When Sarah Phillips was appointed interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Pacific University, she requested she serve a two year term instead of the customary one, so she could get work done and begin making the decisions that would affect not only the students and faculty of today, but also of tomorrow.
Phillips officially began work as the interim dean of CAS on July 1, 2017, after Lisa Carstens, the previous dean of CAS, transitioned into a new role within the university as vice provost for Academic Affairs.
As interim dean for CAS, Phillips hopes to create new avenues for increased communication between the administration and faculty on campus, as well as help coordinate and better organize faculty and staff projects and efforts.
“I’m trying to give our faculty access to as much data and information as I can,” Phillips said. “If the faculty is going to participate meaningfully in decision making and discussion, they need access.”
Phillips has stayed busy throughout the start of the school year, working with new and returning faculty members to help them settle into their roles at Pacific and attending meetings and forums to discuss budgetary planning. One of the larger ongoing projects Philips will help facilitate throughout the year involves faculty proposed changes to the core curriculum.
One proposal already being discussed involves making changes to the calendar, specifically, cutting and replacing Winter Term. This proposed calendar change came about after hazardous weather during the 2016-2017 Winter Term caused a majority of classes in the two-week term period to be canceled.
“When you have a ten day long course and you have to cancel multiple days of that course because of weather, it becomes hard to maintain the academic integrity of that course,” Phillips said. “You end up in a type of circumstance where students are relying on those credits from the course, but the professors didn’t truly get to teach it.”
The proposed calendar change would eliminate Winter Term completely, move up the start date for Spring Term and see the creation of a new three-week long term in May, which would allow for a four credit course.
“We have a lot of students who, given the opportunity, would take a full credit course to advance them in terms of their major,” Phillips said. “It’s also good for students who may have struggled in that first year and who need to take another class again to catch up.”
According to the proposed calendar change, the May Term would allow for travel courses, just like Winter Term does now. The proposed calendar change would also lower the current credit cap for Pacific students from a maximum 38 credits per semester, to a maximum 36 credits per semester.
“This is a big deal,” Phillips said. “It will be complicated, but that’s our job. To maintain the quality of our education.”
According to Phillips, the proposed calendar change could also help retention rates at Pacific, by reducing the amount of time students are away from campus and by remaining more of a constant in students’ lives.
“One of the things we know, from research, is that the first year of college is difficult for a lot of students,” Phillips said. “The more time you can have students on campus and support their adjustment to college, the more likely they are to be successful in college.”
Though the ultimate decision for this proposed calendar change will be made by the Pacific Administration, Phillips said student and faculty input is needed and welcomed. And though the proposed calendar changes are still in their very early stages of development, Phillips said the Pacific community can expect to see some sort of change made to the calendar by the fall of 2019.
“Changing the calendar is complicated and we’re a complicated university,” Phillips said. “That’s why we’re talking about this now. We’ll start slowly moving things along and when something comes up, we will have to slow down and address it. We’re not trying to spring anything on anybody. There are going to be a lot of details that need to be sorted out.”
The search for a new dean of the CAS will begin next year and be run out of the Provost office.