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Provost’s Message: Provost and Faculty Senate President on Fall Semester

Dear faculty:

Throughout the process of planning for the fall semester, the Provost’s Office and the Faculty Senate Cabinet have worked closely to develop and advance strategies designed to provide students with a high-quality learning experience while mitigating health safety risks. On the advice of faculty, our goal for this fall is to make progress in transitioning from the fully online instruction at the end of the spring semester to a new normal by the end of this academic year – one that is informed and enriched by the experience gained during the pandemic. The role of faculty choice with mode of instruction has allowed campus re-opening efforts to be led by the willing, which is an important distinction from some other universities. Faculty have worked closely with department heads to design courses to meet the challenges created by the pandemic. This approach is in keeping with the responsibility borne by faculty for delivery of Virginia Tech’s academic programs.

The work accomplished by faculty has been complicated by the need to balance our commitment to offer students as much in-person experiential learning as possible, while minimizing the risk to public health posed by COVID-19, and to do so without exceeding the resource capacity of the university. Recent Q&A sessions with the Provost and Faculty Senate this summer have provided an opportunity for faculty to ask questions and share ideas, concerns, and perspectives on how best to achieve these goals. Topics addressed during these sessions have included academic planning and instruction, campus health and safety, caregiving, and career advancement to name a few. These highly-interactive and productive discussions have been central to our planning efforts and essential to our progress, and we look forward to continuing this dialogue.

As we move into the fall semester and welcome students and colleagues back to the campus, there are sure to be additional questions and unanticipated challenges and concerns. Focused, frequent, and efficient communications with our faculty will be essential to our ability to share important information and resources, and proactively develop strategies to advance our programs, projects, and university priorities. Such communication allows us to maintain faculty choice as a cornerstone of our overall strategy.

We hope the fall semester will also help us identify new opportunities to engage students in experiential learning, both in-person and virtually, and to continue to develop their curiosity and creativity and allow them to pursue their aspirations and serve their communities. Working together to refine and advance active learning strategies in this current environment, and to do so in a transparent and engaging manner, will help us be successful in providing students with the experience and sense of community connection they expect from Virginia Tech.

The joint commitment of the Faculty Senate and the Provost’s Office to continue working together is vital to providing faculty with the information and guidance that they need to accomplish the university’s mission.  As challenging as our current circumstances may be, this partnership will bear dividends as we continue to develop the mutual trust needed for effective shared governance at Virginia Tech.

Sincerely,

Cyril Clarke and Eric Kaufman