Provost Fotis Sotiropoulos addressed the One VCU Academic Repositioning Task Force on Friday, August 25, 2023. The Provost’s remarks coincided with the conclusion of the first phase of the task force’s work.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me begin by thanking you for all of the time and effort you have invested into the work of this task force. I appreciate what it means to spend a part of your summer in these conversations; and I appreciate just how hard this work can be.

If this was easy, we wouldn’t see daily news stories about the higher education sector struggling under the perfect storm of the enrollment cliff, increased competition, and technological innovation like artificial intelligence.

If this was easy, we wouldn’t be reading headlines about the plight of a flagship university in a neighboring state.

If this was easy, we wouldn’t need to work together as a task force.

As I join you this morning, we’re seeing some encouraging signs about what’s happening at VCU:

  • We are poised to halt the enrollment decline that we have endured for four consecutive years. This year’s class of entering first-year students may just be the biggest in university history; and
  • Research funding appears to be up across every university unit, bolstering VCU’s own ascending R1 status. 

Those items, individually and collectively, may be answers to our prayers but they are not promises for VCU’s future. You are.

I’m really here this morning to listen to you. I’m excited to hear the report-outs from the workgroups and get a sense of where the task force stands as we begin the fall semester.

And before I sit down, I want to emphasize two points. Just two.

The first is that the expectations of this task force remain the same as they were when you were invited to this work.

This task force is how we pursue the goal of Quest 2028 to “ignite student success through curricular innovation.” 

We’re looking to you to consider the number of, and structure of, VCU’s academic units, offering recommendations designed to:

  • Create a pipeline that can facilitate new, engaging, and exciting degree programs in emerging fields;
  • Maximize operational efficiencies and collaboration between programs; 
  • Facilitate more cross-unit engagement and transdisciplinary research opportunities for faculty; and 
  • Create new career pathways for preparing students to succeed in a rapidly-changing world. 

Further, we’re hoping your recommendations will improve financial sustainability and point to where strategic investments should be made to increase performance and make VCU more competitive.

Perhaps there’s an easier way to consider this: If you were given the funding – say half-a-billion-dollars to create a new university today, what would it look like? Of course, that’s an oversimplification. But you have to admit that the institution that you would build from scratch doesn’t look like what we have today. So, how can we innovate to be more like what you envision?

The second point I would like to make is that this iterative process is both the height of shared governance and the launch pad for bold innovation.

I believe strongly that our willingness to collaborate will determine VCU’s future as a university.

Only by tapping into the collective intellect of our faculty and staff, with intention, can we modernize our academic structure and create the university of the future.

I’m talking about harnessing the epiphanies that occur in one-off conversations across our campuses every day. I’m talking about bringing to the table all of those notions of what could be, and even better, what should be that occur when smart, passionate people get talking. 

I believe in VCU’s faculty and staff. I trust the perspectives you bring to this, whether you’re new to VCU or you’ve spent your whole career here. I admire the courage you bring to your scholarship, to your teaching, and to your campus service.

As I enter my third year as your provost, I’ve seen a lot of VCU and VCU Health and the people who make it all work to know that your best is enough – more than enough – to generate the ideas that will propel this institution forward – through Quest 2028 and beyond.

There are times when I believe the role of provost really comes down to doing two things well: picking the right priorities and surrounding yourself with the best people to accomplish those priorities. In this case, that means all of you, right here, working through this iterative process – and I feel good about that.

So, thank you once again for all that you are doing as a member of this task force. And, I look forward to learning what you’ve come up with to this point.

Categories Uncategorized, Updates