The first staff forum of the new academic year was held on October 1. President Pelton opened the forum by inviting new staff to introduce themselves. He then provided highlights of the past year, reporting that the College ended the year with a robust surplus, which has been put into capital reserves for our current building projects.
Pelton then reported that, for the third year in a row, our total fundraising has increased. Last year, the College raised $9.1 million, three of the gifts being seven figures. He also touched on two “country-wide narratives”: race and sexual misconduct. He reminded attendees of the student protest last spring and that the College has added resources to its Title IX initiative.
He also mentioned the controversial debate surrounding trigger warnings in academia—the idea that faculty have a duty to forewarn students that content covered in class might be traumatic for them. He noted that he would consult with faculty about how to address the issue. He ended his remarks with an update on Ron Ludman’s replacement. The job title for this position has been revised to reflect the connection between student and academic affairs. Sylvia Spears (Diversity and Inclusion) is chairing the search committee and it is hoped that the position will be filled by this spring.
Next, Anna Feder (Visual and Media Arts) gave an overview of the current season of the Bright Lights screening series. Films are screened in the Bright Family Screening Room most Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 pm during the semester. The full lineup can be found at emerson.edu/brightlights. This year’s season features 27 screenings and 3 advanced screenings. Feder announced that a 4K projector has just been installed in the Bright Family Screening Room and reminded staff that 15 seats are reserved for faculty and staff at every screening. The seats are held until 6:45 pm.
Michaele Whelan (Academic Affairs) provided an Academic Affairs update. The Student Learning Committee worked with faculty to create appropriate learning goals for undergraduate and graduate students. The goals are called “the 5 Cs”: create, communicate, civically engage, and critically think. These learning outcomes have been approved by Faculty Assembly and will be published on the web in the course catalogues going forward. The next step is for the committee to see how department learning goals for the majors align with the new College-wide learning goals. Whelan then gave a brief overview of the new academic majors being launched. The BFA in Comedic Arts consists of 18 comedy classes housed in all three School of the Arts departments. The first class of students will start in Fall 2016. The Business of Creative Enterprises major will be housed in the Department of Marketing Communication. Curriculum for this major will be drawn from the entire College. Students enrolled in this program will learn how to be executives in the creative economy, building a “bridge between creativity and business acumen.”
There also two new graduate programs, an online MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing and a low-residency degree in Writing for the Screen and Television. In the pipeline are a civic media master’s degree program and a low-residency degree program for Communication Disorders students who are already doing clinical work in their jobs and are looking for the next credential. The Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies also launched a new undergraduate minor this year in African American and Africana Studies.
Alexa Jackson (Human Resources) ended the forum with an HR update. Within the next month, HR will be adopting a new “service-centered model.” This means that there will be one point person on the HR team for all staff on campus. HR’s webpages will also be updated to feature more information and Q & As.
HR has been working to create health and wellness programming and welcomes feedback from staff. The Learning and Development area has also been working on programming in addition to its management programs; look for announcements about Brown Bag Lunches and staff development workshops. Jackson also mentioned HR’s partnerships with the employee resource groups: EmCares, eQual, Fusion, the Administrative Collaborative, and the Human Resources Advisory Council. She also addressed the College’s 90-day hiring freeze, noting that it was instituted to create additional savings and that staff looking to hire someone during the freeze can submit justification and a waiver request to their VP for consideration.
The forum ended with an open discussion period led by President Pelton, during which Christina Zamon announced the start of American Archives Month. Staff asked questions about the College’s administrative structure and also made suggestions about HR policy.
We hope to see you at the next forum on November 12!
Nancy Howell (Creative Services)