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Archive for the ‘Dean’s Updates’ Category

Image of the week: Provost and colleagues honor Dean Weidemann

  • dean's reception
    Dean Greg Weidemann (right) shares a good laugh with (left to right) Sung Koo, head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences (left), Vickie Reiser, program assistant in the Office of Academic Programs and Cynthia Bastek, administrative assistant in the Dean's Office. In the background are (left to right) Stacey Stearns, Kristen Govoni, Nancy Wilhelm, Marilyn Gould and Jeff Scheuing.

On Thursday, December 8, Provost Mun Choi hosted a reception to honor Dean Gregory J. Weidemann for his nearly nine years of service to the College. In his remarks, the provost cited advancements achieved during Weidemann’s tenure, including an 80 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment, increases in grants and contracts to an all-time high of $20 million, development of key international programs with top universities in Asia and South America, development of a culture of philanthropy with alumni and stakeholders to establish several endowed professorships and centers of excellence, and the creation of a sense of community among faculty, staff and students.  Choi continued, “If asked about his most prized accomplishment, Dean Weidemann will point to the growth in the number of scholarships for needy students.”

Other colleagues paid warm tribute to Weidemann as well. Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Steven K. Reviczky described Weidemann, who serves on the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development, as “the kind of dean who rolls up his sleeves and works with all agriculture stakeholders.”

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Dean’s update

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

I am pleased to update you on several issues that we addressed during the spring semester.

As you know, we were asked to plan for a 6 percent rescission for FY16 on top of the 1.5 percent rescission we addressed for this year. In addition, we have been asked to plan for an additional 3 percent rescission for FY17. While we have dealt with a number of budget adjustments over the past several years, this is one of the largest reductions over a three-year period we have had to address. So far, we have managed to make the necessary adjustments through attrition and hope to be able to do so for FY17. This does mean that as vacancies occur, it is unlikely that we will be able to fill all but the most critical vacancies until budget pressures ease. As always, our highest priority is to protect our existing faculty and staff and to maintain our current programs.

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Dean’s update

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

As a college, we continue to grow and evolve. We are now the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, and we have added the Department of Kinesiology to our  family. This past year we have had a record number of grant submissions with a number of new awards announced in the past few days. Undergraduate enrollment remained steady and increased slightly overall again this past fall. Student applications for next fall are up appreciably in many of our programs. Both metrics are important to UConn and we as a college are doing our fair share.

We are having a good year fundraising including a recent gift of 150K from an anonymous donor for scholarship support.

This is the centennial year for Cooperative Extension. In September we took the opportunity to celebrate the centennial with our faculty, staff, volunteers and friends. We have used that landmark event to raise awareness of the contributions of Cooperative Extension throughout the past 100 years and our contributions to Connecticut today. We have also used this as an opportunity to raise additional funds to support extension programming.

This fall, a new draft Master Plan for the campus was unveiled that is expected to create a framework for campus development over the next 20 years. While the plan did not address many of the needs of our College, it did give us the opportunity to further engage the Master Planning Committee in discussion regarding those needs. Some changes have been made in the plan based on that feedback. A second, more focused, study will begin soon and is expected to last for the next year. The campus has contracted with a consulting firm to provide an assessment of all STEM space on campus. This will involve a room-by- room analysis of all STEM research and teaching space on campus with a determination of the use and quality of that space. Based on that analysis, space will be identified for renovation or replacement and will help determine space needs in the two proposed science buildings identified in the Master Plan. Both Associate Dean Faustman and I will serve on the two planning committees.

We continue to benefit from a number of small projects as the campus continues to address a long list of deferred maintenance needs. While we would all like to see these maintenance needs addressed sooner rather than later, we continue to chip away at a number of these issues.

As I communicated in spring, the University continues to deal with a projected structural deficit for FY 15, 16 and 17. Much of this is attributed to reductions in our block grant over the past few years, increased costs and changes in fringe benefits over which we have little control. The College was asked to reduce its budget by 1.5 percent for this year and to develop a plan for a 3 percent rescission next year. After the election, Governor Malloy announced additional reductions in state budgets for higher education to reduce a projected deficit in the current budget year. These cuts will be absorbed centrally. Much larger state deficits are projected for FY 16 and 17. While the campus leadership will make the case that past reductions have contributed to our current deficit and that further cuts will increase that deficit, it is likely that we will see further reductions in the next biennium. How this might impact funding through the block grant or new funds from NextGen is anyone’s guess.

Darshana Sonpal, our new budget director, is working closely with me to come up with the plan for the 3 percent rescission, which is slightly more than one million dollars. While we will try to mitigate the impact on College units, we must defer some promised hires of faculty and staff and likely will be unable to refill vacancies created by retirements as they occur. Fortunately, Congress has passed a budget bill with no reductions to our federal funds.

Many of our faculty participated in the development of academic plan pre-proposals that were submitted last month. More than 140 proposals were submitted University-wide for consideration, with our College well represented. Several committees have been formed to review the proposals and make recommendations for development into full proposals. Once all evaluations are complete, all reviewers will meet with the campus leadership on January 5 to determine which proposals will advance to the full proposal stage. We have not yet received any information about the format for full proposals or timeline for submission.

We continue to make progress. It is never as fast as I would like to see but I do feel that we are continuing to move forward. I hope you all have a safe and restful holiday season and return renewed and refreshed in January.

Dean’s update

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

With students and faculty back from their summer break and the fall term underway, Storrs is abuzz with energy and excitement!

While we will not know official student numbers for another few weeks, College enrollment is expected to be at about last year’s level.  The University worked hard to reduce freshman enrollment at Storrs this year due to campus housing pressures. Although the campus is expected to grow under Next Generation Connecticut, new dormitory space will need to be created first to accommodate student growth. Until that space is created, there will be continuing pressure to limit enrollment. For our College, this should slow our enrollment growth, which has exceeded 70 percent since 2008.

The Department of Kinesiology officially joined our College family on July 1 as our eighth academic department. The College is planning a reception to welcome the department’s faculty, and Kinesiology will host an open house as well.

Every department is welcoming one or more new faculty this fall; the College has added a dozen new faculty to our ranks through the University’s faculty hiring initiative and replacing retiring or departing faculty. This is one of the larger cohorts of new faculty to join the College in quite some time. We look forward to additional future hires as Next Generation Connecticut begins to unfold over the next decade.

With the completion of the UConn Academic Plan as well as our College plan, attention will now turn to implementing priorities identified in the planning process. To help facilitate the development of new multidisciplinary initiatives, the campus will fund a number of three-year projects aligned with the Academic Plan’s thematic priorities.  The College will need to look at how these project funds could be used to advance our strategic priorities aligned with the Academic Plan.

This fall, we are seeing the full impact of our development of collaborative relationships with prestigious Chinese universities, with more than 20 students joining us under our 3+2 and 1+1 agreements. In a few short weeks, Mike O’Neill will lead a team to attend a meeting in Ethiopia with an additional trip to Kenya to explore opportunities for a more direct engagement in Africa. In addition, our International Committee will be working with the College leadership to develop a call for proposals for faculty to develop new study abroad opportunities.

The beginning of the fall term is always a time of heightened expectations by student and faculty alike and this fall is no exception.

By Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean’s update

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

It is my pleasure to once again update you on our progress as a College. As of a few weeks ago, we are now the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). This name change was a faculty-led initiative that I fully supported. Although we did have to negotiate the final name a bit, the new name better reflects the diversity of our College and its importance at the intersection of food, health and the environment. In addition, we will welcome a new department to the College in July when the Department of Kinesiology joins us as our eighth academic department. We still have much work to do to ensure a smooth transition for your new colleagues.

Although new funding will be directed to UConn through Next Generation CT, the university must overcome a projected structural deficit for FY 15, 16 and 17. The College was asked to provide 1.5 percent of its annual state budget to help address the FY 15 deficit. This was achieved through attrition and the return of funds obligated under the Faculty Hiring Plan. We have been asked to plan for a 3 percent rescission for FY 16. We will do our best to address this through attrition and will carefully evaluate every vacancy as it occurs. Despite these budget setbacks, our total number of tenure-track faculty and base budget has actually increased. With the end of sequestration, our federal funds have been restored and will actually increase slightly. Nationally, the funding picture for higher education has changed dramatically and UConn is not exempt from these pressures despite new state investments.

With the completion of the UConn Academic Plan, attention has now turned to completion of the college and school plans and implementation of the Academic Plan. New funding through Next Generation CT will be key drivers for the thematic priorities identified in the Academic Plan. These themes are intended to be multidisciplinary, and resources will be used to support multidisciplinary collaborations. It will be imperative for our College to be active participants in several of these thematic initiatives, particularly the sustainability and health and wellness initiatives. Sometime this summer a call for proposals will go out for funding aligned with thematic priorities and we need to be prepared to respond effectively.

Our own College strategic plan is nearing completion. All departments have had an opportunity to suggest changes to the draft document developed by our college-wide committee. The College administration will now make further changes and submit the plan to the Provost by mid-summer. I want to extend my thanks to the committee members for their dedication to this important task.

Our international endeavors continue to grow. Our China collaborations seem to be flourishing and are bringing much-needed new resources to the College. We now need to turn our attention to other potential strategic partnerships. I believe we need to explore a stronger presence in Africa through US AID or other funding venues, and we are working with Global Affairs on this potential initiative. In addition, I would like to see us grow the number of successful study-abroad programs like those we have in place in Florence and South Africa. We are very fortunate to have Mary Holz-Clause join us to give us much needed administrative leadership to these growing programs.

A number of our College initiatives such as grant writing support, common standards for syllabi, faculty mentoring program and space allocation policy are emerging as campus priorities which tells me we have been pretty forward thinking as a college and setting standards for others to follow.

I hope everyone has a restful summer as we take a deep breath and prepare for a new fall term.

By Gregory J. Weidemann