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Imagine 2022 update: Initiative IV

From staff reports

Asbury University’s Imagine 2022: Vision for Faithful Change is nearly halfway through its implementation and has already made a tangible and heartful impact on the Asbury community and campus infrastructure. According to the university, Initiative IV of the strategic plan — titled “Explore” — serves to “recruit, retain and develop outstanding teacher-scholars committed to academic achievement and student success.”
Since its last update in June, Initiative IV has seen progress and the revised faculty development plan was partially implemented in the fall 2018 semester and faculty and student engagement is continuing to be promoted and enhanced.
According to Academic Dean Tim Campbell, monetary, infrastructure and programming updates have been made within the revised plan, providing new support for faculty development. Professors now have clearer ways to engage in the professional development dollars available to them for conference travel, and new efforts have been made to provide supportive programming.
Among those efforts, there is increased grant-writing support, faculty book receptions and a specially curated evening dedicated to celebrating significant faculty scholarship. Also, faculty allotment dollars have seen a nearly 170 percent increase from previous years, providing more discretion to the professor for oversight of their advancement.
The recently enacted plan now provides improved clarity for faculty on how to apply for research grants and other development and scholarship activities.
Dr. Timothy Wooster, who serves as Asbury’s provost, finds that Initiative IV is working to create an even more vibrant campus environment.
“A comprehensive faculty development plan cultivates academic excellence and engenders best practice,” Wooster said. “Exploration and implementation of professional development opportunities impact the quality and relevance of our student experience. At Asbury, we want a campus culture which celebrates scholarship, values educational innovation, inspires students and encourages creative application. In my first semester at Asbury, I am impressed by a faculty deeply committed to their craft. They are deserving of the support, affirmation and resources they need to thrive as expert educators. This new initiative has my full endorsement.”
Another facet of the plan is a faculty reading group that meets several times each semester to discuss pedagogy. Right now, the group is coincidentally reading through and discussing a work edited in part by Dr. James K.A. Smith entitled “Teaching and Christian Practice: Reshaping Faith & Learning.” The group has seen much interest with a waiting list filled through spring 2020.
For Campbell, the importance of the faculty development plan is obvious.
“The student experience coheres in the faculty-student relationship,” Campbell said. “It’s my sense the success of this is part and parcel dependent upon full and supportive resourcing.”
Campbell notes that there’s been an increased interest in Asbury’s annual academic symposium SEARCH, fulfilling point one of the initiative which seeks to promote undergraduate research. SEARCH is also continuing to promote faculty and student engagement as participating students seek out faculty sponsors to oversee their work.
In the coming months, the administration will set its sights on unpacking point three of Initiative IV, which focuses on the recruitment and retention of faculty. Conversations over the next several months will focus on the challenges of recruitment and retention as well as action steps for how to improve in those areas.
Though time will tell, the University hopes its renewed commitment to faculty recognition and support will make an impression on the hearts of its professors. In addition to faculty development opportunities, the University is setting aside time at events for Asbury Faculty-Scholars in order to honor the academic achievements of professors.
With a handful of professors serving upwards of 30 years, the institution has always had a deep appreciation for the hard work of faculty members but is now taking thoughtful action to make sure it’s well-expressed, thanks to Initiative IV.
Campbell is excited to see how the initiative will continue to create tangible ways to strengthen and highlight Asbury’s commitment to academic excellence.
“Asbury is deliberately looking at how to continue to support academics,” Campbell said. “[There’s] new initiative, new attention, new time and tasks assigned to get it done. That’s a good thing for everyone in the Asbury family.”