July 22, 2013


Volume 7, Issue 39 – July 22, 2013


Siri Saves the Day

Jill, Mark, and I were driving to get some lunch yesterday, and just as we were slowing down at the stop sign at the end of our neighborhood, I spotted an iPhone lying in the middle of the road.  Jill got out of the car to get it, and it was one of the newer ones and in perfect condition.  Unfortunately, it also had a passcode, so I couldn’t go into the files and see to whom it belonged.  I put up a sign saying we had found it, and wondered how long it would take someone to call.

After getting home, I had a smarter idea.  I held down the “home” button for a few seconds until Siri turned on.  I said: “Call my father” – “What’s your father’s name?” the phone replied.  “Call my brother” – “What’s your brother’s name?”.  “Call home” – this time was the charm—it gave me the phone number and name it was calling, and I got the owner’s husband.  They lived just a few houses away from where I found it, and he was mighty pleased to get it back.  So, if you ever find a locked iPhone, you now know what to do.


Take My Advice…

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting with the SSARPG Committee (Student Success Through Advising for Retention, Progression, and Graduation).  For those who don’t know, this committee came into existence in 2010 as a result of the 2009 Academic Plan, which called for establishing an Academic Advising Committee, charged with oversight and continuous improvement of the academic advising program.  The committee is ably chaired by Dawn Ramsey, and this year’s members who were present included Renee Butler, Jill Forest, Jennifer Louten, Simin Nasseri, Martina McWilliams, Julie Newell, and Sonia Toson.  [Members who couldn’t make it included Greg Conrey, Phil Patterson, Peter Pittman, Jon Preston, and Phyllis Weatherly.]

Anyone notice anything unusual about the list of names?  One of the people at the meeting pointed it out—every member of the committee that was present was female.  One of the things mentioned in passing during our conversation was that when it comes to advising or other “touchy-feely” aspects of campus life, our female faculty are represented in numbers far higher than their proportion (31%) on campus.  What’s up with that?  Guys—time to step up!

SSARPG, despite having the second most difficult acronym of any campus organization, is a great committee, doing many important things.  The most familiar is running the annual advising update.  Each year, a mandatory two-hour update session is held for all faculty, on a topic important to advising.  The topic for the upcoming year is “An Introduction to Using DegreeWorks”.  For those who don’t know, DegreeWorks is a software package that (among many other things) allows faculty to see how well their advisees are following their major’s curriculum and to input comments about the advice they’ve given their advisees; and allows students to input degree plans and to test out “what if” scenarios about changing majors.  While (like all commercial software) it has some bugs in it that we’re trying to resolve, DegreeWorks is an extremely useful tool for all advisors.  Here’s what Julie Newell (committee member and Chair of SIS) has to say about DegreeWorks:

Personally, I use DegreeWorks multiple times every day. I use it for registration advising. I use it to help students who come to me with questions about their transfer credit, about changing majors, about their academic progress, and about how some course of action they are considering will affect their progress toward graduation. It saves me a lot of time finding the info I need to answer questions accurately, and lets me quickly create a record of interactions with students–for their benefit and for mine. I volunteered to help develop and deliver this training because I believe it’s a critical tool that can improve retention, progression, and graduation — which really just means I truly believe it can help us all work together to help our students understand–and take responsibility for–what they need to set and meet their goals.


The committee also does the Advisor Training session for all new faculty.  Different sessions are held for full-time and part-time faculty, focusing on different topics.  Among other projects SSARPG has take on are developing a Faculty Advising Resource Guide (which should be ready in a few weeks), and maintenance of the Advising Website.  One of the CTE Teaching Fellows each year is designated as an Advising Fellow—this year’s is Jennifer Louten (Biology).

Something ambitious that SSARPG began last year is the offering of a Master Advisor Track.  The program lasts two years and requires doing a self-assessment for advising, successfully completing four advising workshops per year, completing a master advisor portfolio, and giving a presentation focusing on a relevant issue in faculty advising at through CTE.  A new cohort of master advisor candidates begins each year.  Upon completion of the track, the faculty member receives a certificate designating them as a Master Advisor, as well as a stipend for participating.  The first cohort (2013-15) will finish in Spring 2015.

We’ve made some good starts relative to advising, but have a long way to go.  Data collected by SSARPG indicate that 82% of SPSU’s departments assign students an individual advisor (the rest do group advising), and just over half of the departments say that they use Degree Works for advising, but only 18% require Degree Works for advising.  Currently, 4121 (79.4%) students have an assigned faculty advisor, 590 (11.4%) have a professional advisor listed as their advisor, and 475 (9.2%) do not have an assigned advisor.

There are some challenges we face with advising too.  Advising loads vary wildly from one department to another.  Departments offering core courses tend to have small numbers of majors spread over large numbers of faculty, resulting in a relatively light advising load.  Other programs have huge numbers of majors spread over a small number of faculty (Mechanical Engineering, Business, and Accounting have among the highest loads).  How to do a good job with advising while simultaneously distributing advising loads fairly is a challenge.

Still, despite these challenges, we have a great group working in SSARPG and they’re doing a remarkable job.  Quality advising is critically important to student success, as well as to SPSU’s retention and graduation rates.  As you should all be aware, the number of graduates (and graduation rates) will be factors in the University’s funding formula, and will thereby affect the number of faculty we will be able to hire, as well as what salaries we can pay.  My strongest thanks to all the members of this committee for the fine job that they’re doing.



Part I of the RACAA Report was in last week’s BLAB.

On Monday afternoon, the academic vice presidents discussed the following topics, with responses coming from Linda Noble and Houston Davis:

  • Enrollment projections for each campus were recently developed by Matthew Hauer.  How will they be used?  Answer: It’s an internal document, a point of evidence that will stand alongside campus projections.
  • A draft document (dated 4-8-13) relating to Functional Sectors for the various USG universities divides both the State Universities and State Colleges sectors into “Category I” and “Category II” subsectors, with Category I units being able to apply to offer a somewhat broader range of degrees than Category II.  What were the motivations for these new categories?  Answer:  The BoR wants to have a more specific understanding of what each University’s function is so that they can make better decisions to avoid mission creep and so they can understand the strategic decisions made on our campus.  This document is still in draft form, so there are opportunities for input.

Linda Noble, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, gave a report in which the following was noted:

  • Enrollment monitoring for new degree programs will become a standing annual report.  Campuses will be held to their projections, so they shouldn’t be overoptimistic in their enrollment projections.
  • For older degree programs, low producing programs will be reviewed, using the same criteria as in the past.  Undergraduate programs averaging less than ten graduates per year and masters programs averaging less than five will be under scrutiny, and need to provide realistic growth plans or explanations as to why they are still viable.
  • A question was asked: “Should all universities transcript associate degrees [put an associates degree on the transcript when the student has completed 60 credits]?”  Answer: This is something that came up from scholars at CCG and being looked at nationally and within the USG.
  • “Should all universities implement reverse transfer policies [Student transfers before completing associates degree.  Student then completes courses at new university that would have completed the AS degree.  Original university reverse transfers the courses and issues AS degree]?”  Answer:  Some USG universities are currently implementing this sort of policy.  It is likely that more will, since the proposed formula funding model will reward universities that issue larger numbers of degrees.

Lynn Weisenbach, Vice Chancellor for Educational Access & Success, gave an update on the Complete College Georgia effort.  She noted that 31 campus plans had been received and shared with the Governor and legislature, and that plan updates were now under review, and will be submitted to the Governor on October 1.  Special attention is being given to K-12 alignment, development of incubators to support high need areas and build capacity, distance learning, and analytics.  The University System will support:

  • Implementation of System policy review recommendations
  • Finalizing a System economic plan with individual campus targets
  • Scaling transforming remediation work from pilot or campus levels to system-wide levels.

Lynn also emphasized the importance of “15 to Finish”, a project to impress on students the importance of taking fifteen hours per semester; “Credit when Credit is Due” a project related to reverse transfer; and the development of high school to college to job “Career Pathways”.  The example used for Career Pathways was in the area of Mechatronics, and featured SPSU as the Degree Option target.

Ken Harmon (Provost, KSU, and Chair of the Policy Review Task Force) gave a status report, and noted that the committee focused on things that would most impact student retention and graduation.

James Quires gave an IT Services Update.  He noted that many projects are being worked on with the full support of the Chancellor, including those related to CCG, Space Utilization, Data Driven Decision Making, and Distance Education.  Some new projects include Fullcost, which will calculate the actual cost is for various areas, so that one doesn’t subsidize another, and so that the true costs of the services can be billed to participating campuses.  The Point is a repository of vendor information and system level contracts.  Campuses can enter their own contracts.  It will allow everyone to see what the various agreements are and incorporate information into the campus procurement process.

He noted that the D2L project was on budget and on time.  D2L gets 34M hits per day, with 50M predicted in September.  15,000 concurrent sessions can occur at any given time.  D2L v10.2 will be released this December.  Intelligent agents are available now.  Some campuses are funding the D2L analytics package.  D2L provides functionality support (for open enrollment) and MOOC support.  Central Banner Managed Services is going well, with 9 institutions participating and two more joining them.  The Banner contract is up for renegotiation in 2017, and there is limited flexibility to prematurely curtail the contract.  All USG and TCSG campuses are using Degree Works, with 11 campuses hosted by ITS at a cost of $65,000 per year each.  Other campuses can join.  PeachNet is upgrading its backbone from 2 to 10 Gbps.  Dual homing of institutions has been bid and work is underway.  The Department of Education will likely join PeachNet in FY14.  This will create D2L opportunities for USG, and allow for MOOCs to be offered to K-12.  Galileo is developing a new discovery tool (“Google on steroids”).

Mark Lytle spoke about economic development.  He noted that there will likely be no more deep and drastic cuts, but no significant increases either in our budgets.  By supporting economic development we can improve the environment we all operate in.
The USG’s role is not only to support traditional side of economic development, but also to act as driver of knowledge economy and the future economic success of the state.  We need to provide easy access to the intellectual and physical assets of the USG, perform research, serve on industry and community leadership boards, and provide timely, focused curriculum and contract training.  The key is in driving a Knowledge Economy (economy based on ideas rather than physical ideas, and implementation of technology).  Provide a STEM workforce; conduct research and develop ideas, create and nurture new companies and development of new technologies; and provide recognized global knowledge leadership.  A strategic plan is being developed.

The final major session was with John Fuchko, who spoke about a number of Audit-related issues.  The audit focus on campuses will address the following areas and questions:

  • IT—Are we adequately protected?  Prepared for disaster?  Are faculty and staff who have left removed from the system?
  • Capital Assets and Inventory Management—Are we properly tracking equipment?
  • HR—Are we conducting the required background checks? Is employee leave properly managed?  Are we complying with I-9 requirements?  Is there proper classification of exempt/non-exempt?
  • PPV—Are IRS rules complied with?  Are conflicts of interest managed?  What is the financial strength of campus PPVs?
  • If a faculty member is sick and someone covers their classes, they still have to use sick leave.
  • Budget and Cash Flow Management—Is the budget development and oversight process effective?
  • Cashiering Operations—Are they protecting cash assets?
  • Fraud Prevention/Detection—Are there adequate controls to prevent fraud?
  • Procurement Life Cycle—Are contracts being managed?  Purchasing policies followed?  Managing P-cards?
  • Federal Grant Compliance—Are we complying with Federal rules governing grants, i.e. conflict of interest, effort reporting, monitoring, human subjects research?  The Federal expectation is that we will do monitoring on any subawardees, including other campuses.
  • Student Fees—Are we adhering to Board Policy and procedures regarding budgeting and use of said fees?
  • Financial Aid—Are we properly administering aid?  Managing default rates?
  • International Students—Are we managing Federal requirements associated with tracking international students attending?
  • Tuition and Fees—Are we following BoR policies in admission?  Properly classifying in-state/out of state?  Collecting accounts receivable?  Waivers of fees and mandatory housing requirements consistent with BoR policy?


Good Stuff Lately

Here are some good movies and music I’ve run into lately:

  • Coraline is an excellent movie that came out several years ago, with some of the best 3-D effects I’ve seen anywhere.  It’s the story of a little girl with disinterested parents forced to live in a weird house in a new city.  Coraline discovers a small door leading to a tunnel that opens to a copy of her own house, with an other mother and father who are better than the real ones.  But, is everything what it seems?  It’s a creepy fairy-tale written by comic book great Neil Gaiman (author of Sandman and Watchmen).
  • The Affairs of Dobie Gillis.  The movie was on TMC last week, and stars Debbie Reynolds and Bobby Van.  It’s a second-rate musical, but was the precursor to the best TV show of all time (in my opinion), The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.  One odd feature of the movie is that Dobie and his girlfriend Pansy have to sneak into the chemistry lab to make up an experiment that they missed when they were canoodling around.  Unbelievably, the chemistry experiment they have to carry out is presented accurately.  It’s a standard determination of an unknown using a qualitative analysis scheme, and Pansy identified silver chloride as her Group I unknown using the correct method (addition of hydrochloric acid causing a precipitate, and pouring off the supernatant liquid).  Since chemistry is never presented right in movies or on TV, this was quite a shock.
  • 42.  This movie is a more-or-less accurate retelling of how Jackie Robinson became the first black player in modern professional baseball, and the many injustices and slurs he faced on the way.  It’s a pretty good retelling, and a bit more elaborate than the 1950 movie, The Jackie Robinson Story (which starred Jackie Robinson himself!).  Strangely, both movies essentially leave out Robinson’s experiences with racism in the US Army, which almost got him court-martialed twice, and his successes as an athlete at UCLA.
  • Hyperion Schubert Series.  I’ve written about these before in the BLAB.  I picked up two more CDs in the series of 37, #2 and #19.  Only 23 more to go!
  • Ella and Friends.  This is the last of the Ella Fitzgerald CD’s on Decca that I needed, consisting of Ella singing with others in her early years.  Her partners include Louis Armstrong (they got together for three full CD’s later in their careers), the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, the Delta Rhythm Boys, and the Mills Brothers.  All cuts are great, because after all, Ella could sing the telephone book and make it sound good.



For those who are interested, the top country in readership for the BLAB is, of course, the United States.  The top ten in order after that are:  Columbia, Canada, New Zealand, Venezuela, Germany, Israel, Jordan, India, Philippines, and Taiwan.  Why?  I have no idea.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest was on the subject “Red”, and our winner was one of the co-director’s of U-Teach, Alan Gabrielli, with a respectable four correct.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Almost got eaten by the big bad wolf.  Little Red Riding Hood.
  2. There’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin’ his old sweet song.  The Red, Red, Robin.
  3. Cantankerous comedian, starred in Sanford and Son.  Redd Foxx.
  4. British science-fiction TV show, about a mining spaceship inhabited by Dave Lister, Arnold Judas Rimmer, a senile computer, and an evolved cat.  Red Dwarf.
  5. De facto national anthem of the People’s Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution.  The East is Red.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on trees.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO zszafran@spsu.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Eve shouldn’t have eaten a fruit from it.
  2. According to the song, you tie a yellow ribbon around it.
  3. Symbol on Canada’s flag.
  4. Nickname of the state of Maine.
  5. Author of the poem “Trees”.


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