Provost Stan Wearden Shares Insight, Optimism on the Year Ahead

Over the past three weeks, I have had opportunities at school retreats, Faculty Senate, and the Faculty and Staff Convocation to talk to many about the progress we are making on implementing Columbia College Chicago’s Strategic Plan and my optimism about the college’s future. It has been a privilege to hear feedback from many faculty, some directly, acknowledging last year’s challenges while recognizing the achievements we have made so far as a community.

This year, we will continue to focus on two major themes: improving the quality of the education we offer our students and building our capacity to reach more prospective students. We made enormous strides last year but there is still work to be done on sequencing and leveling the curriculum, and ensuring that it is intentional, current and relevant to the 21st century needs of our students. At the same time, we are also focusing on employability—which means seeking external input and validation of the curriculum; embedding professional skills in business, marketing, entrepreneurship and technology; and ensuring we connect the curriculum to the new Career Center.

We started this year with the Undoing Racism workshop, and will continue this critical conversation to infuse an authentic and critical examination of privilege, diversity, equity, and inclusion into our teaching. In a year when the nation continues to grapple with issues of identify, safety, inclusion and equity while facing heightened and charged discourse around the general presidential election, our students face a number of questions and challenges about their role as creatives, thinkers and makers. Our students are connected to the world, and to Chicago, and we must continue to strengthen those connections holistically as an institution.

We will also continue to improve the quality of education for our students by examining the structure of the school and departments. Are the organizational structures still effective for a 21st century curriculum? Do they map to real-world alignment of creative practices? Do they maximize student opportunities to learn across disciplines?

And in the midst of these changes, we want to ensure that all our full-time and part-time faculty are supported by establishing a comprehensive professional development center that will serve faculty needs related to pedagogy, creative practice, scholarship, career development and leadership development, to name a few.

Finally, we will begin building a robust digital learning presence to reach students who are interested in a Columbia education but also need the convenience and flexibility of pursuing that education online. We will build a Global Education Office that will enhance recruitment and support a growing number of international students, as well as support the faculty who teach them. We will also begin moving much more vigorously into the adult and continuing education market.

For these reasons and more, I am optimistic and excited about the year ahead. To make the kind of progress we all seek in providing our students with the best-quality education, however, we must do this together. That is why I will be holding more conversations with faculty this year and encourage you all to participate in the Strategic Plan process. At Faculty Senate and the Strategic Plan Planning Committee meetings, and during discussions with chairs and deans, please ask questions, be vocal, and share your expertise and experience. I have tremendous confidence in all of you and the talent and commitment you bring to make Columbia even stronger.

I look forward to the year ahead!

Stanley T. Wearden
Senior Vice President and Provost