University President, Provost discuss innovation, efficiency
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 00:10
The conversation among faculty and administrators moved from creating an entrepreneurial university to recognizing and improving internal efficiencies at Sam Houston State University in the second President and Provost Roundtable Discussion on Tuesday.
President Dana Gibson and Provost for Academic Affairs Jaimie Hebert led the discussion and presented a handout that outlined key ideas in creating an innovative university.
Although the discussion was to focus on innovation in creating academic programs and policies for students, several of the 60 faculty members voiced concerns with balancing innovation with bureaucracy, communication across divisions and issues with Information Technology services.
Chair of Political Science Rhonda Callaway addressed challenges becoming an innovative university with budgeting constraints.
“Working for a state institution, if you have a great ideas about X, Y and Z, you run into lots of bureaucracy to move programs forward and get things done in the department…,” she said. “There are a lot of institutional constraints that are not pliable and that can lead to levels of frustration.”
Callaway described the installation of a new lab as a “logistical nightmare” because of rule changes within the university and limitations on money, which could stagnate the ability of chairs and deans to be more innovative within their departments.
“I don’t know if it’s a good use of effectiveness to train faculty to how to get through all the purchasing, that’s for the chairs to do,” Mitchell Muehsam, dean of college of the college of business administration, said. “That is up to the communication with chairs and deans to take the load off faculty in dealing with that side. It’s more open communication to make the faculty more successful with their ideas.”
Hebert agreed with the difficulty of facing bureaucracy, but also noted the university is looking to improve these issues.
“I’ve spoken to the deans about this, being able to allocate as many resources as I can so there isn’t that set of hurdles to jump through, I think the efficiency survey we did last year through finance and operations was another attempt to alleviate a lot of those problems to help [faculty] operate efficiently.”
Gibson also countered Callaway and emphasized the importance of maintaining innovation within the university.
“Over the next the years, regional universities will be seriously different from today and being innovative will keep us ahead of the curve,” she said. “There will always be state rules but we’re looking at streamlining administrative processes.”
Faculty members also noted problems with using IT services in a shared network with students and staff, especially when it comes to research.
Gibson said IT is in the process of implementing an enterprise system rather than a local system in order to help a slow network. She said while there is not enterprise system to help address those issues, the university is working on it.
“Now we don’t have an enterprise system because we’ve never spent the funds to build an enterprise solution,” Gibson said.
Vice President for Information Technology Mark Adams elaborated on the upcoming project to create a solution.
“It’s been a two year project,” he said. “It is a changing culture on our campus. The final hardware was installed this summer so now we’re going through campus to get configured. The estimate is next summer to have it finished and allow [more flexibility].”
Other faculty members also felt communication across divisions was another issue holding back university innovation.
“When it gets challenging to be innovative when it crosses divisions,” said Kristy Vienne, assistant vice president for student services. “Whenever [someone has an idea], who am I to bring an idea back from student services to academics or another college? That may or may not be seen as collegial […] some people may think you’re telling them how to do their job.”
Chair and Associate Professor of Economics Ed Blackburne, Ph.D., also brought up concerns with the lack of shared information across divisions.
“There are policies that change so often that I don’t know what is going on,” he said. “We need to have [a definition] of what’s being done, what’s the timeline is and who has access to it.”
Both Hebert and Gibson both agreed spoke about ways to help faculty be more transparent with each other.
Hebert said the university is working on an website to make more information accessible to faculty.
“Communication is one of the things we’re trying to address with our Recruitment Retention Committee,” Hebert said. “We pull together ideas from throughout the university; agree across divisions, the major priorities for the university. I think that is critical to being an innovative university.”
However, Hebert noted that some members of faculty do not have the culture and confidence to bring ideas forward. However, Gibson offered a solution in the form of an innovation suggestion website where faculty can post their ideas and get feedback.