I am happy to welcome many new students, faculty and staff to campus as we approach the beginning of the new semester. In preparation, I want to provide both a look back on the last year and some indications of what this academic year will bring.
As I begin my third year as Provost here at Lehigh, I am proud of the way that together we have advanced the academic mission of the university, while also dealing with some of the greatest challenges that have ever faced higher education and our country. Despite the difficulties of living and working in a pandemic, we have made great progress, including:
- Welcoming to campus what may be the largest undergraduate class in our history.
- Adding thirty-two new tenure-track and eleven new teaching faculty this fall. This is one of the largest groups of new full-time faculty in at least a decade and the first group to include the new teaching track ranks.
- Growing federal research funding by 25% in the last year and 38% over the last two years.
- Creating new master’s programs in Data Science, Business Analytics and Public Health. These three new programs will enroll about ten percent of our incoming class of masters students.
- Opening our most capable research lab building (the Health, Science and Technology Building, or HST) and nearing completion on a new Business Innovation Building (BIB) that will house some of the most technologically sophisticated classrooms available on our campus.
- Reducing the gap in six-year graduation rates between Pell-eligible (low-income) and non-Pell-eligible undergraduate students to just 1.6% while achieving a 97% overall placement rate for our undergraduate graduates. These kinds of outcomes are the reason why Lehigh is ranked 21st in the country in long-term return on investment by Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce.
This progress is due to the hard work and dedication of many people - faculty, staff and students - who made them possible. I truly appreciate all the work that you do to make Lehigh a better university.
This year I will be interested in hearing your most creative thoughts and ideas as we begin our strategic planning efforts. In the fall these efforts will focus on collecting ideas from the campus on topics that are key to our future. In the spring we will be integrating and evaluating these ideas to determine which ones should be adopted and endorsed as key initiatives. Faculty and staff should play an important role in this process and more details will be available soon on how you can be involved.
Even as we develop our long-term strategic plan, we can’t stop working to make Lehigh better and to support our students, faculty and staff. This year the Provost’s office will be guided in its work by a set of priorities that include:
- Investing in people - with a focus on how we can allow faculty and staff to spend their time doing the things that matter most.
- Supporting growth and creation of innovative, strong, high-demand academic programs that lead to student success.
- Enhancing our support for the growth of high-impact research and scholarly activity.
- Improving how we use, analyze and share data to foster better decision-making.
To support these goals this year, the Provost’s office will be working on a variety of new initiatives, including a new approach (Provost’s Faculty Fellows) to involving interested faculty in projects that will have university-wide impact and providing new tools that will help us use data to support student recruitment, retention and success. We will look to enhance support for research that cuts across disciplines and also provide targeted support for faculty and staff working on curricular innovations. Details on the concrete steps we are taking will be available in the coming weeks.
Thanks again for all that you do for Lehigh and for each other. I look forward to seeing you around campus in the coming weeks.