Dean's Update - July 2012
July 26th, 2012
Dear colleagues & friends of the college,
This is the first Dean’s letter of my tenure here at North Carolina, and after a packed first few months on the job, it’s time for me to establish this regular communication with all of you. This first message will be lengthy, because there is some “scene setting” to do at this critical juncture for our College.
Since our arrival in February, Kathy and I have enjoyed the chance to meet many of the CVM community and the friends and supporters of the College. However, there are still many more connections to make. My most important early priority was to make connections with the people who work and study at the College, and during these first months I have also been able to extend the process beyond our walls. The CVM is strongly connected to the community in many ways, and enjoys huge support as a result. Our hospitals and clinics provide us with a wonderful opportunity to help people and animals, and the outstanding work of everyone connected with those efforts wins us great regard in the community. Not all of this work takes place at our home address on William Moore Drive; our programs at the Equine Health Center in Southern Pines, the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Moorehead City, our Mobile Hospital unit, and the North Carolina Zoo at Asheboro each make a key contribution to making this College unique. I have had the chance to visit all these centers in the last few months, and my growing understanding of the breadth and diversity of the work of the faculty, staff and students has increased my appreciation for why this place is so special.
Another key feature of the College is its connection to agriculture in the state, which is a critical component of what we do. Agriculture is the most important industry in North Carolina, and the College owes its existence in some large part to the support of the agribusiness community. We need to be well connected in the agricultural community, and a good partner in their animal health and welfare programs, and for productivity. I have had the chance to visit poultry facilities with Dr. Mike Martin, a swine farm with Dr. Glen Almond, and enjoy lunch with Mr. Bryan Blinson of the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association (a farm visit with Dr. Mark Alley is coming soon!). I also want to thank both the North Carolina Agribusiness Council and the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association for hosting a lunch at which CVM faculty could meet with agriculture leaders from the state. I look forward to supporting your work to ensure that the College remains a good partner for the agriculture industry in North Carolina and beyond.
If we look at the current state of affairs at the College, we have some exciting opportunities and some testing challenges in the near future. I would like to use the rest of this message to outline some of the key issues as I see them.
College strategic priorities
In April of this year the CVM adopted a new Strategic Plan, which was developed by a group of twelve faculty members. The document is detailed and comprehensive, but I’ll quote one passage from a letter written by the planning committee:
“…the ability to recruit strong faculty will require an upgrade of existing research infrastructure combined with exciting, effective teams to provide the best and most economical education to our students, the highest quality service to the public, and the research that will help solve “the grand challenges of society.” Interdisciplinary scholarship, organizational excellence and strategic local and global partnerships are avenues for leveraging additional faculty.”
This passage captures many of the key priorities for the College and identifies the opportunities for achieving our vision. With this in mind I have identified two strategic objectives under which I intend to organize College initiatives:
- Deliver an outstanding educational product to DVM and Graduate Students.
- Achieve transformational growth in our research accomplishments.
Earlier this month I prepared a Strategic Document in response to a request from the provost, which outlines some of the initiatives we can use to achieve these two strategic objectives. Faculty, staff and student engagement are critical to their success, so I urge you to take a look at the Strategic Document, and share your reactions with me.
The enrollment increase & the national debate about the supply of veterinarians
The College has been working towards increasing its class size to 100 students over several years, and that enrollment growth was approved and implemented for our incoming Class of 2016. There were several reasons for making this change, including the fact that up to one third of new DVM students from North Carolina currently go out of state for their education. If we can offer these students a DVM program here in NC, they will have access to an outstanding education at an in-state tuition rate that is close to the lowest in the country.
However, the increase in enrollment comes at a time when we are still in a severe economic downturn, and well-paying jobs for our graduates are not so easy to find. At the end of May, 2012 the National Research Council for the National Academy of Sciences published a report on the “Workforce Needs in Veterinary Medicine”, which was commissioned by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges. The results are informative, and in several instances confirm what many have suspected. Amongst the key observations it was found that there are no current widespread veterinary workforce shortages. The report also identified a decline in education and research funding, and the increasing cost of education as major challenges to the profession. Opportunities were identified for veterinary medicine to partner in interdisciplinary “One Health” responses to the challenge of global food security, and other areas where the profession needs to increase its focus were highlighted that can increase the options for our graduates. You can also find some intriguing editorials in the July 15th edition of JAVMA that address the questions generated by the report.
With these observations in mind, one has to ask: “is this the time to increase the number of veterinary graduates?” On a national or even global level, this is a complex issue, but in North Carolina the case for increasing the number of graduates from the CVM remains strong in my view. First there is the positive impact in terms of high quality and high value education for NC DVM students that I mentioned above. Our intention is to use the new spaces for in-state students whenever possible. On a broader basis I would argue that at a time when the profession faces challenges, it is even more critical that more students are trained at the best institutions, which means us. Our goal must be to produce DVM graduates that are highly competitive in a changing job market. As a leading college we need to show leadership in training students for a diverse set of careers in key areas for our profession. A high percentage of our graduates will likely still go into companion animal practice in the future, as they have in the past, but we must ensure that we equip our students to find new opportunities in public health, the global job market, biomedical research, and industry, for example. If our food production industries are going to meet their goals of producing safe food economically, while maintaining high welfare standards, it is imperative that veterinarians play strong roles. At North Carolina State University we have the resources, experience, and commitment needed, and we are much better equipped to meet these challenges than most other veterinary schools in areas such as biomedical research, companion animal medicine, production animal medicine, and One-Health interdisciplinary approaches.
I believe we can provide a great education for these new students, as we have for our past graduates. We are in the process of planning a significant evolution of our curriculum that will provide the kind of learning experiences and curricular flexibility that are needed for the new challenges our profession needs to meet. In fact, the amended new curricular plan was approved by a strong majority vote this very week. Provided we commit ourselves and our resources to achieving this goal, we can, and will, do a great job of training our new class.
Research innovation and change
At the beginning of July, the College launched the “CVM Faculty Excellence Hiring Initiative”. This program calls for cluster hire proposals from faculty, and the outcome will be a critical planning tool for achieving our goal of substantial growth in the scope and the impact of our research programs (for program details see the CVM Research webpage link entitled, “Request for Pre-Proposals for CVM Faculty of Excellence Hires”. The overall goal is to generate premier groups of existing and new faculty who will build cross-emphasis research programs that establish our college as a world leader in scientific discovery and professional training over the next several decades. One of the key components is to use an iterative process of proposal development and evaluation, thus all pre-proposals will be reviewed and everyone will be invited to resubmit full proposals. Our goal is to give and take as much feedback as possible during proposal development so that we can identify the best opportunities and synergies between different groups.
The CVM Faculty Excellence Hiring Initiative is focused on research initiatives, and the outcome will guide our strategy for research growth in the near and middle term. The question has been asked about whether and when we should use a similar strategy to develop ideas for teaching initiatives, and particularly in the face of curricular change and enrollment growth. The answers may well be “yes” and “soon”, but before we engage in such a program we need to ensure that the central framework is in place that will define the types of hiring initiatives we need to challenge the faculty to provide. This process is led by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and his team, and will depend on the outcome of curricular change implementation planning that will take place in the coming months. When we can better define specific teaching objectives in our new curriculum, it will be time to ask for proposals for how to achieve them.
Funding for growth
What resources do we have to fund our teaching and research goals? One critical source is increased funding provided by enrollment growth. We can expect these funds to come in each of the next four years. The college leadership team developed a “hiring map” for deploying the first year of these funds at a retreat held in April of this year. We strongly emphasized teaching in deploying the first year of funding, with all six faculty positions focused on supporting education in the pre-clinical and clinical components of our curriculum. The list of new faculty positions includes two novel positions at the College; a Communications faculty member and an Educationalist. These positions will be critical to support both enrollment and curricular change. We also placed an emphasis on supporting new faculty members’ programs with technical support, and in addition added five staff positions specifically to support enrollment growth. This teaching emphasis is particularly critical for the first year of the program, as we deal with the dual challenges of enrollment and curricular change.
This planning was predicated on full funding of enrollment growth and, as you may know by now, that did not happen. Across the board, enrollment growth should have brought $6.8 million to NC State, but the university only received $3.9 million. The cut of $2.9 million was distributed across three NC State programs proportionally to enrollment growth. The CVM had been expecting $1.46 million in new funds, but in fact will receive $0.96 million, a reduction of $500,000.
Fortunately we have some other options to help us respond to this challenge. First of all we have tuition premium funds to invest over the next few years, all of which will be invested in teaching. Secondly, the new dean has a start-up package that can be used to recruit some key faculty, and I plan to use the first of these positions to hire the Communications faculty member, which will significantly address the impact of the reduction in enrollment funding, and reserve those funds for other hires. Our third resource is new strategic investment funding provided this year by the Provost’s office. Taken together with other college resources, these opportunities will allow us to achieve most of the objectives of our initial hiring map, and keep the initial focus on education. In the upcoming years we will continue to address our educational goals using enrollment funding, and we will also address research growth, guided by the CVM Faculty Excellence Hiring Initiative process.
One important factor this year as we invest funds in new hires is the possibility that the College will be given the opportunity to partner in salary raises for faculty and staff for the current years. After several years with no pay increases, if that chance comes we want to have some reserves available so we can address it.
The future is not just about hiring, and we need to plan for the facilities and space that we need to grow our teaching and research endeavors. Many renovations and remodels are underway, or nearing completion, to address the initial needs of enrollment growth, but we need to do more as our 100-student classes progress towards graduation. We have charged a committee to plan for further remodeling of the Health & Wellness center to expand clinical programs and teaching space. On the research front, Dr. Kate Meurs and I recently met with both the Space committee and the Research Committee and asked for their recommendations on how to balance opportunities for deploying current research space, renovating the third floor of the main building, and developing new space in the Flex building. We are also looking at remodeling administrative space to better accommodate the department offices, and expand student services. So, expect to see some dust over the next year or two!
In talking to faculty and staff in my first months here, one consistent theme is a concern for how we can nurture and sustain the College culture. A big reason this program has achieved so much is because of the personal leadership that everyone who works here has shown; the sense of responsibility to do a great job and to treat each other well while you do it. This is what makes people want to work their whole careers here, and is a huge reason we can attract the best and the brightest to join our team. So, what’s the problem? Well, the environment has changed, we have new buildings that can radically change the work place dynamic, and threaten that key “sense of belonging”. We are bigger, and it’s tougher to know who everybody is and what they do. That makes it harder to understand each other, and perhaps to care about each other sometimes. My personal view is that having a strong College culture is perhaps the greatest asset we have. We need it to achieve our mission and, importantly, to overcome the inevitable challenges and keep a sense of pride in working here. It goes without saying that a strong College culture is not created with a memo. We all play a role in sustaining it every day in how we act; remember we are all role models for someone. My hope is that by having an open and consensus-building approach to leadership we can build engagement and a sense that the College belongs to everyone. Above all we need to communicate, make time for meetings, go to each other’s talks and seminars, and take a minute to ask how your colleague is doing. The Dean’s office is going add some more opportunities to hear opinions and concerns; we are initiating town hall style meetings for staff and for faculty on a biannual basis, and I am going to form a group of faculty, staff and students with rotating membership to give me guidance on what’s on people’s minds in the College. We are planning on having a monthly social gathering here at the College – the first one is on August 17th. There is no one thing that will get us there, you literally do need a little magic for this one, but above all we need to remember that investing some time in sustaining our culture is always a top priority.
I’ll return to these themes in future messages, as they will remain amongst the key issues for the College as we move forward. In the next message I want to make Development an important theme for discussion, but let’s keep that for another edition. As for myself, in the near term I’ll be traveling back to Fort Collins for the Veterinary Educators Conference this July, and then to San Diego for the AVMA meeting in August. We will soon welcome the Class of 2016, our first 100-student class. I am looking forward to seeing as many of the College community as possible at the welcome back event on Friday, August 17th!
All the best,
D. Paul Lunn, BVSc, MS, PhD MRCVS,Dip. ACVIM
Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine
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