the new core curriculum how does that affect current students who may have not completed their core classes yet?
a. Dr. Mangione: The new curriculum was approved by the School Senate, and if it gets approved by the Board of Trustees we will begin implementing the new curriculum soon. Hopefully for Fall 2019, any students who were enrolled before that will be expected to complete the curriculum they began with, while students enrolled during the first semester we implement the new curriculum will start it.
2. We have seen large renovations for CPS, Tobin and the Pharmacy programs, are there any next steps to improve Sullivan or St. John’s Hall?
a. Dr. Mangione: We are continuing to review the budget, and currently no major changes scheduled to be made. We should also remember that Sullivan Hall is a newer building, so not a lot of improvements need to be made there. Our first priority moving forward is Marillac, and that is because that building is most commonly used by a majority of students. We would like to start improving our labs but there is a finite amount of funds available.
3. It is my understanding that there is an Asian Studies major, but no other cultural studies major on campus. I have heard there is an African Studies minor, but it is not well advertised. Also, it appears that consistently throughout this program the professors are not very diverse. I was wondering what is being done to improve this?
a. Dean Fagan: The Director of the African Studies program is now being updated we have two (new faculty), both graduating with their PhDs in African American History. The Asian Studies major is directed by an Asian faculty member. And the reason for the lack of Africana Studies major was because there was previously a lack of interest in the program. Maybe though, it is time to do a new study to gauge the student interest in Africana Studies.
b. Dr. Mangione: To talk about hiring a diverse faculty, we have made some improvements, especially in the faculty hired last year, but we are not satisfied. We are looking into how to more effectively recruit and retain a diverse faculty.
c. Nada Llewellyn the Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President for Human Resources: We are taking a two prong approach to the process. We have recently partnered with an external consultant to increase our reach for faculty to places we maybe have not recruited before. We have also improved the training for new and continuing faculty for better practices across the board.
4. How are professor evaluations reviewed and the complaints followed up with?
a. Dr. Mangione: We are aware that not all of our professors live up to the expectations set for them. When you fill out the course evaluations the academic questions are reviewed by the Department Chairs and Deans, but the comments section below is only reviewed by the professor. If there are any complaints that you want to follow up on again, bring all academic questions and complaints to the department chairs, but any cases of microaggressions or speech actions should be reported to Human Resources.
5. Is there a department check for those professors who may be well qualified for their field but at the end of the day are not good at teaching?
a. Dr. Mangione: The Department Chairs should be engaging in evaluations and speaking on what improvements need to be made and follow ups.
b. Dean Fagan: What we do is we take the performance data from the course evaluations and look for outliers in the data and then the department chair is expected to follow up. Sometimes we send professors to conferences for better teaching methods or they shadow another class.
6. With budget cuts and constant changes to faculty, I noticed that Stony Brook recently eliminated the hiring of adjunct professors. Do you think this is something that may happen here?
a. Dr. Mangione: Our full time professors teach about 5=five classes, so it is very hard for us to schedule classes with this limited faculty because not all can fulfill this requirement – especially those who conduct research. Our adjunct professors are not only needed, but are also frankly great professors, so with budget cuts I can see a reduction in the number but never a full elimination.
7. Are there any upcoming initiatives to improve the labs? Also, I am aware pre-med is not a major but a track is there any way to make it easier for someone to fall outside the “normal major” to complete the courses for the track?
a. Dr. Mangione: Our introductory level facilities are actually competitive with some of the best in the country, and they have pretty recently gone under renovation. I recognize though that some of our upper level labs could use a little work. That being said, I would love to look into a new science building all together, but it is a matter of looking at what is feasible in the budget for future years.
b. Gregory Gades Senior Assistant Dean and Chair of Pre-Health Professionals Advisory Committee: Some majors have very little wiggle room in the courses that can be taken, and for a pre-med track you need to take approximately 48 credits. It is a lot easier for majors within Liberal Arts to handle the overlap with their electives. There are also financial aid restrictions now on what you can and can’t take now and how it applies to your major. In the end, it all comes down to what you are studying.
8.There is currently a Diversity Training offered to staff members. Are there any further steps to make sure these trainings continue to improve and help ensure a growing awareness and advocacy among faculty for diversity.
a. Llewellyn: There is not a faculty specific training at the moment, but we are trying to develop one and that program does take some time. But for now we have started with some smaller programs to make sure we are staying educated at all times. The Education Center is a first step to help advise and support faculty professionally and develop and cultivate a teaching and learning environment.
9.Are these future trainings going to be optional or mandatory?
a. Llewellyn: We are trying to find ways to encourage people to want to participate. This is an ongoing process and conversation. We just need the resources first before we can look into how to incentivize faculty.

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