A few weeks ago, I had back-to-back opportunities to see the future leaders of America in action. On June 5, I participated in a virtual forum on Civil Unrest in America with the Paterson Youth Council. On June 6, I joined hundreds of youth, and adults, as part of the Black Lives Matter March in Wayne. At the former, their straight talk spoke volumes on the insidiousness of inequality: “I’m light-skinned, so I am able to pass;” “Yes, I have experienced racism in [pick a place or circumstance; they shared many];” and “My school counselor pushed me to community college even though my parents and I knew I could get into Princeton.” At the latter, youth carried signs such as: “See my color” and “My skin is not a threat,” as well as “Have to listen, amplify, be an ally,” and “I understand that I can’t understand, but I stand.” Collectively, in both contexts, I saw middle schoolers and high schoolers finding common strength, and common voice, that what’s not right needs fixing and they wish to be part of changing it.

Not long from now, we will invite youth, and adults, back to our educational community. The ways in which we deliver our mission will have a different look and feel (the Fall 2020 Instructional Plan will be posted shortly to the Provost’s Office website ), but its fundamentals remain the same: namely, transforming lives and creating opportunity. Whether you are a faculty member or a staff member, I invite you to be part of this community of action. A few weeks ago, we graduated the Class of 2020, one that will forever be known as the pandemic graduates. Soon the Class of 2024 will join us. Let’s make this a memorable experience for them, in a positive way, and nurture that voice, that commitment to change, and that willpower to push us, the gatekeepers.
Academic News

What did we learn about the Spring 2020 teaching and learning experience?

Shortly after the end of the spring semester, we surveyed all students and faculty about their spring learning experience. A total of 1,334 undergraduate and graduate students responded. Among the key findings were these:

  • Their courses were roughly 40 percent synchronous distance, 40 percent asynchronous distance, and 20 percent that were a mix of both.
  • A substantial majority of students (75 percent) were either satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with their experience. Among the three forms of distance education, asynchronous was rated somewhat higher than synchronous, with differences in this direction more pronounced for particular subpopulations. Graduate students were the one subpopulation reporting noted greater satisfaction with synchronous over asynchronous.
  • The top two reasons noted for a best course experience were (1) flexible due dates and (2) workload adjustment given circumstance. For a worst course experience, the top two were (1) increased workload and (2) difficulty engaging in discussion. Finally, the top two challenges confronted were (1) work schedules that changed and (2) family and/or childcare responsibilities.
  • The numerous qualitative comments provided a valuable window into the ratings. What was most heartening was the extent of appreciation expressed for faculty creativity and the empathy they expressed, which appeared to be a major factor in learning outcome achievement as well as student motivation to work harder and persevere.

In addition to receiving the student perspective, faculty were also surveyed about their spring experience and about their perception of the student experience. Among the key findings were these:

  • Technology tool familiarity was cited as the highest challenge for faculty. Faculty felt that this was also a high challenge for students, but that they also confronted the highest challenge with regard to having a reliable device (computer or mobile) and internet connectivity.
  • A substantial majority, or 75 percent, of the faculty were extremely or very satisfied with their performance as an online instructor, and 65 percent felt their skills were stronger or much stronger.
  • The qualitative comments provided an insightful window into not only the moment of the pivot, but the ways in which faculty and students adapted over time to address issues or challenges. There were substantial comments about the valuable support of the staff in IRT and IT, among others.

The detailed quantitative and qualitative findings for both of these surveys are posted to the News and Events link on the Provost’s Office website . The faculty qualitative comments are also broken out for full-time and adjunct faculty.
What are the Fall 2020 Instructional Plan?

With the extensive and multi-week engagement of Academic Affairs leadership, as well as faculty leadership, the plan for fall instruction is now in place, and informed by the recently statewide restart standards . The specifics of the William Paterson plan will be discussed at the upcoming Town Hall and shortly be posted to the Provost’s Office website . In brief, the fall semester will be a mix of online and on-campus instruction, and we will seek to maintain the integrity of the freshmen cohort experience on campus, as well for courses that have other critical on campus needs such as labs and studios, as much as possible.

In addition, contingency elements are integrated that consider the unique health circumstances of both faculty members and students, and as emergent issues may require. Furthermore, a coordinated plan for on-campus group assignment per the above is planned to aid in the reduction of the overall numbers of students on campus at one time as well as the number of different students with whom one might come in contact on a given day.

The virtual Town Hall is planned for this Thursday, July 2, and will provide information and a Q&A opportunity on the safe return for staff and faculty to the campus (12:00 to 12:30 p.m)., the Fall Instructional Plan and calendar (12:30 to 1:15 p.m.) and how residence life will work (1:15 to 1:45 p.m.). Here is the link to connect: https://wpunj.edu/president/facultystafftownhall . Furthermore, IRT, CTE, and the colleges have in place, and are expanding, resources to support faculty preparation, including with a core element, engaged learning, that is intended to be broadly present for on-campus moments.
Facts & Figures

  • Number of WP Online programs launching in the next six months: 16
  • Number of bachelor’s/master’s tracks at William Paterson (i.e., 4+1 or 3+2): 50
  • Number of new certificate programs approved by the Board of Trustees in June that build value for students within or outside a major: 26
“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“In the rush to return to normal, let's use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” –David Hollis, author and former head of Disney film distribution

“We will forever be the COVID-19 generation…As we continue life’s many journeys, may we practice social justice and equity for all that is right and good for humanity. Here’s to finding and bringing out the best in each of us!!” –Mark Ellis, professor of sociology, in his closing email to the students in his Sociology 1010 class this spring
The Provost’s Office is Meg, Lissette, Claudia T., Claudia C., Jonathan, Sandy, and Josh. You can reach us at 973.720.2122 • provost@wpunj.edu
We may be working remotely, but we are accessible to you! 
Office of the Provost | 973.720.2122 | provost@wpunj.edu