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2024 Survey of Provosts Reveals Interesting Insights on How Campuses are Dealing with AI, Diversity, Free Speech and Financial Challenges

Inside Higher Ed, together with Hanover Research, recently released its annual Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, providing insight into the priorities of and challenges facing higher education institutions. With 331 provosts fully or partially completing surveys (a 13% response rate), the survey covered a wide range of topics including artificial intelligence, diversity, equity, and inclusion, campus speech, the future of academic programs, and more. While the comprehensive key findings and data tables can be found in the report, below is a highlight of several major areas.

Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence continues to be an evolving focus at many institutions. 92% of provosts responded that faculty and staff members asked for additional training related to the developments in generative AI. Seventy-eight percent (78%) have offered training in response to faculty concerns or questions about generative AI within the last 18 months and an additional 20% have planned training. For students, only 14% of provosts said that their institution has reviewed the curriculum to ensure that it will prepare students for AI in the workplace, though 73% plan to do so. The use and future of AI is far from settled. Although 47% of provosts are moderately concerned, 20% very concerned, and 6% extremely concerned about the risk generative AI poses to academic integrity, only 20% of institutions have published a policy or policies governing the use of AI, including in teaching and research. An additional 63% have a policy under development. However, in contrast to those concerns, 40% of provosts are moderately enthusiastic, 32% very enthusiastic, and 11% extremely enthusiastic for AI’s potential to boost their institution’s capabilities. Several institutions are using AI for virtual chat assistants and chatbots, research and data analysis, Learning Management Systems, predictive analytics to predict student performance and trends, and in other capacities. This is an area where we can expect rapid developments in the coming months.

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Teach-Outs for Closing Programs and Institutions

Teach-Outs for Closing Programs and Institutions
Patricia E. Salkin, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Touro University

Lately, a week hardly goes by without news of another institution announcing plans to close programs or departments, and even entire colleges and universities planning to shut down.  According to University Business, in the last four years, more than 50 public and private nonprofit colleges have either announced plans to close, have closed, or have merged with another institution. Higher Ed Dive has been tracking the number of major colleges that have closed, merged or consolidated since 2016, providing an easy-to-use map showing that Massachusetts and New York lost ten schools each (with New York losing another one this week), followed by nine in Illinois and seven in California.   U.S. News and World Report reported that between July 2004 and June 2020 close to 12,000 college campuses closed. On a smaller scale, it is unknown precisely how many schools and majors within institutions are closed due to financial challenges and low enrollments. 

For provosts/chief academic officers, the elimination of programs and the closure of a college brings added responsibilities to ensure the orderly teach-out for enrolled students so that they may achieve the degree they signed up for with as little disruption as possible.  Staying student-focused is key during this time, however, it is also important to remember the impacts on faculty and staff who will understandably be concerned about their futures as well. What follows is a checklist of items to consider for provosts who are faced with teach-outs once the decision is made to close the program or school.


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Radical Self-Care for CAOs

The foundational principle of self-care is that individuals must put themselves first before they can care for others.  However, as chief academic officer (CAO), the role is rooted in caring for all others before caring for oneself.  CAOs must be responsive to crises and are considered essential personnel.  They must be present in times of crisis and expected to provide vision and leadership in navigating them.  During the most stressful moments, they are on call at any time of the day or night.  This sentiment was evident during COVID-19, in which CAOs led efforts, organized teams, and played an integral role in addressing community needs.  CAOs face complex challenges within higher education environments and make collaborative decisions to manage them.  CAOs are required to react to some of the most horrific situations.  They must examine, experience, and address some issues that can cause vicarious trauma.

Nevertheless, the fast pace of the job, the expectations of stakeholders, and the need to foster a safe environment all come before self-care.  Often, no time is available to reflect or address emotions.  So when does self-care become apparent and needed?  CAOs need to be more focused on self-care.  After the world stabilized from the initial impact of COVID-19, the focus shifted to normalizing our environments rather than addressing the implications for human capital.  The increasing instances of traumatizing events within higher education environments are having an impact on wellness.  Nevertheless, we still need to focus on the effects of those on the front lines of addressing these issues.

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The Role of Chief Academic Officer in Community Engagement

We often think of the CAO’s role as only internal without seeing it more broadly. This is a mistake.  Faculty members are expected to go beyond teaching and research and focus on service, including service outside the institution. CAO’s should also play a role externally in engaging with the community for the betterment of their campus. As often the second highest position on the campus they need to not leave it only the President or Chancellor.

There are several reasons for this. First, the institution should be “of” the community not simply “in” it. In addition to giving students an excellent education and building a strong regional and national research expectation, colleges and universities should be making themselves resources to the communities they serve. Promoting service learning helps achieve this by students working on projects of direct value to governmental, educational, business, and nonprofit organizations. Campuses like Michigan State and The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) have also built engagement into their RPT guidelines.  Faculty and staff should use their expertise to address community problems, helping build credibility and goodwill. The CAO is in a critical position to fund and support these efforts.

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On Being a Working Mom and Provost

I am the mother of five children, ranging in age from 15 to 20 years oldI am also a provost and senior vice president of a large university. Being a “power mom” comes with a host of unique challenges requiring skilled navigation to ensure no one part of my life overtakes the other. It is acknowledging the ebb and flow - that sometimes my work takes precedence and other times my family, depending on the situation. 

I enjoy my job immensely and get great personal satisfaction from it. I crave intellectual stimulation and thrive on day-to-day ambiguity. I also love my children, but I realized early on in my life that to be the best mother I could be, I needed to be in an environment that allowed me to pursue my growth as a professional. This meant prioritizing my needs as an individual and making peace with “mommy guilt.” It also meant accepting and letting go of the day-to-day minutiae of my children’s lives. I was never the mom who attended sports games, played dolls, or volunteered in my childrens classrooms. But I was the mom who taught them how to do laundry, cook, clean, problem-solveand drive. I opted out of family trips to Disneyland for trips to China, Germany, and Greece. 

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The Faculty-CAO Relationship: Making it Work

Regardless of how long you served as an instructional faculty member, as the institution’s Chief Academic Officer, you are no longer part of that club. You still work with and among faculty but make no mistake: You don’t have the same relationships that you previously did. You may have served as a department head or dean and think you are used to changing interactions with faculty, but the CAO role holds a specific set of foibles.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a collegial association with your faculty; that mutual respect and commitment is more important than ever. But your interactions, communications and overall association is different and more delicate. Keep these three things in mind as you consider your own connections with faculty.

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Lawyer Provosts Increasingly Appointed as Campus Presidents

By Patricia E. Salkin, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost of the Graduate and Professional Divisions, Touro University

A little studied trend revealed in a new book, shows the exponential increase in the number of lawyers being appointed as college and university presidents.  Serving as a provost is often a pathway to the presidency for those interested, yet the data shows that most lawyer presidents did not previously serve as provosts or chief academic officers.  Although there is little published research about the backgrounds of provosts, it is fair to state that the typical provost does not possess a JD degree.  A 2010 Study of Chief Academic Officers of Independent Colleges and Universities published by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) indicated that among provosts (of chief academic officers) at four-year colleges and universities, at least 90% indicated that they held a terminal degree.  The study reported that 86% of chief academic officers at independent institutions had earned a PhD and 10% had earned an EdD. Of the remaining 4%, the survey reported the provosts possessed theology degrees, JDs (less than 1%) and MDs.

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The Chief Academic Officer blog

Greetings!

ACAO is delighted to re-introduce our blog series. The goal of the series is to address the on-going challenges and opportunities that face our members in their Chief Academic Officer roles. The series will be penned by our members for our members, drawing on the wealth of experience that all of us have accumulated over our academic lives. We will also draw on the expertise of our Advisory Board, comprising CAO emeriti who support the work of ACAO.

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Welcome to The Chief Academic Officer blog by ACAO

Welcome to "The Chief Academic Officer" blog by ACAO

If you would like to post a blog, please send it to [email protected]

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