Welcome to the first edition of our electronic newsletter from the Office of the Provost. Our goal is to provide the university community with updated information about projects and initiatives important to academic life at FIU. There will be information about major decisions within the Provost Office, Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education, Enrollment Services as well as Research and University Graduate School. We will also recognize and honor the remarkable achievements and excellence of faculty and students.

Our next edition will address issues related to the proposed state budget and the impact on FIU. If you wish us to address a specific topic in the future, please let us know. We welcome your feedback regarding the effectiveness of this type of communication. Please send your comments to provoff@fiu.edu. Future editions of this monthly electronic newsletter will be posted on the Provost's web site.

Best wishes,

Ronald M. Berkman, Executive Vice President and Provost

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FIU President to Host Reception Honoring Faculty Research and Scholarship

FIU President Modesto A. Maidique will host a reception this April to honor FIU faculty members from a breadth of disciplines for their outstanding achievements in research and scholarship.

More than two dozen distinguished members of the FIU academic community who have garnered prestigious awards and grants, authored well-received books, and gained significant regional and national recognition for their research will be honored for their achievements.

As has been the case in the past, the event will also recognize faculty members who have contributed to the high standing of FIU's Ph.D. programs in the Academic Analytics reports, which are a national quantitative measure of faculty scholarly activity.

"We want to celebrate the accomplishments of faculty who have reached the top of their disciplines and make it clear how important they are to the university," said George Walker, Vice President for Research and Dean of the University Graduate School. Walker added, "Although FIU is a relatively new university, we are a truly robust scholarly community. That bodes very well for our reputation in the future."

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FIU Uses NSSE Results to Enhance Student Engagement with Learning

FIU participated for the first time in 2004 in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) - an annual survey of first-year and senior students that yields data on student engagement and their academic behavior and perceptions. There was mixed news coming out of the survey results.

The 300 FIU first-year and senior students who participated expressed considerable satisfaction -- higher than the national average compared with their counterparts at other academic institutions --with their classroom experiences and interactions. However, the students reported that they felt disconnected from faculty and peers outside of class and were dissatisfied with their level of access to key academic support services.

"Our NSSE results helped us to affirm that we needed to strengthen the connection of students, particularly commuter students, to faculty, their fellow students, and the university," said Rosa Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education.

To improve the level of student engagement and achievement, the university launched Virtual Student Centers (VSCs). This network of innovative online support services and tools helps students find study partners and faculty mentors, get vital information about their majors and the university, access online live tutoring and many other services.

VSCs were developed collaboratively from FIU's Title V grant, awarded to strengthen the university as a Hispanic-serving institution, and the BEAMS project (Building Equity Among Minority Students), a national initiative created by the Lumina Foundation to increase retention through student engagement.

In response to the NSSE results, the university significantly expanded Freshmen Interest Groups (FIGS) for summer students. These small, personalized learning communities cluster first-semester freshmen with similar interests. "With the expansion of the summer learning communities, FIU's first-year retention of summer students has improved about six percent," said Kandell Malocsay, director, GradXpress, Enrollment Services.

Additional resources were allocated to strengthen vital academic support services.

FIU is currently collecting data for the 2007-2008 NSSE survey. The results will be available in the summer of 2008 and we will continue to use the data to enhance the teaching and learning experience of our faculty and students.

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The Bookcase: Recent Faculty Publications

Members of the FIU academic community have made important literary contributions that extend far beyond the campus gates.

David Lee, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, was recently honored for his book Nature's Palette: The Science of Plant Color (University of Chicago Press, 2007). Lee's book was named 2007 Best of Biology and Life Sciences by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers.

"This is the first book about plant color with a scope and autobiographical tone that make it accessible to gardeners and naturalists alike," said Lee. "As scientists, it's important that we reach out and tell our story to a broad audience."

In addition to his work at FIU, Lee is Director of The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. He formerly served as Chairperson of the Department of Biological Sciences, and as founding Chairperson of the Department of Environmental Studies.

Other noted FIU faculty authors include John Clark, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of International Relations, who penned Failure of Democracy in the Republic of the Congo (Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2008).

John Stuart, Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, and John Stack, Professor and Director of the Institute for Public Policy Citizenship, co-edited The New Deal in South Florida: Design, Policy, and Community Building, 1933-1940 (University Press of Florida, 2008).

Mark Rosenberg, Chancellor of the Florida Board of Governors and former FIU Provost, wrote The United States and Central America: Geopolitical Realities and Regional Fragility (Routledge, 2007).

George Walker, Vice President for Research and Dean of the University Graduate School, co-authored The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the 21st Century with Chris M. Golde, Laura Jones, Andrea Conklin Bueschel and Pat Hutchings (Jossey-Bass - Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2008).

David Dolata, Associate Professor and Chair of Academic Programs at the School of Music, authored Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era (A-R Editions, 2006). Dolata's musical group has recorded much of the music that was the focus of his book, and a CD of this recording will be released by Toccata Classics, a London label, in June.

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Professor Kirsten Wood Named Faculty Convocation Chair

Kirsten Wood, Associate Professor of History, has been named the new Chair of the Faculty Convocation Committee. She will lead the team of volunteering faculty and staff to plan and coordinate the annual celebration of the accomplishments of FIU faculty, which is scheduled for the week of October 13-17. Professor James Sutton, who served as chair of the committee for seven years, recently stepped down from that position.

"I am delighted that Professor Wood has agreed to serve the faculty and the university as the chair of the Faculty Convocation Committee," said Ronald Berkman, Executive Vice President and Provost. "Under her leadership, our celebration of faculty excellence will continue to grow in quality and stature in the years ahead."

Faculty Convocation Week provides the university's academics with opportunities to honor their colleagues, both individually and as a group, for their achievements as educators, researchers, advisors and mentors.

Wood served as a committee member last year, which gave her an opportunity to develop ideas about how to increase faculty involvement in the planning process. One of her goals is to create a faculty subcommittee that would recommend distinguished speakers for Faculty Convocation Week.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of making this a successful event and celebrating the talent, dedication and contributions of the FIU faculty," Wood said.

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