Early this year, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Provost Dr. Steven Lerman announced a restructuring of his office, creating two new associate provost positions, and new opportunities for university faculty interested in academic administration.
“We should involve more faculty in aspects of academic governance,” Lerman said. “Doing so would give them a better sense of how NPS runs, and could provide us with a larger pool of faculty who have the experience to take on additional leadership positions in the future.”
The decision was prompted by the retirement of previous associate provost Paula Jordanek, who ran the faculty management and administration functions for education from 2007 through early 2018.
“Her decision to retire led me to a rethinking about how the various functions in my office might best be structured,” Lerman added. “Primary among these is the impending re-accreditation process in 2020, which opens the door for our new provosts to laser focus on those things in our own processes to align with the highest accreditation standards.”
With the selections announced in April, Dr. Michael Freeman will now serve as Associate Provost of Faculty Affairs, along with Dr. Ralucca Gera serving as Associate Provost of Graduate Education.
What both Gera and Freeman bring to the table in their new roles, they say, is a fresh perspective straight from the trenches of teaching, where recent achievements include launching new academic certificate programs, working closely with fellow faculty and department chairs, service on the Faculty Council, and advocating for an adaptive teaching approach in the classroom.
“I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity to support educational effectiveness at NPS, and to engage the academic community to provide an impactful educational experience for our students,” said Gera, a professor in the university’s Department of Applied Mathematics.
“I also look to create a meaningful and fulfilling graduate education in this technology-driven environment, as I will promote creative use of resources,” she continued. “For example, I use TED talks to stimulate students' thinking before coming to class, which promotes curiosity even before the classroom conversation.”
Part of Gera’s educational vision is to enhance the student's technical abilities based on adaptive teaching, flexible learning, and student-teacher centered education.
“I promote differentiated learning by allowing students to progress through some topics and homework assignments at different speeds and depths, based on their skills, abilities and interests,” Gera said.
Gera has hit the ground running, taking one of her top priorities straight from the pages of NPS’ new 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. The initiative is to establish the NPS Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC), developing new resources and integrating existing ones to support enhanced quality and innovation in graduate education.
“The main goal for the TLC is to expand resources supporting teaching innovation that engage the students and empower faculty to provide relevant and unique, advanced graduate education,” Gera noted, who has already led her first campus-wide town hall forum on the TLC, and will hold her second Open Forum on the classroom of the future, June 12.
As Gera leads a campus-wide effort in establishing the TLC, Freeman has his sights focused on one of the university’s persistent, and critically-important, issues ... recruiting and retention.
“I see my job as working for the faculty, on behalf of the provost, at improving the overall excellence of faculty at NPS,” explained Freeman, a professor in NPS’ Department of Defense Analysis. “That includes issues of recruitment and retention, as well as overall morale and any issues that would affect morale.
“Basically, I want to make sure NPS recruits the best faculty, and gives them all the resources they need to excel, and retain them in the face of competition from other universities and industry,” he continued. “NPS needs the best faculty possible if we are going to teach and do research in the ever-changing areas relevant to the Navy, DOD and its partners.”
Freeman says there are several issues that are important to faculty, but he doesn’t see his perspective on them changing with his new position.
“I come to this job, first and foremost, as a faculty member, rather than an administrator,” he said. “I have been on the ‘front lines’ with all my other faculty colleagues for the past 13 years teaching students, working on publications, performing research, and running a large reimbursable project.
“I feel like I understand many of the issues faculty face, or that I am at least capable of understanding those I have not yet experienced myself,” he continued. “And as the past Faculty Chair, I have been exposed to a lot on the administrative side as the faculty representative on various committees.”
Freeman says he has quickly learned to rely on the Faculty Administration team, formerly Academic Planning. “They are really the secret weapons ... That team keeps everything related to faculty recruiting, hiring, appointments, etc. all running smoothly.”
As NPS’ newest administrators settle into their new responsibilities, both professors emphasize the importance of involving the campus community in their efforts.
“Listening to fellow faculty is the best way to understand how NPS actually performs its mission,” said Freeman. “I would encourage my fellow faculty members to think seriously about serving in this kind of role. It can really help bridge the divide between faculty and administrators.”