College of Arts and Sciences, USF

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Dean's Annual Report
[04.15.2013]

Our Mission

The University of South Florida aims to be a high-impact, global research university committed to student success. The College of Arts and Sciences supports that aspiration by striving to graduate our students in a timely manner and prepare them for work and for life, and by supporting and promoting faculty research that makes a positive impact on the world. As Dean, it is my job to help us to stay focused on these strategic goals.

Strategic Investment in Excellence

Despite difficult economic conditions, our commitment to our strategic vision and your exceptional performance has given us much to celebrate this year. For example, we recently completed the hiring of 84 incredibly qualified faculty, including 10 STEM faculty funded through differential tuition clustered specifically in the areas of computation and science education.  Moreover, two of our graduate programs ranked in the top 25 in the nation this year, according to U.S. News & World Report. Our industrial psychology program is ranked fourth in the nation and continues to be highly selective.  Our master’s program in library and information sciences is ranked 24th in the nation.

Student Success

I want to thank our faculty for their commitment to our students, the impact of which is reflected in the number of national awards they have received this year. Christie Campla, a double major in CMMB and Spanish, was selected as an NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholar. Sarah Sharfstein, a double major in Anthropology and Communication, received the Critical Language Scholarship given by the US State Department. We had two students receive Fulbright Awards:  Joanna Rozpedowski, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Government and International Affairs, and Brad Samore, who is pursuing a B.A. in international affairs. Two students received the NOAA Hollings Scholarship: Elaina Graham (CMMB and Anthropology double major) and Nadia Tenouri (IB major). Additionally, one of our  Physics students, Alex Ruiz, has received numerous offers from top physics programs in the world. Alex recently told us he has accepted a fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, and will begin working toward his Ph.D. just a few weeks after he graduates next month.

Also this year, the revitalized Department of Women’s and Gender studies has increased its number of majors and created a well-received internship program, which places undergraduates in internships around the Tampa Bay region. The Department of English’s online resource for writers, The Writing Commons, reached more than 100,000 users this year. The department continues to develop tools to facilitate the peer review process online, which has assisted in reviewing 90,000 essays in the First-Year Composition program. The USF SMART lab has been an overwhelming success for our students and also has energized and empowered the faculty in mathematics. The Provost’s investment in computer-assisted instruction has paid off handsomely in improved passing rates in college algebra and is showing signs of improvement in intermediate algebra, finite mathematics and pre-calculus. Last year’s pass rates for college algebra increased from 63 percent to 77 percent and withdrawal rates decreased from 18.5 percent to 2 percent. Several other departments have expressed interest in using the facilities as part of course redesign.

Helping our students to succeed requires a rigorous focus on both the relevance of our curriculum and the quality of our instruction. To address the first concern, we seek to create a dynamic catalog of courses for our students, even if this means restructuring our programs. Many of the industries in which our students plan to seek employment are in turmoil, and we need to be nimble in adapting to the changing world. With this in mind, this year we did the following:

  • Established the School of Public Affairs, bringing together our graduate programs in public administration and urban and regional planning. This school will launch the college’s first market-based executive master’s degree in public administration this August and is in the process of developing an undergraduate major in organizational leadership.
  • Made the decision to let the voluntary accreditation for the School of Mass Communications  lapse, paving the way to explore creative new directions for the curriculum that include possible synergies with the School of Information, all of which will enhance our students’ preparation for the ever-changing mass communications industry. I have received many emails from our alumni and media professionals in Tampa Bay, and 100 percent are in support of this new direction.
  • Sought and received BOT approval for separate doctoral programs in cell and molecular biology and integrative biology. The next step is for the Florida Board of Governors to consider these additions. These new degrees will replace the current Ph.D. in biology, and are a much better reflection of both student interest and employment opportunities in and outside of academia.
  • Explored possible changes to the fields of Geology and Geography, Environment and Policy to strengthen interdisciplinary teaching and research. There is a proposal under review to create a new unit comprised of these components, which if approved will provide exceptional new opportunities for students at all levels.

We also had the opportunity to move some of our departments on campus to the renamed College of Arts and Sciences Multidisciplinary Complex (CMC). This building now houses the Departments of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics, and Women’s and Gender Studies. CMC is home to the university’s Advanced Visualization Center, and now houses the Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies.

High-Impact Research and Scholarship

It is evident we have faculty engaged in high-impact, meaningful research, both locally and around the world. The media has taken notice of the good work our faculty are doing, resulting in positive press, and in some cases, additional external funding. Erin Kimmerle’s forensic anthropology work at the Dozier School has received national attention, with multiple stories on The New York Times, in addition to extensive coverage in the state of Florida. David Jacobson’s recent book, “Of Virgins and Martyrs” has received international attention and has been featured in some of the most popular newspapers in France and Germany. Philip Levy and his students in the Department of History have been featured in the local papers about their work with the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Museum. Our faculty continue to find solutions to better the world, one example being the work of USF chemists and scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, who have discovered a more efficient, less expensive and reusable material for carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and separation. Their discovery was featured in the journal Nature.

We continue to have faculty receive distinctions that are acknowledged by the AAU. In December, we were thrilled to learn that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) named 15 USF faculty members AAAS Fellows. Eight of the 15 selected are from the College. USF had more fellows named this year than Harvard, Duke, USC and UF. Congratulations to: Susan Bell, Jim Garey, Lorena Madrigal, Earl McCoy, George Nolas, Richard Pollenz, John Skvoretz and Peter Stiling. From the Department of Physics, Jiangfeng Zhou received the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship and Andreas Muller received the competitive NSF-CAREER Award.  Associate Professor Colin Heydt of the Department of Philosophy received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and will spend the 2013-2014 academic year at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world’s leading centers of research in sciences and humanities.

A week ago, French Literature Professor Christine Probes received the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques award from France. She is only the eighth American to win the award.

Exceptional Staff

While students and faculty tend to get all the public kudos, it is our professional staff that are most responsible for making everything that we achieve a reality. This year, four of our staff were recognized with Outstanding Staff awards, specifically Michael Abrahams (webmaster), Brandon Kroll (academic adviser), Autumn Mueller (director of advising) and Kevin Slaughter (senior groundskeeper). Our staff make us all successful by embracing an attitude of support and creative problem-solving in an environment of limited resources.  Positive economic news makes me optimistic that this coming year our staff will once again receive well-deserved financial rewards which have been absent the past few years.

Community Engagement

Our efforts to engage and partner with the Tampa Bay community are impressive, and I thank everyone who works tirelessly to strengthen our College’s “town and gown” connections. The College remains committed to bringing in leading intellectuals to Tampa Bay for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. We continue to host the Frontier Forum lecture series with support of the Office of the Provost and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. This year’s Frontier Forum has been a huge success, as we hosted famed futurist and physicist Michio Kaku, documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy and biological anthropologist Helen Fisher. On April 18, we’ll have our final Frontier Forum lecture featuring Anthony Appiah, who is a well-known philosopher of ethics and political science.

We are in the process of finalizing a memorandum of understanding with the Joint Special Operations University at MacDill Air Force Base that will allow for student-faculty exchange and joint research and teaching opportunities. This new relationship with JSOU will add to our existing work with Central Command and deepen our exploration of the potential convergence of military and academic missions around development and diplomacy.

The Humanities Institute has had another impressive year of events that show the importance of celebrating the humanities. This year they hosted two Distinguished Scholars-in-Residents, Nell Irwin Painter, a prominent historian, and Jorie Graham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of poetry at Harvard.

For the first time, USF hosted the popular TEDx event on campus. It was highly competitive to be selected to present at this event, and CAS was well represented by Randy Borum, Ph.D. (School of Information), Patrizia La Trecchia, Ph.D. (World Languages), Raven Villegas (CAS alumna) and Jordan Zimmerman (CAS alumnus, BOT member). About 100 people attended this event, and each presentation was live streamed and uploaded to the TEDx YouTube channel, which has more than 327,000 subscribers.

Telling the CAS Story

I continue to work at getting better in telling the story of our College. This can prove to be a daunting task because there is such a diversity of excellence and accomplishment in CAS. A common thread running through all of our departments is that we are truly innovative in all that we do, which has led to our “power of innovative thinking” messaging. You’ll see more of this in the fall.  This year, we have been proactive in seeking out opportunities to tell our story. We spoke about our research strengths at the Board of Trustees Research Workgroup in November. We also organized our very first College of Arts and Sciences Showcase, where members of the USF Foundation spent the afternoon with us and heard first-hand from some of our faculty and students about the exciting things happening in our College. This was a huge success, and many people told us as they were leaving, “This is incredible--I had no idea you did that.” We are planning to do more showcases next year for specific audiences: Media, USF administration and prospective donors.

We have a renewed energy in our Office of Development with the hiring of Nico Karagosian and Elisa Jackson. They are making tremendous strides in cultivating relationships with our alumni and sharing our story. As we move forward, we will continue to seek out support from alumni and private foundations and begin telling our story that can sit alongside the message of athletics and health.

The College continues to use social media strategically to share exciting things happening in CAS, such as groundbreaking research and student success stories. We also use it to engage with students and connect with alumni through viral video posts, images, contests, memes and humor. Our communications and marketing office has done a great job with this, their work was featured on the front page of the Tampa Bay Times and the cover of tbt*.

Our Dean’s Office Internship Program, under the leadership of Michele Dye, has seen a huge increase in the number of applicants to the program and has increased the retention rate, resulting in a very competitive selection process. This internship program allows students from all majors to gain hands-on experience in the areas of communication and marketing. Interns also have the opportunity to attend exclusive workshops to add to their skill set. They are provided with many networking opportunities with both USF administrators and faculty, and local industry leaders. Through this program, we are cultivating meaningful relationships with these students and providing them a personalized experience at USF.

As I look to the year ahead, I will continue to do all that I can to position our college to be successful. A strong College of Arts and Sciences is critical to us achieving our vision of becoming an outstanding, well-known, global research university.

Eric M. Eisenberg, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Communication



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Author: Eric M. Eisenberg
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