Skip to Content

Liberal Arts Council Minutes

Minutes of the Liberal Arts Council Summer Retreat
19 August 2009, 10:00am – 2:00 pm, FH 230

Presiding: Dean Ann Marie Ellis
Recording: Associate Dean Lucy Harney

Council Members: Vicki Brittain, Susan Day, Frank de la Teja, Bob Fischer, Vincent Luizzi, Jon McGee, Michael Hennessy, Shirley Ogletree, Philip Suckling, Mark Busby, Dennis Dunn, Sandra Mayo, Associate Dean Brit Bousman, Associate Dean Nancy Grayson

Guests: Ann Friou, Pam Lemoine, Stephanie Sonnier

I. Learning Outcomes

Dean Ellis discussed her plans to formulate a memo to the Provost on streamlining the process of assessing learning outcomes.

A. Best and Worst Outcomes

Each chair provided a handout and spoke for a few minutes on his/her most positive and negative experiences with learning outcomes and methods.

Negative experiences included: high numbers of majors to assess; too many outcomes required overall and too many areas being measured at a time; cumbersome nature of some open-ended entrance/exit exams; lack of consistency among assessment questions and grading rubrics in course-embedded items, especially for the MA; sense that SACS requirements discourage a sufficiently nuanced and subjective assessment; overtaxing of faculty (with grading panels, etc.) for questionable benefits; the problematic concept of endless improvement; the inherent lack of reliability entailed by comparing subsequent groups of students to previous groups (lack of control of variables); the perceived confusion, within the current process, of teaching (instructional issues) and student learning.

Positive experiences included: development of useful and targeted grading rubrics; encouragement of MA students to present work at professional meetings; successful exit interviews for majors; favorable results with some post-test embedded items; improvement in specific courses which integrated evaluation methods and grading rubrics designed for learning outcomes assessment.

B. Policy Decisions for Future Assessment of Learning Outcomes

Dean Ellis solicited recommendations for the Provost about changes to the assessment of learning outcomes (and the University’s requirement to assess all outcomes each year.

Recommendations included: using theses and comprehensive exams for grad students where possible; allowing programs to have the number of outcomes they feel is appropriate, and greater flexibility in general to allow for differing characteristics among programs; measuring fewer outcomes (perhaps in greater depth) per year; requiring one method per outcome rather than two; using rater-reliability studies to reduce the number of evaluators in the future; minimizing the frequency of changes to the college’s and university’s expectations for the assessment process; a recognition of the good faith of programs in compliance matters; reducing the requirements for presentation of raw data; changing accreditation agencies.

Dean Ellis will take all of these recommendations under advisement.

II. Strategic Planning

A. Information Useful to our Planning Discussion

Provost Staffing, Facilities, CAD: Lucy Harney reported on agenda items and discussion from the 8/4/09 meeting of the Council of Academic Deans. These items included (see retreat folder for detailed report):

1. Continued need for funds for the Common Experience
2. Proposal to eliminate student commencement speakers
3. Calls for prioritized staffing requests to Gene Bourgeois
4. Update on San Antonio MITC
5. Report on enrollment growth and space restrictions, along with the administration’s continued emphasis on the growth of graduate programs and increase in on-line courses/programs
6. Need for increased research expenditures

Dean Ellis commented that the goals of achieving growth in graduate programs and receiving more grants/contracts should factor prominently in strategic planning and requests for new hires. LAC members generally approved of the elimination of student commencement speakers, with some reservations about what this would do to the overall graduation experience.

B. Grants & Contracts

Britt Bousman presented charts indicating grant activity for FY08 and 09, which seek to provide more accurate data than has been provided in the past. He explained the grant application process (by way of flow charts indicating the procedures for grant submission and grant management) and reminded chairs of the assistance available through his office and grants assistant Stephanie Sonnier in all the administrative facets of grant writing, submission, and administration. Britt pointed out that Stephanie mainly focuses on post-award administration; pre-award activities can also be facilitated by Carolyn Pate in OSP and himself. Brit volunteered to make himself available to visit departments to speak to faculty about the grant process and available assistance. In the future, recent grant recipients will be recognized in meetings of the LAC.

LAC members discussed with Britt the possibility of tracking expenditures rather than awards as a way of improving accuracy. It was noted that non-OSP awards (foundation-funded awards) are included in our totals, and was also noted that private contracts are generally not included. To encourage more grant activity among faculty, Anthropology offers a course release to faculty for writing a major grant proposal. Dean Ellis added that some support would be available from Liberal Arts as well. New hires should be briefed on the University’s emphasis on grant activity; however, grant writing is not an expectation for faculty early in their careers unless they have requested start-up packages.

C. San Antonio MITC & Career Advising & Internships: Tabled for a later meeting

D. Modifying the Department, Center, and College Plan

Chairs and directors presented the most important goals on which departments and chairs will be working in the year ahead.

1. Geography
a. Continue efforts to diversify faculty
b. Enhance participation in the General Education core
c. Increase quality of incoming grad students
d. Increase faculty grant submission
Dean Ellis commented on the importance of improving our mentoring of grad students, perhaps using English’s process as a model.

2. English
a. Maintain national reputation of the MFA program
b. Increase overall graduate enrollments
c. Increase development and grant-writing efforts
d. Maintain quality of the freshman English program
e. Mentor and retain ten tenure-track faculty
f. Address shortage of office and classroom space

Dean Ellis commented on the need for scholarships for the MFA program. She also mentioned that Ann Friou is helpful with publicity; she can write profiles of faculty (or programs) for Hillviews and “Rising Stars” on the university web site. In terms of mentoring tenure-track faculty, Dean Ellis said that she (and perhaps Britt) would to take them to lunch (requests to Kathy).

3. Psychology
a. Increase faculty grant applications
b. Gradually increase graduate enrollment
c. Explore San Antonio MITC
The problem with civility in large classes was mentioned as good rationale for increasing numbers of GIA’s.


4. Sociology
a. Increase number and size of faculty grant applications
b. Increase graduate enrollment
c. Explore San Antonio MITC options

There was general consensus that inexperienced faculty should be encouraged to start off with small grants at first. Dean Ellis noted that state agencies sometimes give summer grants near the end of the fiscal year. Seven faculty members throughout the college are receiving assigned time to write grants in fall 09. Dean Ellis recommended that these faculty be required to attend a meeting with Britt (late October at the earliest) and that this requirement become two meetings in subsequent semesters to monitor their progress.

5. Philosophy
a. Propose grad certificates in Sustainability Studies and Professional Ethics (on-line); provide MA in Applied Philosophy & Ethics
b. Develop “grants project” for individual and departmental grants
c. Fund all or part of Dialogue Series

Dean Ellis remarked that a story in Hillviews on the Dialogue Series would be a good idea. Ann Friou reminded everyone that Dr. Craig Hanks (PHIL) will be featured in the upcoming edition.

6. Anthropology
a. Promote growth in grad program
b. Increase external funding for research
c. Add tenure-track line in cultural anthropology

The question was raised as to how Anthropology generates such demand for their graduate programs (around 75% more than they can accept). They send brochures to other departments, contact colleagues at other schools, and attend fairs to promote their programs. Several factors bring the department national press, among them Rich Warm’s cultural anthropology textbook and the popularity of the forensic and Texas archeology programs.

Several departments lost out-of-state grad students due to a lack of scholarship funds. Dean Ellis said she would ask the Provost to consider using gift funds to provide $1,000 scholarships to 20 students. Anthropology also has plans for attempting to raise external funds for scholarships.

Dean Ellis informed LAC members that she would request staff assistance for the Forensic Anthropology Program, in addition to requesting someone to work in Liberal Arts on recruiting for all graduate programs and learning outcomes.

7. Modern Languages
a. Manage enrollments and class size (especially lower-division)
b. Successfully complete Academic Program Review
c. Recruit graduate students for Spanish MA program
The inferior quality of available office space has been mentioned as a serious negative for Modern Languages in several recent tenure-track hires.

8. History
a. Add new faculty line in Public History
b. Establish annual “Teach History” workshop for K-12 teachers
c. Establish endowed Center for Texas Public History

History has used up all its extra space in Taylor Murphy. Dean Ellis mentioned her efforts to convince the Provost to replace Psychology building with a 5-story building. She will continue to urge this course of action (which has implications for the coming decades) despite the dim outlook for TRBs in the next 4 years and the commitment of HEAF funds to other projects.

9. Center for the Study of the Southwest
a. Work with the University Treasurer to improve income from endowments. (There were small returns on some endowment investments during the financial downturn.)
b. Work to reestablish strong connections with NEH and other grant agencies
c. Work to complete the L. D. and Laverne Harrell Clark literary endowment (including 240-acre Smithville property)
d. Increase enrollment in courses and minor; offer a grad internship course
e. Continue publication of Texas Books in Review and Southwestern American Literature; support the Texas Book Festival; contribute to the work of several other pertinent associations.
Dean Ellis asked Ann Friou to put together a story on the Clarks for Hillviews.

10. Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies
a. Manage and promote Multicultural Curriculum Transformation and
Research Institute
b. Develop and seek grant for the Multicultural Curriculum Network
c. Manage and promote Women and Gender Research Collaborative and Journal of Research on Women and Gender

Some 589 courses university-wide and 385 in Liberal Arts now have a multicultural designation. Dean Ellis applauded the plan within the Multicultural Curriculum Network to reach out to public school teachers. She advised that MCGS might consult with Dr. de la Teja in History and Dr. Balanoff in Political Science who works through continuing education on this. Such programs, based on surveys, have had a positive impact on public school English instruction.

11. Political Science
a. Effectively mentor 7 tenure-track faculty members
b. Successfully complete 2 faculty replacement searches
c. Successfully complete 2 grad program re-accreditation visits AND the SACs reaccreditation visit

Dean Ellis noted that the new building will have space for a center (policy, research, analysis, etc.) that could involve various Liberal Arts departments in externally-funded research.

12. Center for International Studies
a. Continue working for PhD program, achieving school status, and promoting “globalization” as a Common Experience theme
b. Drop several majors (convert them to foci in existing majors)
c. Pursue endowed professorships, ambassador-in-residence, and endowed graduate and post-doctorate fellowships

The nature of the “school” status was discussed. Dean Ellis noted that the status is usually conferred if supported by an endowment or if this designation is conventional in other institutions. The designation helps promote prestige and attract additional endowments. Dean Ellis commented that the Provost would have to be consulted before this goal could be added to the strategic plan. An International Studies student has been appointed to the Board of Regents.

III. Other Issues

A. Addressing Growth – New Faculty & Staff Lines
Chairs and directors reported needed faculty lines.

1. English: Possibly some senior lecturers or TAs or AIs
2. Psychology: 5 new IAs lines requested
3. Sociology: 1 senior lecturer and 1 tenure-track line
4. Philosophy: 3 lecturer lines and 2 IAs
5. Anthropology: 1 tenure-track line and 4 GIAs
6. Modern Languages: 1 tenure-track line and 2 senior lecturers
7. History: 2 tenure-track lines
8. Political Science: 1 lecturer, 1 senior lecture, 3 IAs, 1 TA, and 1 administrative staff

Mark Busby asked chairs to inform him of faculty who have an interest in the Southwest.

B. Addressing Student Issues: Tabled for a later meeting

C. Assuring Quality in Tenure and Promotion: Tabled for a later meeting

D. Distribution of Faculty Service Pins & Certificates

Dean Ellis distributed faculty service pins and certificates for Dean’s Award winners to chairs, who will distribute them at departmental meetings.

Around the Table: Dean Ellis reminded members about the Liberal Arts fall faculty meeting. She announced that LAC would not meet until at least the second week of the semester. She reminded everyone to contact Britt Bousman for comments on the Liberal Arts Bibliography and to inform Lucy Harney of their fall representatives to the Faculty Advisory Council for the coming year. Nancy Grayson announced that she’ll soon be sending a message regarding the appointment of representatives to the Liberal Arts Student Advisory Council and the Graduate Student Advisory Council. Dean Ellis noted that all eligible Liberal Arts candidates had been tenured and promoted during the last cycle and congratulated all Council members for their efforts. The meeting was adjourned.