Interim President Welsh Outlines Next Steps Following Quick-Look Assessment
Texas A&M University Interim President Mark A. Welsh III on Wednesday presented to faculty, staff and students his decisions relating to a quick-look assessment of the Path Forward, a plan launched in December 2021 that recommended extensive changes across the university.
In early August, Welsh charged a small, internal team with this review, which culminated in more than 120 listening sessions and a report providing observations and recommendations. On Sept. 19, the report was shared with faculty, staff and students for feedback during a one-week commenting period. Welsh and the assessment team also hosted six listening sessions during this time to gather additional insights. Based on the 2,500 survey responses received, listening sessions and revised recommendations from the internal team tasked with the assessment, Welsh presented his decisions and next steps to nearly 600 in attendance at Kyle Field’s Ford Hall of Champions and 2,000-plus watching online.
“The conversation has to continue,” Welsh said. “The difference, I hope, from here is we’re going to be looking through the windshield, not in the rearview mirror. Because it’s time to start looking forward, and then just continue this conversation and make it part of our normal routine.”
Among the changes announced by Welsh is the elevation of the role of the provost, changing the title to “executive vice president and provost” in an effort to clearly identify it as the No. 2 position at the university handling all academic decisions.
In addition to restoring the provost as the chief academic officer, Welsh said the vice president for faculty affairs will be aligned under the provost with a new title, vice provost for faculty affairs. The provost and faculty members will also be tasked with deciding how they would like to define the role of the dean of faculties. The vice president for research position will keep the same title and move under the provost, with a dotted line to the president.
Select academic functions will also be returned to the Office of the Provost, including the Aggie Honor System Office, Transition Academic Programs and the Public Policy Internship Program. Additionally, an enrollment management unit will be restored under the provost, and new admissions programs will be reviewed by a committee that will make recommendations for fall 2024 implementation.
One thing that became “crystal clear” during the review process, Welsh said, is the need for a capacity study. A committee will be directed to identify the campus-wide impacts of enrollment growth at Texas A&M, which has the largest student body in the country.
Also announced by Welsh at Wednesday’s meeting:
- Retaining the merged College of Arts & Sciences, which resulted from the combination of the former colleges of Liberal Arts, Science and Geosciences. The college’s dean and faculty will be tasked with recommending a governance structure to the provost. It now is the second largest college behind engineering.
- Maintaining the current library services model and adding $3.3 million to the University Libraries’ annual operating budget. A task force charged with developing recommendations on procedures to protect faculty members’ academic freedom will also include academic freedom for librarians as an action item.
- Under The Path Forward, seven colleges were designated as schools. Welsh said colleges and schools will be able to submit their preference for naming to the provost for approval.