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Senate Summary | August 2023

If you missed the Academic Senate meeting on Aug. 28, 2023, or need a refresher, then keep reading for the highlights from the meeting. For more information on the Academic Senate, click here.

Debate Calendar

Interdisciplinary Robotics Program

Mark Minor, Robotics Deep Tech PI and Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Committee chair presented on the following:

The proposed Interdisciplinary Robotics Program is the result of a collaboration between Computer Science, Electrical and Compute Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering in the Price College of Engineering. The program establishes a Robotics Minor that can be combined with existing undergraduate degrees, an Undergraduate Robotics Certificate for students seeking additional distinction, a Graduate Robotics Certificate that can be combined with traditional graduate degrees or earned by non-matriculated students, a Robotics Master of Science degree (project or thesis based), and a Robotics PhD. The program is supported by the State of Utah Deep Tech Program in response to industry, student, and faculty demand. The program is the first of its kind in the Western United States and competes with similar robotics programs at top rated engineering institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan.

Information & Recommendation Calendar

Updates from the Utah System of Higher Education

Dr. Julie Hartley, associate commissioner and chief academic officer, reported on the changes to the structure of the Board of Higher Education, Board resolution on freedom of expression, legislation affecting higher education.

Amendment to Reduced Tuition Policy and Rule

Wendy Poppleton, director of benefits, presented on the amendment to Reduced Tuition Policy and Rule. The policy is being amended to provide the reduced tuition benefit for eligible employees/students for undergraduate base tuition, graduate base tuition and differential tuition on undergraduate courses. The eligibility requirement that an employee’s child be unmarried is being removed.

New Emphasis: Online MPH Health Equity

Ivette A. Lopez, Ph.D., MPH, presented the following:

Given the world, national and state outcries for professionals who specialize in this practice, we chose to create a new area of emphasis in health equity for our longstanding MPH program. Through the pandemic, we also learned that many students prefer online learning, especially when they can control their schedules via asynchronous formats. The University of Utah will benefit from this offering because it will be the only one in the state with this particular focus. Additionally, our MPH online program will benefit students who work full-time in health and human services professions (physicians, evaluators, environmental scientists, therapists, policy analysts, health planners, epidemiologists, statisticians, public health researchers, community health workers, etc.). It will also benefit persons who desire an advanced degree but live removed from campus or who lack consistent transportation, those with family caregiving pressures and persons with disabilities.

Graduate Council 7-year Reviews

Katharine Ullman and Helene Shugart presented the following reviews:

Department of Human Genetics

The Department of Human Genetics has a distinguished history of discovery, world renown faculty members and is central to important campus initiatives, such as the Genetics Science Learning Center. Reviewers pointed to this being a critical phase of growth for the department as it strives to continue its elite status. Faculty recruitment efforts are in progress and, with expansion and growth in both lab-based and computational areas, attention to space and facilities issues, as well as building a cohesive community, will be important.

Department of World Languages & Cultures

The Department of World Languages & Cultures teaches over 20 languages as well as classics, comparative literature, cultural studies and religious studies. In addition to offering several majors, they support the foreign language component of all Bachelor of Arts. The department was lauded for its service as well as its research and scholarship. They are pursuing improved support for faculty and new opportunities to increase their social impact, as well as continuing efforts to bolster undergraduate enrollment and reinvigorate graduate training.

Department of Communication

This department offers scholarly expertise and instruction across four key areas of emphasis: science, health, environment and risk communication (CommSHER); digital media; rhetoric; and critical/cultural studies. Department metrics relative to scholarly productivity, rankings, citations and awards have increased substantially since the last review, and the department has made significant strides in making thoughtful hires to replace faculty who have left in recent years. To continue this positive trajectory, the department is encouraged to develop a long-term strategic plan relative to future faculty hiring and retention, address operational inefficiencies and develop and grow its undergraduate and graduate programs in accordance with shifting educational and market trends.

Department of Physics and Astronomy

This department, whose foci include high energy astrophysics, condensed matter physics, high energy theory, biophysics and astronomy, is a major collaborator with and contributor to the broader university campus community. This is the first program review since the former Department of Physics expanded to include astronomy, and the unit and its programs have undergone and continue to undergo substantive changes since the last review. These changes have been positive across various metrics and likewise received as such by departmental members. Momentum around these transitions and attendant future planning affords a productive opportunity for the department to ensure faculty growth, further develop and refine its revised graduate and undergraduate programs, and address unevenness in support and resources across faculty and staff.

Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling

This program offers an interdisciplinary master’s degree that trains students for careers as genetic counselors; established in 1998 and accredited in 2008, this is its first Graduate Council review. The program’s leadership and faculty are vibrant and dedicated, despite the inevitably decentralized nature of an interdisciplinary program; student satisfaction and success are both very high, and the high quality and range of programmatic offerings are particularly noteworthy. Establishing ways to recognize, further support and offer advancement opportunities for program leadership as well as contributing faculty will be key to ensuring the maintenance and growth of this strong program.