11-11-2014 Minutes - General Faculty Meeting

General Faculty Meeting

November 11, 2014

Meeting opens: 4:05

1)      Welcome by Professor Lester Gerhardt, President of the Senate

Professor Gerhardt opened the meeting by welcoming the faculty. He stated that the emphasis of the Senate in all their actions has been on faculty engagement, information sharing and transparency. He then reviewed a summary of accomplishments and actions of the Senate.

2)      Actions and Accomplishments of the Faculty Senate

a.       The Faculty Handbook review has gone through two Faculty committees of the Faculty Senate, the Executive Committee, and the Provost. This has been ongoing over the past few months. September 12 was the final meeting with Provost as summarized with the Senate on October 29. The Handbook is now with HR and Legal for their review. It will then go to the Faculty as a whole, and the final version voted upon by the Faculty Senate.

b.      Professor Lois Peters was introduced to discuss the Senate’s efforts at Faculty Development and Retention. She reviewed the faculty forums from last year, which included a forum on research, one on the promotion and tenure process, and another on innovation in teaching delivery (blended learning). There was also a forum in conjunction with HR on communication and conflict management. She currently has a list of faculty submitted ideas for additional forums and will review and compile a list of the top ideas for seminars this academic year. Professor Peters also announced that the next forum will be on February 4 on Teaching Excellence. The Provost added that this is different than the Research and Innovation in Teaching and Learning (RITL) in that this will be internal faculty whereas the RITL tends to feature external speakers.  

c.       Professor Gerhardt then discussed the Faculty Senate’s interactions with the Office of Graduate Education. He mentioned the original study/report of the Office of Graduate Education conducted by the Faculty Senate in the first year of the Senate.  Since then there have been several meetings with Stan Dunn, Vice Provost for Graduate Education. He presented at both the Executive Committee and the full Faculty Senate. The results have been improved communication and enriched advising. There is a proposal formulated by the ALAC and OGE in concert with the Faculty Senate for an advising enrichment workshop each semester that was approved by the Senate on October 29. The workshop is for both new and current faculty and combines graduate and undergraduate student advising as well as specialized advising for each group. The Senate is also working with OGE to provide TAs with their portion of the course evaluation for the Spring 2015 semester. Linda Schadler, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education added that there are some technical challenges (staff replacement), but it is anticipated to be ready by Spring 2015 for implementation. Other highlights of the Senate’s interactions with OGE are to increase faculty contributors in Future Faculty Seminars and Dissertation Boot Camp workshops, as well as having ongoing discussions on the quality and quantity of the graduate programs and how to further increase faculty involvement.

d.      Some selected highlights of the various standing committees of the Faculty Senate were then reviewed.

i.      Curriculum Committee – there were 137 new courses (many co-listed, special topics etc.) and 5 deleted courses last year. The Committee will also review and comment upon the Core Curriculum as a pro-active initiative.

ii.      Planning and Resources Committee – Professor Peter Persans is the new chair. He along with Professors Gerhardt and Pawel Keblinski will listen to the Dean’s Performance Plans on November 14 at the Dean’s Council, as a step to involve the faculty more actively in the planning process.

iii.      Honors Committee – reviewed and submitted honorary degree recommendations to the President in September. They have been actively working on formulating a procedure to encourage and process nominations campus wide. The theme of the general Fall Faculty meeting is Faculty Recognition, further attesting to the important role of this Committee.

e.      Some additional highlights of the Senate from last year.

i.      Emeritus faculty will retain their existing email addresses as new policy.

ii.      Eulogies have been completed for recently deceased faculty members. A book will be prepared and given to the families. There needs to be some ongoing discussion on how best to gather such information so that the undertaking is not as great as it was this year. An Ad-hoc Committee consisting of Professors Akera, Bystroff, and McLaughlin was formed to consider how to assure a data base of such information in more detail for those retiring or otherwise leaving Rensselaer.

iii.       Middle States accreditation – the Executive Committee will meet with a Middle States subcommittee on December 4. Professor Holguin-Veras and Professor Meunier are both involved in the reaccreditation process.

iv.      Met with Student Senate on several occasions. Students have asked for help from the Faculty Senate on excused absence policies, research project identification via a research directory to encourage undergraduate research,                   drop deadline and syllabus as a potential conflict, linking the syllabus to catalog description, and how to better utilize student surveys.

3)      How can your achievements be recognized locally, nationally, and internationally?

a.       Raising faculty Visibility: Professors Joyce McLaughlin and Shekhar Garde both gave presentations on this topic. Presentations will be available via the Faculty Senate website.      

i.            Professor Joyce McLaughlin, Chair of the Faculty Senate Honors Committee discussed the Honors Committee’s effort to raise faculty visibility. In brief, they developed a suggested procedure for Departments/Schools to advance nominations and to succeed in obtaining external and internal awards for Rensselaer faculty. The Committee discovered that only a few departments have award committees and there are a few department heads that actively accept the task of faculty award advancement. Science and Engineering both have internal School awards. The Honors Committee has suggested that each department/School create an Honors committee. They also created a list of suggested tasks for the School based Honors Committees.

a.       Create lists of the relevant professional society awards and deadlines.

b.      Department Head or Dean provides information from faculty evaluations and lets school/department Honors committee know who the potential nominees are.

c.       Prepare award nominations

d.      Prepare nominations of colleagues for Fellows in professional organizations

e.      The department or school Honors committee keeps track of nominations and outcomes

f.        Establish a schedule for updating the department or school about Honors committee activities.

ii.            The Faculty Honors Committee members met with each of their Deans to review the suggestions. Professor McLaughlin reviewed what is being done now in each School now that the meeting with the Dean’s has occurred.

a.       Each School has begun to adopt some of the suggestions. It will be a continual work in progress.

iii.            Dean Shekhar Garde gave a brief presentation to discuss his perspective as an (ex) department head of Chemical and Biological Engineering. The Department has had a lot of success in gaining visibility and awards for the faculty. Shekhar indicated that every Faculty member was nominated for an Award, and each received at least one. He handled over 60+ nominations. He reviewed three key aspects of the process:

a.       Awards and Honors – why do it?

i.      Benefits for institution: Increase visibility, reputation, funding and (potentially) improves ranking.

ii.       Benefits for nominators: act of leadership and generosity, enlightened self-interest, and being nominated may also motivate.

iii.      Benefits for winner: happiness, sense of distinction, and builds loyalty.

iv.       Benefits for leaders: currency in academics in economically challenged times and recognizes genuine excellence.

b.      What exists for awards?

i.      departmental awards,

ii.       School awards,

iii.      Institute awards, and

iv.      external awards (journals, foundations, special prizes, NSF Fellowships, Fellow status, NAE, NAS)

c.       How to nominate? Creating a package needs time and energy, but once one really good package is done, doing others gets easier.

i.      Fill out form,

ii.      write a citation,

iii.      summary of accomplishments,

iv.      Biosketch,

v.      a nomination letter,

vi.      letter of reference (challenge as top people are busy – book them in advance!).


Comment that the Dean’s and Department Heads will benefit from Dean Shekhar Garde’s presentation - what can be done to implement this across all Schools. Dean Garde responded that there are things that can be done (requiring it as part of Department Head’s evaluation, for example) but not all are in the spirit that we would hope to foster. Right now there is no clear answer. There was a general discussion about best way to effectuate Institutional change across all Department’s and Schools. There was a suggestion to have Dean Garde present at an upcoming Provost Office Dean’s and Department Heads meeting.


Meeting adjourned 5:15