Welcome from the Provost

Message from the Provost

photo of provost

Welcome to the new academic year. While still under the shadow of the pandemic, we continue to work hard to advance our academic mission and support high-quality teaching and learning in every circumstance and modality. I’m profoundly grateful to our faculty, chairs, staff, administrators, and university partners for their commitment and care throughout this difficult time.

In Academic Affairs, we’ve faced the hard challenges of the last year by staying focused on our goals and values, while learning to be flexible in how we meet them. 

Our driving goal is and always has been educational equity. After more than a year of remote instruction, many of our students told us they wanted in-person classes—which our faculty and chairs stepped up to provide this fall. We’re committed to doing so safely. We’ve created rigorous health and safety guidelines for classrooms and academic spaces, which are linked to our Campus Comeback website, including a new link for faculty and Faculty FAQs.  In addition, our  Instructional Continuity website is been designed help faculty and programs plan ahead for future disruption, whether triggered by the pandemic or by campus closure because of poor air quality.

These are challenging times. But we can be proud of how we’ve met them. And our experience can help us reimagine what a San Francisco State education could look like for the future. Drawing on what we know now, we can ask ourselves: are there courses, programs, or experiences that work better online—and that could reach more students that way? Are there others that are far better face to face, or that could use physical presence more intentionally? At our summer retreat, the college deans and other academic affairs leaders posed these questions, and resolved to follow them up in the year ahead, in discussion with our faculty, staff, programs, academic offices, CEETL and Institutional Analytics—as well as with our students themselves.

As always, we need to start with the question of student learning and success—how did students do over the last year, and what do we know now about teaching and learning as a result of our experiences?

The pandemic has heightened systemic inequality, and our campus commitment to educational equity is more urgent than ever. Last year each of the colleges revised its student success plan to focus specifically on reducing equity gaps by improving student achievement, strengthening advising and tutoring, and reviewing curricula and course scheduling to prioritize student learning, progress and success.

San Francisco State is a leader in intentional curriculum design. This past Friday, representatives from thirteen of our degree programs joined a CSU-wide conference on faculty-led curricular design, building on the work that twenty of our programs have already undertaken with support from the Teagle Foundation. Now a new cohort of academic programs is joining in this work. From Finance to BECA, Accounting to Psychology, Journalism and Liberal Studies to Nutrition and Dietetics and more—their work affirms that a commitment to educational equity needs to be rooted in the core of what we do. And in Academic Affairs, that’s the curriculum.

Despite the many distractions of the pandemic, last year the Academic Senate approved a range of curricular innovations. Including a new interdisciplinary certificate on Climate Change that involves faculty from each of our colleges. The College of Extended Learning collaborated with Ethnic Studies and Criminal Justice to create completion programs for students who left without degrees; others are in the works from the Colleges of Science and Engineering, Liberal and Creative Arts, and the Lam Family College of Business.

At a time when schools are truly the crucibles of educational equity, we also saw the development of new partnerships and pathways to prepare tomorrow’s teachers: including the Liberal Studies Integrated Teacher Education Program, the Elementary Teacher Preparation Program in Child and Adolescent Development, and a new Subject Matter Program for future History and Social Sciences teachers that brings together the College of Ethnic Studies, the History Department, and the Secondary Education Department.

In our communities and beyond, our programs responded to the call of our times. 165 Nursing students stepped up to help San Francisco health centers administer covid tests and vaccines when the medical community was stretched beyond its limits. Our Asian American Studies Department became a national leader in combatting AAPI hate. And participants from across San Francisco State took up the faculty retreat’s invitation to consider “How to be an Antiracist university.”

In the year ahead, we can build on work we’ve done to prepare for our future. In alignment with the campus strategic planning effort that the President shared—and with the university’s upcoming reaccreditation process--Academic Affairs will review and renew our work on the Academic Master Plan. In early September, the Academic Senate Chair and I will invite feedback on a range of goals defined before the pandemic by 140 members of the AMP workgroups: to engage students, advance faculty, strengthen academic programs, transform graduate education, empower service, and inspire collaboration. Following from that feedback will come action steps and timelines to track our progress in these important areas.

Academic Affairs leaders look forward to working with the Academic Senate to follow up recommendations from last year’s Faculty Work Assignment Equity Task Force to build greater transparency and consistency in how we define, assign, and reward faculty work. We also look forward to supporting the Academic Senate’s Teaching Effectiveness Assessment task force, to align our teaching assessments with our values and our goals.

As we move into a new faculty hiring season, our office of Faculty Affairs is working closely with each of the colleges and departments to support and advance faculty diversity through our hiring practices. Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion needs to be visible in our classrooms, starting with those who lead them.

Our faculty have stepped up to support our students, and they deserve the support of the institution.  On the recommendation of the University Budget Committee, the university is allocating $2M from HEERF funds for RSCA recovery, which will be allocated across colleges: the call for proposals will come out in the next few weeks. The pandemic has exacerbated inequities for faculty as well as students. In a first step to address this, we are pleased this fall to support the “Equity Hub for associate Black, Indigenous and Women of Color faculty,” as well as a new program for faculty leadership development, piloted in LCA and supported by the Office of Faculty Affairs.

We know the world will be forever changed by the pandemic, and it will be a better one with the participation and leadership of San Francisco State’s graduates. As we consider the future for which we’re preparing them, we need to broaden our understanding of student success beyond the baccalaureate, to graduate school and career success. To this end, I’m very happy to share that, starting this year, the office of Career Services and Leadership Development will move into Academic Affairs, to promote its integration with academic advising and the work of the colleges. Reporting to the Dean of the Graduate Division, it will also support graduate students—and help our own undergraduates chart their futures, whether into graduate degrees (including our own) or on to fulfilling careers, life-long learning, and engagement with our changing world.

This past year has been challenging in ways that we could never have imagined, and the new year brings more than the usual number of unknowns. But we’ve already shown how much we can do in the most difficult of circumstances, and I know that we’ll continue to watch out and care for one another in the semester and year ahead.

I’ve never been prouder to be a member of our extraordinary academic community: thank you for all that you bring to it.

Wishing you the very best,

Jennifer Summit
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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