Provost's Message

Despite budgetary constraints, 2008 was a year of steady progress and significant accomplishments (many of which we have reported in this newsletter). I want to extend my thanks for the hard work, dedication, and commitment that each of you has shown in the past year. What you do is critically important to our educational mission. I hope that the 2% across-the-board increase in compensation and merit bonuses portrays our appreciation.

FIU is currently engaged in preparing the SACS Compliance Report, which is due September 2009. The SACS site visit will take place in March 2010.

We are also preparing a major upgrade to our web-based financial system to the 9.0 version and will be implementing the grants module of PeopleSoft to enhance our research and fundraising capabilities. We anticipate a go-live date of July 20, 2009.

Please join me in starting the New Year with great optimism and hope for the future of FIU.


Ronald M. Berkman
Executive Vice President and Provost

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SACS Reaffirmation - Annual Meeting Report

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) held its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, December 6-9, 2008. Eight FIU administrators, including President Maidique, joined approximately 4,000 representatives of other SACS institutions to learn the latest ways SACS is reviewing and assessing implementation of the 90 SACS principles.

The meeting was both reassuring in that FIU is making good progress on a number of SACS issues in preparation for the 2010 reaffirmation site visit and sobering in that SACS continues to raise the accreditation bar in spite of the declining resources available to all academic institutions. FIU met with other universities in the "Class of 2010" that will be evaluated for reaffirmation in 2010. The purpose of these meetings, which have been held over the past two years, is to establish some commonality in the approach of the universities to the SACS principles. As a result of the meetings, FIU will make some minor course corrections in our process, but in general we will continue on the path we have set over the past couple of years.

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Robertson Jumps into New Role as Dean of Undergraduate Education

Dr. Douglas Robertson's first week as Dean of Undergraduate Education was a flurry of activity.

By the end of the week, he had met with academic affairs and undergraduate education staff, participated in Faculty Senate and Dean's Advisory Council meetings, and attended his first FIU football game.

Dr. Robertson's primary objective in his new position is to improve the undergraduate educational experience, which will advance our goal of improving retention, graduate and performance metrics.

"My first order of business will be to listen and learn," he said. "I will be engaging in an extensive series of conversations with students, faculty, alumni, and staff to discuss the mission, vision, and long-term goals for undergraduate education at the university."

The Dean plans to explore new ways to enhance an already dynamic and rich undergraduate program. His top priorities include helping students forge important connections within the university and develop an enduring interest in lifelong learning.

Robertson earned a doctoral degree from Syracuse University in 1978, and held faculty and administrative appointments at Eastern Kentucky University, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Portland State, and Oregon State University.

The Dean launched his higher education career more than 30 years ago at a small liberal arts college. "My job and responsibilities were similar to those I have now," he said. "In many ways, although this position is new to me, I feel like I'm coming home."

A native of Oregon, Dr. Robertson is married to Dr. Sue Reimondo, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Berea College in Kentucky. His wife and 14-year-old daughter will be joining him in six months.

"Dr. Robertson brings a wealth of experience and deep institutional knowledge to his new role," said Executive Vice President and Provost Ronald A. Berkman. "He is a strong leader who will also be a great collaborator with faculty, students, staff, and administrative leadership at the university."

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FIU Faculty and Students Named Fulbright Scholars

Three FIU faculty members have been awarded Fulbright Scholar Grants enabling them to lecture and conduct research overseas for the 2008-2009 academic year. The professors are among approximately 800 U.S. faculty and professionals given grants this year by the Fulbright program.

Dr. Suzanne Koptur, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, will conduct research on the tritrophic interactions of sennas, a group of plants, at the Instituto de Ecologia in Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz State, Mexico. She will be living in the nearby village of Coatepec with her husband and two sons.

Dr. Alex Stepick, Director, Immigration and Ethnicity Institute, and Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, is conducting research with a colleague at University of Amsterdam comparing the European and U.S. experiences of second generation immigrants. His goal is to develop international collaborations with scholars who study immigration in Europe. Dr. Stepick is working with his wife, Dr. Carol Dutton Stepick, who is on leave as FIU's Director of Research in the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP).

Dr. Bianca Premo, Associate Professor, Department of History, will spend four months in Spain performing archival research, primarily in the Archivo Municipal de Toledo. Her project - a comparative history of the everyday use of the legal system and the Enlightenment in Peru, Mexico and Spain - has also been awarded a National Endowment Fellowship, a Burkhardt Fellowship, and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. While in Spain, she will be affiliated with the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha.

In addition to these faculty members, two FIU students were named Fulbright Scholars. Zipporah Slaughter, who graduated from the university in 2006, was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct ethnographic research, training, and grant writing with two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Salvador, Bahia, and Brazil.

Janna Rose, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences, received two Fulbright grants. Her first Fulbright award supports her instruction of Fulbright students in Turkey in targeted languages that are deemed critical by the U.S. government. The second Fulbright grant will fund collaborations with ethnobiologists and pharmacologists at Gazi University in Ankara to study plants' inhibitory effects against diarrhea-causing bacteria.

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Physics Department Addressing Teacher Shortage

There is a critical national shortage of qualified physics teachers. FIU is addressing that need and changing the face of physics education in South Florida with the PhysTEC project (Physics Teacher Education Coalition), one of four new PhysTEC Primary Partner Institutions that began operation in summer 2007.

The American Physical Society (APS), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) jointly launched PhysTEC eight years ago to help U.S. universities prepare more highly qualified physics teachers.

FIU PhysTEC is designed to increase the quantity and quality of physics teachers, including traditionally underrepresented minorities. Through this multi-disciplinary program, the university is poised to provide the lion's share of highly qualified physics teachers to South Florida and particularly to Miami Dade County, home to one of the largest school districts in the country.

PhysTEC uses a multilevel approach that fosters the recruitment, preparation, and long-term support of pre-service teachers.

The university recruits the top 20% of students in the introductory physics sequence and provides them with early teaching experiences that will develop their pedagogical knowledge and skills.

The program also employs a Teacher-in Residence - a high school physics teacher who spends a year at the university providing leadership and mentoring to students interested in becoming teachers and developing bridges with key faculty. This year, Jorge Gibert, an experienced teacher from Sunset High School, took a year of professional development leave to help run the project. Revitalized by the experience, he plans to return to Sunset High School in the fall.

FIU PhysTEC has had many positive effects, including transforming the physics curriculum, stimulating greater student interest in teaching as a career path, and serving as a model for other departments at FIU to build similar programs.

"We want to make FIU a superstar in physics teacher production," said Dr. Laird Kramer, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Site Leader of the FIU PhysTEC project. "Many students have the perception that teaching is a low level profession. By showing them the importance and intellectual challenge of teaching, we hope to change that perception."

PhysTEC is embedded within the university's vibrant physics research and learning community, which emerged from a multi-disciplinary team representing both the Department of Physics in the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education, and was seeded by several collaborative research grants.

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FIU's RISE Program Receives NIH Funding

The FIU Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program (RISE), part of the Minority Biomedical Research Support Program (MBRS), has been awarded nearly $4 million in NIH funding for 2008-2012, enabling the university to lead the national effort to recruit underrepresented minorities in the biomedical sciences.

The primary objectives of FIU's RISE program, now in its ninth year, are to improve graduation and retention rates and strengthen the interest, skills, and competitiveness of students in pursuit of biomedical careers.

The program accomplishes this by enhancing students' academic achievement in a solid science curriculum, integrating them into their major department and university communities, and exposing them to biomedical science and scientists.

FIU RISE supports 17 graduate and 23 undergraduate students who receive compensation for up to four years while acquiring work experience in research labs. The program also funds training workshops, travel to attend scientific meetings, and tuition for graduate students.

The traditional academic experience is enhanced through opportunities for students to participate in co-curricular activities such as technical workshops, a biomedical research symposium, and the Student Summer Research Awards.

For FIU RISE students, this experience has led to authorships in prestigious scientific journals, graduate study in the biomedical sciences, and successful research careers in academia and the private sector.

Established by the NIH more than 20 years ago, MBRS seeks to support faculty and student participation in research and encourage more underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in biomedical research.

FIU's partnership with MBRS is enhancing the university's research infrastructure and scientific competitiveness, leading the way for FIU to achieve its goal of becoming one of the top ten urban-serving public research institutions in the country by 2015.

"The MBRS RISE Program provides promising students with the career option of biomedical research that they otherwise would never have considered," said Dr. Charles Bigger, Director of the FIU MBRS SCORE and RISE programs and a Professor in Biological Sciences. "Students making that choice are given the skills and guidance that allow them to succeed."

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