Experience St. Lawrence Task Force Update | St. Lawrence University President's Office

Experience St. Lawrence Task Force Update

Dear Laurentian Friends:

At its December meeting, the St. Lawrence Board of Trustees enthusiastically accepted the report of the Experience St. Lawrence Task Force, chaired with energy and wisdom by Sarah Johnson '82 Professor of Biology and Psychology Ana Estevez and Trustee Lee Bailey '74. You know from our September 25 communication, Administrative Structure Changes, that a variety of proposed initiatives already had been put in motion. The trustees also happily noted the momentum that has already started to build in consideration of innovative academic programs and structures. 

After the holidays, I invited members of the senior staff to meet with me to review the recommendations of the Task Force Report and to establish priorities and decision paths for implementation, whether the recommendations be shared governance matters, faculty governance discussions, or administrative responsibilities.

Academic Restructuring and New Majors
As a matter of shared governance that delegates curricular responsibilities to the University’s academic division and faculty, the recommendations around academic restructuring and developing new majors, Faculty Council convened in late fall an Academic Planning Committee. This new committee expands the scope of the less formal dean’s staffing committee of past years. In its charge, regular reports to Faculty Council are expected. The Academic Planning Committee will consider the Task Force recommendation of restructuring departments for improved cross-disciplinary offerings and greater intellectual synergy. This committee will also take measure of how new majors and divisional restructuring will positively affect admissions. Further, it must take the strategic perspective of faculty staffing levels.

Prospective new majors in Data Science and Finance have been discussed by the campus Academic Affairs Committee and have been or will be presented to the Faculty Council and faculty very soon. New major proposals in Digital Media and Film and Pre-Health Chemistry have been recently submitted to the Academic Affairs Committee. Major proposals in Public Health, Environmental Science, and Biomedical Science are expected to be shared with the Academic Affairs Committee in the coming weeks. A new post-baccalaureate pre-med program is the topic of an interdisciplinary group of faculty colleagues, and faculty and administration colleagues have commissioned a market analysis to understand the potential of online Master’s programs.

We all expect that the Academic Planning Committee will complete its main work before the May trustee meeting. The timing between this project and the beginning of new the president’s tenure is essential as the challenges of the 2020s become vivid.

Senior staff agrees with the Task Force that retention is an urgent initiative. Four recommendations of the Retention Planning Group report include:

  • Restore the fourth Res-Life Coordinator position (previously eliminated in budget trimming)
  • Invest further in Sophomore Journeys
  • Invest in comprehensive software for student retention management
  • Create a Wellness office, beginning with a Wellness Coordinator for student programs

Our discussion focused on these initiatives and those which would have the greatest effect on retention for Fall 2021 since we anticipate immediate challenges to student retention related to the pandemic. The group readily agreed to designate a permanent Retention Coordinator who would bring together several shared lines into a singular daily responsibility. This person will also act on the pending list of priority recommendations. The senior staff is committed to creating this position and filling it before the February ‘21 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Recommendations from the Task Force report have moved forward. Darrin Goodrow has been appointed Chief Information Officer and David Ludwig now begins his work as Director of IT Applications and Infrastructure. The staff is now engaged in the work to migrate Colleague to the Cloud, with agreement from Ellucian to continue its support of the older version of Colleague until we fully migrate. Other recommendations, such as upgrading Raiser’s Edge, are now entered as capital budget proposals.

Cost Reduction Ideas
The Task Force report has numerous suggestions for cost containment and avoidance; these will be considered in the development of the FY22 annual operating budget, customarily proposed at the May Board meeting.

The Duties of the Vice President for Community and Employee Relations
In hockey parlance, Lisa Cania is the team’s hat-trick specialist. She covers three or more areas of administrative duties every day. Knowing Lisa’s plan to retire from her position in summer 2021, the primary duties she has held will be redistributed as follows:

  • The Human Resources office will join the team in the Finance & Administration Division that now includes, Budget, Finance, Facilities, Information Technology, and Dining Services under the leadership of the Chief Business Officer
  • Title IX compliance, which includes administering all campus policies and training, will be assigned to the Division of Student Life, with a Title IX officer to be named later
  • Community Relations, which include local matters, but also state and federal government relations will be directed by the Vice President for University Communications
  • The corporate office of University Secretary will be assigned this spring

The St. Lawrence campus, in spite of our COVID circumstances and protocols, is not waiting for “normal” to return. Rather, it is running with deliberate pace toward creating a more confident and strategic day on the other side of the pandemic. As I have repeatedly said, at St. Lawrence, we keep going. No slowing down. No turning aside to wait for the perfect day. Rather, we are creating now, all on our own, that better day of our seeking.


Bill Fox