In Appreciation – May 21, 2019

Dear colleagues,

Employee Appreciation Week is underway, and I want to extend my thanks to faculty and staff. During the past year, we collectively focused on our strategic plan and furthered many of the objectives highlighted therein. I stand in awe of the amount of work that’s occurred, and I am grateful to so many who have shared their expertise and their precious time in furtherance of our students’ success. We have made incredible progress, and I cannot wait to see what the next year holds.

Shape the Implementation of the True Commitment Plan
As I have shared in many meetings and my April 29 email, there are multiple avenues for members of the university community to engage with and shape the implementation of the True Commitment plan. These include ongoing university committees and specialty task forces, among others.

Last Tuesday, the President’s Leadership Team approved updates to the University Council’s charge to act as a steering committee as we implement the True Commitment plan. This update includes an addition of faculty positions to account for proportional distribution of our faculty among the colleges. The deans are aware of the open faculty positions in their respective colleges and will forward their college’s nominees to me this month. Staff will submit their nominees through the Staff Advisory Council. The list of University Council members, including current open positions, is available online. President Clancy, the president and vice president of Faculty Senate and I will work collaboratively to select new members by July 1.

Last week, the Deans’ Council populated three university-level task forces that will develop detailed implementation plans and timelines for distinct pieces of the plan: Dean Robin Ploeger will lead the Professional College(s) task force; Professor John Henshaw and Associate Dean Kirsten Olds will lead the University Studies task force; and Interim Vice Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate School Brenton McLaury will lead the Graduate School task force. These task forces will begin work this summer and present implementation plans, and relevant questions, to me and University Council for review and discussion. A complete list of task force members will be available this week. I am grateful for the interest that many faculty and staff have shown in building upon the restructuring we announced this spring.

Following the April 11 announcements, a few department chairs reached out directly to Tracy Manly, chair of the Provost’s Program Review Committee, to discuss questions and concerns about their PPRC recommendations and review summaries. In an effort to support dialogue and communication, Professor Manly has had several productive conversations with department chairs.  Moving forward, any department may provide input on their respective PPRC reports by emailing their deans, who will share that feedback with me and Deans’ Council.

I have blocked time almost every day this summer for open office hours. The one-on-one conversations I have had regarding the True Commitment plan, as well as our budgetary and accreditation pressures, have been mutually illuminating and productive. Many of these conversations have informed the various processes and ideas we are rolling out as we implement the plan. If you wish to meet, please contact Wendy Buss at to reserve time.

Outstanding Researchers
The Outstanding Researcher Award is bestowed only once during an individual’s career and recognizes career-spanning achievements that are validated in the faculty member’s professional field.  During the May 4 Commencement, we honored our inaugural group of TU Outstanding Researchers. The 2019 recipients are Rose F. Gamble, Tandy Professor of Computer Science Engineering; Professor Jamie L. Rhudy, director of the Psychophysiology Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience; and Cem Sarica, F.H. “Mick” Merelli/Cimarex Energy Professor of Petroleum Engineering. Congratulations to all three for this well-deserved recognition of their scholarly pursuits.

Faculty Chairs and Professorships
Through the course of a challenging budget year, the deans and I scoured the budget, as well as restricted accounts, and we found additional financial resources to support faculty across campus. Congratulations to Dale Teeters on his appointment as Chapman Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Mike Troilo on his appointment as Chapman Professor of International Business and Finance. Congratulations as well to Ben Peters, who will become the Hazel Rogers Associate Professor of Media Studies following Joli Jensen’s retirement. We anticipate the announcement of additional chairs and professorships during the next several months.

Board and Budget Updates
I appreciate everyone embracing the idea of modified zero-based budgeting and your willingness to work within the financial limitations put in place earlier this year. TU’s trustees approved the FY20 university budget at the May board meeting. I am pleased also to report that the FY20 budget restores travel and entertainment expenses.

Due to the advocacy of the deans and department chairs, we worked successfully with the board’s Academic Continuous Improvement Committee to lift the tenure-track hiring freeze and debut a data-driven process by which the board releases tenure-track lines. Deans and department chairs developed and presented to the board justifications for tenure-track lines rooted in enrollment trends, retention trends, student-faculty ratios, class-fill rates, research track records and many other qualitative and quantitative measures. All who participated agreed that the conversation was rich and illuminating. The board considered and approved three tenure-track lines: one for Law (civil procedure and Native American law) and two for Engineering & Natural Sciences (mechanical engineering and computer science). We have two meetings scheduled for the second week in June to consider additional faculty lines and will meet as needed to ensure that faculty searches align with respective calendars.

In Appreciation
I end this note where it began, with gratitude. These messages to you and the subsequent feedback are a testament to our advancement as a university. I look forward to our continued conversations and, ultimately, our shared success.

With commitment,

Janet K. Levit
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs