Texas A&M University Provost Carol Fierke assumed her new position on Oct. 16 and immediately embarked on a tour of each college on campus to learn about and understand the special role of each in the university and TAMU System.
On Dec. 6, Fierke visited the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to learn about the current challenges, program strengths, and potential growth areas within the college.
During a faculty forum that afternoon, Fierke talked about the three big priorities she has for the university moving forward: increasing retention and graduation rates; increasing research and impact; and increasing diversity.
Fierke addressed her goal to increase retention and graduation rates at the undergraduate and graduate levels and asked for feedback from CVM faculty and staff members in attendance based upon their goals and experiences in the area.
“I’m not interested in how many people we’re admitting; I’m interested in how many people we’re graduating,” Fierke said. “We have task forces looking at where the bottlenecks are for graduation and what we can do to eliminate those blockages to increase graduation rates.”
Fierke said another university-wide initiative is to become a top-10 public university, which will require establishing research programs that will position Texas A&M as a leader across many fields.
“We really have to increase our research and our product; we need more research, we need federal grants, we need more publications, more citations, and more faculty awards. We’re working on what can be done to facilitate all five of those metrics,” Fierke said. “In the end, what we really want is to have a greater impact with our research. This is an area of building bridges, because we will need grants. I am interested in facilitating collaboration across colleges and across education levels.”
The university’s third priority is supporting and increasing diversity, particularly among faculty members.A test case already is in place for undergraduate and graduate collaboration in Texas A&M’s neuroscience program; the existing interdisciplinary graduate program will be the foundation for developing an interdisciplinary undergraduate research program, she said.
“We do reasonably well with diversity at the undergraduate level, but we are not very diverse at the faculty level,” Fierke said. “I want to think about what programs we can develop to continue to support diversity, particularly among faculty.”
One of the programs Fierke said she wants to implement at Texas A&M is hosting a career development workshop for graduate students and post-doctoral students that brings in diverse candidates. Fierke said this program was successful for her at the University of Michigan, where she was dean of the Rackham Graduate School, vice provost for Academic Affairs-Graduate Studies, and the Jerome and Isabella Karle Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry.
“The workshop changed how my faculty thought about the diverse pool of candidates,” Fierke said. “Showing them the large group of candidates, who had done really well as graduate and post-doctoral students, helped change the argument from, ‘There’s no pool out there,’ to ‘They are out there and we need to look harder.’”
During her visit, Fierke toured the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC), including stops in the Veterinary Simulation Laboratory, Center for Educational Technologies, and Surgical Laboratory; the Large Animal Hospital; the Small Animal Hospital; the Diagnostic Imaging & Cancer Treatment Center; the Veterinary Emergency Team trailers; and the Research Towers.
While on these tours, she interacted with leaders and researchers in each area to learn about the CVM’s innovations and collaborations in research, teaching, patient care, and clinical trials, as well as the technologies unique to the CVM.