I know the last two years brought unprecedented challenges, and for the College, a great deal of change. I recognize those changes have been difficult and rapid. As you are well aware, we have faced an urgent need to stabilize unsustainable and historical financial and operational structures, which were exacerbated by economic disruptions created by the pandemic. Because of your efforts, we continue to successfully deliver on our mission by adapting to the ever-changing needs and opportunities in education, service, research, and extension throughout this crisis in support of our students and stakeholders.
I am especially grateful to the departments, faculty and staff who have made great progress in positioning the College to adapt to our changing landscape of student interests, opportunities and stakeholder needs in a way that ensures the College’s long-term sustainability and effectiveness. The innovation and very thoughtful approach and dedication that we have all witnessed during this pandemic has been nothing short of remarkable.
I recognize from the mid-term review that there are areas of improvement needed at the Dean’s level. Specifically, you have asked for a more clear articulation of the shared vision for the future and its alignment with our land grant mission, more opportunities for my interaction with faculty and staff, and increased engagement of faculty and staff in all aspects of academic planning and decision making.
I am committed to addressing these concerns in partnership with you, and as such, have enacted the following actions to allow for greater accessibility and more frequent communication:
- To help round out our College leadership team, I have expanded the role of Susan Ballabina, Ph.D., Deputy Vice Chancellor, to include a college appointment. Dr. Ballabina has been a tremendous asset in engaging AgriLife agencies, as well as internal and external partners, to collaborate to achieve our shared mission for the benefit of Texans. I have asked Dr. Ballabina to bring her enthusiasm, world-class leadership skills and expertise in spearheading initiatives that result in improved organizational effectiveness to the College.
- To increase opportunities for interacting with the Dean and leadership team, we are planning the following engagement mechanisms:
- Department Meetings – I will meet individually with departments each academic year. These meetings allow time for me to discuss college priorities with each department and have open dialogue with faculty and staff.
- Semester Kick-Offs – I will hold faculty meetings at the beginning of the fall and spring semester to provide important updates from the University and College, look at the semester ahead and answer questions on issues relevant to the faculty. When COVID-19 gathering restrictions lift, we also plan to hold receptions to network and celebrate achievements of the faculty following these meetings. The first semester kick-off will be held in the fall.
- Common Ground – Events will be scheduled twice each semester for faculty and staff to visit with me in an informal setting with coffee and light refreshments. These in-person events will begin when COVID-19 gathering restrictions are lifted.
- Dean’s Office Open Hours – Dr. Ballabina and I will hold joint open office hours for faculty and staff who would like to discuss an issue, or provide thoughts on any number of topics. Please use this online sign-up form to schedule time during our February office hours. You can expect an immediate confirmation email.
- Dean’s Updates – Monthly communication will be sent to college faculty and staff containing information about recent College accomplishments and new initiatives. The first update will be distributed in late February.
- Academic concerns raised by the faculty will be made a priority and addressed this spring 2021 semester. There are several timely academic initiatives that will be advanced through Faculty Task Forces. These initiatives, which will include strategic planning, graduate education, international presence, among others, represent an opportunity to advance our shared mission and facilitate more transparent policies and procedures in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the AgriLife agencies. Each task force will include 6-8 members with at least one faculty member from an AgriLife agency, one College faculty member, a member of the faculty senate Ag Caucus, a graduate student, an ex officio member from AgriLife administration (Department Head, Center Director, Institute Director, or Central Administration), a Distinguished Professor and an Extension professional where relevant.
- I will establish a Dean’s faculty advisory group focused on teaching, learning and service to serve as a sounding board and information sharing regarding concerns, initiatives and opportunities to advance faculty success.
- I will establish a committee focused on research and teaching infrastructure needs across the college, and strategies to secure the funds to address these needs.
- I will continue to advance initiatives on diversity, equity, inclusion and fairness in all aspects of our college and its administration, and offer more opportunities for dialog around this critical need.
I hope you will utilize these new opportunities to provide feedback and be actively involved in college programs, initiatives and strategic plans. I look forward to working in community with you as we move ahead.
Thank you for your deep commitment to the College and University.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research