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New presidents or provosts: Columbia Intl Cuyahoga Labette Lake Michigan Lane W&L WGU Washington Wesleyan Wittenberg June 23 2017
Melody Blake, visiting assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan College, in Georgia, has been promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs there. Marc C. Conner, interim provost and the Jo M. and James M. Ballengee Professor of English at Washington & Lee University, in Virginia, has been named to the provost job on a permanent basis. Richard Cummins, president of Columbia Basin College, in Washington State, has been chosen as chancellor of WGU Washington. Michael Frandsen, vice president for finance and administration at Oberlin College, in Ohio, has been appointed president of Wittenberg University, also in Ohio. Margaret Hamilton, vice president for academic affairs, institutional effectiveness and planning at Camden County College, in New Jersey, has been selected as president of Lane Community College, in Oregon. Trevor Kubatzke, vice president of student services at Milwaukee Area Technical College, in Wisconsin, has been chosen as president of Lake Michigan College, in Michigan. Karen Miller, interim executive vice president of access, learning and success at Cuyahoga Community College, in Ohio, has been named to the chief academic officer job on a permanent basis. Mark A. Smith, president of Ohio Christian University, has been selected as president of Columbia International University, in South Carolina. Mark Watkins, dean of instruction at Labette Community College, in Kansas, has been promoted to president there. Editorial Tags: College administrationNew presidentsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Microbiology society cuts back on small conferences June 23 2017
The American Society of Microbiology last month announced plans to significantly scale back its small-conference organizing, putting more pressure on what some see as an already undervalued chance for networking. As opposed to its large and medium annual conferences -- such as ASM Microbe, which is billed as the world’s largest gathering of microbiologists -- which draw thousands of professors, researchers and academics from across the field, ASM’s small conferences typically draw crowds in the hundreds. Those conferences are more narrowly focused to specific fields, such as biofilms or beneficial microbes. Attendees say the small sizes create more intimate spaces for networking among colleagues, especially for younger members. But they also can be costlier to run than their big-ticket counterparts. (Other large scholarly societies organize small conferences for people from certain regions or states.) “Small conferences consistently trending down in attendance,” ASM CEO Stefano Bertuzzi wrote in a tweet to professors talking about the decision. “ASM not able to continue absorbing financial losses.” David Hooper, chair of ASM’s meeting board, said that the society has organized eight to 10 small conferences a year, on average, but will be scaling back to about two -- including the conference on biofilms -- although the number isn’t set in stone. While the small conferences were costly, and attendance was decreasing, he said the decision to cut back on small conferences was part of a wide-ranging re-evaluation of the organization’s finances. Hosted in New Orleans over five days, ASM Microbe, which advertised bringing in about 10,000 people, featured an exhibit and poster hall, industry workshops and close to 600 speakers. The smaller conferences, held with less fanfare, also typically bring in fewer people and have to be subsidized by the society. “With deficit budgets and a new CEO, we had to have a strategic relook at the whole sort of range of ASM programs,” Hooper said. “It wasn’t just meetings that were being looked at, but the spectrum of all the activities that ASM was doing.” “Looking at the conferences program, we thought now’s the time to step back and restructure this in a way that our portfolio may be a bit smaller. Obviously there are positives to having smaller meetings -- people do like those. We want to keep having smaller conferences, but they need to be sustainable, of course, financially,” he said, adding that the smaller conferences will probably be tailored to “cutting-edge” topics in microbiology. Joerg Graf, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Connecticut who has attended both large and small conferences over the course of his career, said he respected ASM’s clout in the field of microbiology, and that scaling back its small-conference organizing wasn’t a move the organization would take lightly. “The American Society for Microbiology is a very important organization in this field, and I think ASM conferences were very important in how the American Society for Microbiology was able to reach out, especially to early-career scientists, and provide them with cutting-edge information and also provide opportunities to network with established investigators. Losing those conferences would restrict those opportunities,” he said. “But ASM really has to make difficult decisions.” Graf said that throughout his years attending ASM conferences and meetings both large and small, the smaller ones provided an intimate space for young researchers to network and offered more specific programming focused on microbiology’s various fields. “When there are 6,000 attendees, it is very challenging for a graduate student to find time to meet with a faculty member,” he said. At smaller conferences, by contrast, shared lunches, dinners and receptions can help young members make connections. “Those are all opportunities where it’s very easy, and it’s not an intimidating environment for graduate students to interact with faculty,” he said. Still, Graf said, large ASM conferences are useful for learning about fields outside one’s specialty. Offering some hope for younger scientists, he highlighted other ways outside ASM to find intimate settings, such as the Gordon Research Conferences and the Keystone Symposia. Mark Mandel, a professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University, said he plans to keep holding a conference on beneficial microbes that has previously been affiliated with ASM, although it will most likely have to be outside the scope of ASM going forward. “What we see is consistently 200 people attend, and they’re passionate, they’re energetic,” he said. “So now when we try to continue that energy, we’re now doing that outside of the organization of the larger society. It seems like there’s less energy to be poured into the organization.” For his part, Hooper said that ASM has listened to feedback to improve the large and medium ASM meetings for younger faculty. “We spend a lot of time focusing on both input and involvement from junior faculty and trainees for the programming and the presentation of these meetings,” he said. “They’re the future of any society.” When pressures working against small conferences arise, however, so do pressures on small colleges’ budgets to send professors and students to conferences of any size. Jason Pickavance, director of educational initiatives at Salt Lake Community College, was a frequent attendee of the Two-Year College English Association’s conferences for its Western division during his days as an English professor. He said he still attends TYCA-West when it comes to Salt Lake. Pickavance wrote in an essay for Inside Higher Ed that smaller conferences as a whole are often underappreciated for their value and the “authenticity” they provide for faculty, all at a relatively low cost. “It’s not like [large conferences] are evil,” Pickavance said. “I don’t know what they would do to make it different. It’s less a critique of large conferences than it is praising small conferences.” Geography can play a role in restructuring conferences, Mandel said. The Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phages Meeting consolidated its bouncing locations, settling on hosting the conferences only in Madison, Wis., instead of rotating between Madison and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, on New York’s Long Island, every other year. On the other hand, Mandel said, conferences aimed at specific regions can still benefit from rotating locations -- as the Midwest Microbial Pathogens Conference does -- without racking up huge expenditures for attendees, since the rotating location is never too far. When it comes to travel, registration and lodging costs associated with attending conferences, smaller gatherings can be easier on a college’s travel budget. TYCA-West bounces between Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, keeping those costs to a minimum, Pickavance said. And with higher education budgets being tight, those savings -- and the benefits smaller conferences can provide -- can mean an outsize impact on those who attend. “That continued pressure on travel budgets makes small conferences all the more important,” Pickavance said. “The regional small conference, in my mind, is going to become more important in an age where, maybe, travel budgets become more scarce. You can’t go to Boston or San Diego -- expensive flight, expensive city, expensive registration. If I go to Phoenix, well, I have family there, so I can stay for free.” ResearchEditorial Tags: ResearchScholarly associationsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Education Department's 'regulatory relief' panel offers early look at its work June 23 2017
The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday offered a first glimpse at how it is carrying out the Trump administration's push to ease federal regulations -- and asked for advice on what rules it should eliminate. In February President Trump signed an executive order "seeking to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people" by calling for federal agencies, including the Education Department, to create "regulatory reform" task forces. Those committees will evaluate existing regulations and then make recommendations about which ones to repeal, replace or modify. The order gives priority to curbing regulations that are seen as outdated, unnecessary, ineffective, costly, inconsistent or that inhibit job creation. The department's task force issued its first progress report Thursday. While few decisions have been made so far, the 66-page document describes the next steps in the process. It also cites the administration's previously announced move to hit pause on two "burdensome" regulations: the borrower-defense and gainful-employment rules. The new task force said the looming rule-making process for those rules will be "arduous" and require significant resources and oversight from the department. This fall the department plans to meet with higher education associations to discuss "regulatory relief," the task force said. It cited likely meetings with the American Council on Education, historically black colleges and universities, and financial aid administrators. As Politico has reported, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, recently told U.S. senators that the agency is relying in part on a report calling for less regulation of higher education that Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who leads the Senate's education committee, released in 2015 with help from ACE and a group of college leaders. Also this week, the department published a request for public suggestions on regulations to be eliminated or pared back. "The regulatory reform task force has been hard at work over the last few months cataloging over 150 regulations and more than 1,700 pieces of policy guidance on the books at the Department of Education," DeVos said in a written statement. "As their work continues, they have been tasked with providing recommendations on which regulations to repeal, modify or keep in an effort to ensure those that remain adequately protect students while giving states, institutions, teachers, parents and students the flexibility needed to improve student achievement." The progress report lists 15 department staff members who are on the task force, including both political appointees and career officials. Robert Eitel, a lawyer who worked for a for-profit college company before joining the department, is leading the group. Eitel has recused himself from matters relating to gainful employment. Relatively few decisions have been made by the task force on the 154 regulations listed in the report. However, the report calls for a partial modification to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that seeks to protect students' educational records. The report said FERPA needs updates to reflect changes made by Congress in recent years, as well as to "clarify provisions to reflect developments in the nature and use of education technology." Eitel also is co-chair of a department steering committee that will make recommendations about possibly reorganizing the agency. As with the regulation reform task force, that group was formed in response to a Trump executive order. It's unclear what role, if any, a possible group of 15 college presidents might play in advising the administration on regulatory issues. Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University's president and a Trump ally, in January said he would be leading a presidential task force on higher education. He said at the time that he was interested in working to limit micromanagement of colleges and accreditors by the department. However, as Politico first reported this month, that task force has not been created. Falwell said he will instead be part of a White House-convened group of 15 college presidents that will address education issues. Previous administrations also have brought together advisory groups of college leaders. Editorial Tags: Federal policyEducation DepartmentIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Appalachian College Association charts new course June 23 2017
The Appalachian College Association could have disbanded. The 35-member group of private liberal arts colleges and universities was providing a set of cornerstone services to its members -- professional development for faculty and staff members as well as a central library overseeing digital collections and group purchasing, databases and a reciprocal use program. But there was a sense that the association, traditionally focused on improving its members’ academic quality through programs like faculty fellowships and research grants, was drifting. It had burned through several presidents and interim presidents in the years since longtime president Alice L. Brown retired in 2008. Some worried member engagement was low. Although the association has a sizable endowment, the foundations that had previously funded it were slipping away. On Monday, the association’s Board of Directors -- made up of its member presidents -- approved a new mission statement and strategic plan. The move was geared toward having the association focus on serving home communities in its five-state region across the Central Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The new plan calls for the association to focus on improving education at all levels in the area and to convince students that private higher education is within their reach. Early on, that will translate into work to bolster K-12 education throughout the region, according to presidents of several member colleges. But the association has a long way to go if it is to fulfill its new direction. It still plans to hire a new president, consider a branding change, seek new sources of funding and build programs. Those steps will be worth watching in an era when private liberal arts colleges are under increasing pressure from all sides. The Appalachian College Association members are located in one of the most difficult regions in the country for higher education, one that is depressed economically, declining in population and facing steep social challenges like the opioid epidemic. Many of the member colleges are saddled with financial challenges of their own and doubts about the value of liberal arts education. Questions remain about what’s to come. Will the different colleges connect more closely to take on major problems in the region, or will they ultimately scatter, leaving many to fight for survival on their own individual terms? Is the new direction attractive to foundations and sources of funding? Is it the right direction, or is it mission drift? The change is a significant shift in focus, according to those who led it. David Olive is the president of Bluefield College, in Bluefield, Va., nestled along the state’s border with West Virginia. He was the chairman of the association’s Board of Directors for the last two years, leading it as it drafted the new mission statement and plan. “We are making a commitment not only to changing the lives of our students who come to study our campuses -- some of those coming from Appalachia and some not -- but really being focused on having a significant impact in our communities beyond our campus boundaries,” he said. At this point, the effort is being left “somewhat vague” so member institutions can pilot their own programs depending on local conditions. The economy is different around Bluefield than it is around Knoxville, Tenn., where another association member, Johnson University, has a campus, Olive said. Member institutions also face significantly different circumstances. For instance, Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia this year offered early retirements and struck a deal to sell its campus to the local Roman Catholic diocese, efforts to balance its budget. In contrast, Berea College in Kentucky has a large enough endowment that it does not need to charge its students for tuition. Broadly, however, many recognize that they face a common set of issues, according to Berea’s president, Lyle D. Roelofs. “You can’t be in this part of the world and not realize that things are changing in the wrong direction fairly rapidly,” he said. “Recent political developments, recent economic developments -- coal versus natural gas -- all of these things make the situation bleak on a fairly short time scale.” Some Appalachian College Association presidents said a boost to regional K-12 education could help them with enrollment or relieve some financial pressures in the future. Better-prepared students could limit the need to spend on remediation, for instance. Efforts could also create a pipeline for more students to enter college. But none described the idea as a primary solution to enrollment and financial challenges. Many didn’t agree on the scope of future financial challenges they will face. But a focus on K-12 education cannot be the solution for a struggling small college, Roelofs said. “To the extent we make progress on this strategy, we are not actually going to generate a whole lot of paying customers for the schools in Appalachia,” he said. “That’s because the people can’t really afford education.” Any solution to the problems struggling small colleges face will have to come from decisions at the national and state level, Roelofs said. Still, the question remains whether a group like the association could help its members band together to face any economic challenges, pooling resources or collaborating more closely. Its former president, Brown, described colleges in the Central Appalachian region as being both fiercely independent and part of a group that is “among the most fragile in the nation.” They are also critically important to their students, she said. “There is a population of students out there who really need these kinds of colleges,” Brown said. “They are not going to thrive in an environment at Princeton, for example. They are not going to thrive even at the University of Kentucky. They need an environment where people understand them and their culture.” That’s not to minimize the change in the association’s direction. Faced with a follow-up question about the traditional focus of the association, Brown said it was on strengthening members’ academics. “The focus of the ACA when it was founded and during my 25 years directing it was on academic quality,” she said in an email. “The ACA provided faculty and students resources that strengthened the academic programs of the member colleges: such as fellowships for faculty to do independent research and study, faculty-student research grants, international study opportunities, and access to library and technology resources.” Marcia Hawkins, the president of Union College in Kentucky, put the change in mission another way. “It talked about the association serving the membership,” Hawkins said of the previous mission. “Now we’re at a point where our mission says we are the association. It’s not this outside thing taking care of us. We are it. So how do we make an impact?” The association doesn’t plan to stop its traditional services like the central library and faculty fellowships. It has a $26 million endowment to support those legacy programs. Colleges and universities also pay membership fees that average about $15,000 per year per institution. The association’s annual budget is about $5 million, said Anne Ponder, who worked with the association as a consultant as it crafted its new plan and is a former chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Reorganizing association staff and improving governance could help the association do more, Ponder said. “The idea is that the costs would be a steady state, but there is the opportunity for this new purpose,” she said. Still, some presidents privately wondered how much individual institutions will buy in to the association’s new direction. Some of the association’s members are heavily dependent on the Appalachian region for students. Others draw from outside the area. The association’s next step -- hiring a president -- will be critical, said Edwin Welch, president of the University of Charleston, in West Virginia. “Because of, I think, pressure on presidents and provosts to take care of their own institutions, if you don’t have a strong consortia leader, they won’t come forth, and the organization won’t come forth and be successful and make a difference,” Welch said. “So the leadership of a consortium seems to be absolutely critical to its success.” At the end of the day, many said the re-evaluation was preferable to drifting with no defined focus or disbanding the association. Olive said surveys indicated members wanted to keep the legacy programs in place while also exploring new ways to work together. “Institutions who don’t constantly look at redefining themselves and assessing where they are, are going to be in trouble,” said Jake Schrum, president of Emory & Henry College in Virginia. “That’s a step we took. That was a smart step to take.” Image Source: Appalachian College AssociationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: