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Faculty focuses on ╬Excellence'

By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 22, 2003

Starting today, faculty will have a chance to weigh in on plans for Focused Excellence.

The Earth Sciences and Environmental Programs study team will meet at noon in the Agave Room on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center to discuss how programs related to earth science and environmentalism can improve by combining their efforts.

All interested faculty are invited to join the meeting and are encouraged to come with suggestions for the team to consider in their proposal to administrators.

As part of Focused Excellence, President Peter Likins and Provost George Davis formed the ESEP study team and four other study teams to look at how interaction could improve between different departments.

"The whole purpose is to solicit input from faculty," said David Adelman, associate professor of law and a member of the ESEP study team.

One of the goals of the teams is to create more connections between programs in the university, said Nancy Huber, associate professor in the college of agriculture and life sciences.

Focused Excellence is more than these study teams. It is differentiating the UA from ASU and NAU, trying to figure out how to collaborate and build a synergy and find ways to do things better to become more excellent.
¸ Nancy Huber
associate professor in the college of agriculture and life sciences

Huber has been selected by administrators to oversee the study teams.

"The overarching goal is to look for synergy and collaboration to do the teaching and research we need," Huber said.

The other study teams focus on combining efforts in the areas of life sciences, cognitive sciences and neurosciences; journalism, communication and the media; and cultural, ethnic, gender and area studies.

The study groups will look for ways to improve academic programs at the university.

"We have to do what we can with the money we have and find ways to get more money," Huber said. "We have to be excellent in spite of (budget problems) and be excellent because of it."

Focused Excellence, which began as a part of the Arizona Board of Regents' Changing Directions Initiative in August 2002, is the driving force behind most of the changes being implemented in academic programs and administration.

"Focused Excellence includes looking at ways to do what we do better, to refocus and collaborate on things that are off the radar screen right now," Huber said.

She added that collaboration does not necessarily mean merging departments, but might mean merging ideas to create better programs within the ones that already exist.

For example, Huber said the ESEP team could look into an issue such as air pollution as it relates to health. The environmental sciences, medical and other health professors could work together, creating a joint program that would be more comprehensive than any single department's effort.

Likins sent a bulletin to faculty and staff yesterday reviewing the progress Focused Excellence has made so far.

"Focused Excellence is more than these study teams. It is differentiating the UA from ASU and NAU, raising the bar of admissions, trying to figure out how to collaborate and build a synergy and find ways to do things better to become more excellent," Huber said.

The bulletin included steps the university has already taken as well as plans for the future.

"I would guess we are two-thirds of the way through the exploration part (of Focused Excellence) and have begun the implementation part," Huber said.

Some of the steps that have already been taken include an increase in freshman admissions policies beginning in fall 2006, the creation of the enrollment management group and the elimination of some programs, including the Humanities program and the Arizona International College.

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