President’s Brief - October 2023General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III
October 27, 2023
I hope this email finds you well. In my first few months in office, I spent a lot of time listening and learning about our university — what was going well and what wasn't. Your thoughts and feedback helped shape my decisions on the quick-look recommendations, which are now moving forward with assigned leads. As promised, I plan to provide periodic updates on those action items, with the first update in the message that follows. My hope is that now that these decisions are in motion, we can start looking forward, through the windshield, and not get stuck staring into the rearview mirror.
One of our initial areas of focus is how we recruit the best and the brightest future Aggies from all walks of life. Despite our year-over-year enrollment growth as a university, we continue to underserve certain populations. We need to change this. We know there are highly qualified students who are choosing other schools or not going to college at all.
Next week, I'm hosting a recruitment summit with individuals from the university, including our student body, and from the communities we serve to jumpstart our efforts on this front. The summit is just the beginning of what will be continued discussion and planning to ensure top students across every population fall in love with Texas A&M the way we all have. I'm excited to share updates with you soon on this important endeavor.
In addition to our undergraduate recruitment efforts, here are three important things you should know right now:
QUICK-LOOK IMPLEMENTATION: Many of our leads tasked with moving quick-look assessment decisions forward have made great progress. I plan to provide monthly status updates with you all via this regular email communication and will also provide a comprehensive list of actions and associated status updates online (click the plus sign to expand overarching areas to see decisions, leads, deadlines and status updates). Below are a few relevant updates of interest:
- As you are aware, we're elevating the role of the provost to executive vice president and provost to clearly identify this position as the university's second-in-command. As part of that, we're making significant changes to the Office of the Provost. Dr. Alan Sams and team have been in contact with respective leaders and employees of units that will be realigning under the Office of the Provost. These organizational realignments are planned for completion by Nov. 1.
- The Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness has sought feedback from the university community on common hire dates and onboarding. To date, more than 650 responses have been shared through an online survey, which remains open through 5 p.m. today, and meetings are being hosted weekly by a multifunctional committee to reevaluate current schedules and processes.
- In the Division of Marketing and Communications, a task force is developing recommendations on how the division will implement operational supervision, focusing on customer-oriented service. The task force is also evaluating the current structure, roles and responsibilities to streamline processes for colleagues across the university. I anticipate reviewing the draft recommendations soon, which will be provided to the division's incoming vice president (whose hiring will be announced in the next week) to determine next steps.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT RESTRUCTURING: With the quick-look actions in motion, I'm also taking a closer look at the structure of the Office of the President. When I came in as acting president this summer, I was surprised to find that there were less than a handful of individuals with full-time appointments in the office, me included. All other individuals who supported the Office of the President reported to a vice president and juggled additional responsibilities of their “home” unit. My vision for the Office of the President is a small, nimble group of people who directly support the day-to-day efforts of the president. This team should work alongside me in providing administrative leadership and support for the university's executive team. To help support these efforts, I've asked Dr. Susan Ballabina to serve as my chief of staff. Susan has nearly 30 years of experience with The Texas A&M University System and has a vast knowledge of this university and how we can proactively collaborate to better serve our faculty, staff and students. I know Susan's appointment will be beneficial to not only me as I navigate new waters in this role, but also to the entire office staff and our university leadership team. I'm thankful she's agreed to be my right hand in this. I will share additional updates on the office restructuring in the near future.
SEARCH FOR PERMANENT DEANS: As I stated in some of my initial meetings as acting, and then interim president, I see no reason for us to hold off on the search for permanent deans. Our faculty and students deserve stable leadership in their schools, and we will press forward with these critical positions. Here is the latest on the respective searches for these academic leaders:
- College of Arts and Sciences: Finalists for the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will be on campus for interviews next week, and we hope to have a permanent dean named by the end of the semester.
- College of Engineering: The search advisory committee for the vice chancellor for engineering and dean of the College of Engineering will be holding first-round interviews in early November. On-campus interviews for search finalists are tentatively set to take place after the Thanksgiving break.
- School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts: Robert Ahdieh, dean of the School of Law, has been named chair of the search advisory committee, and the process to identify the committee members is underway.
- School of Architecture: The search for the next dean of the School of Architecture will launch in early November. The search advisory committee will be announced in the coming weeks.
- Bush School of Government and Public Service: The search for the next dean will be initiated in the coming weeks with the anticipation of having a new dean identified this fiscal year.
In closing, I'm incredibly optimistic about what's ahead for Texas A&M. There are a lot of moving parts to enact the administrative and operational decisions that will strengthen our university, and I thank each of you who have a hand in implementing these changes. We need to stay focused on the task at hand, but let's also start planning for our future … defining our priorities, our academic and research identity, and focusing on those things that unify, rather than divide us. I look forward to collaborating with each of you on a vision for the future, and hope you're making plans to attend the State of the University on Nov. 29.
Finally, please don't forget to participate in the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), which closes on Oct. 31. I hope you'll join me in contributing to close out this year's SECC strong! You can participate by making a payroll deduction or explore other opportunities to give in support of this campaign.
Please take a moment to read on to see a few of the many extraordinary things happening across our campuses thanks to your hard work. We have so much to be proud of! And don't forget, I'm monitoring firstname.lastname@example.org and want to hear from you — your questions, thoughts and ideas are encouraged.
General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III, Interim President
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