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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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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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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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