I originally prepared my comments for the last faculty meeting of my term as department chair. Those of you who know me best know that I am highly emotional and it would have been a difficult meeting for me to preside over. So, I’m offering my comments in writing as we navigate this changing of the guard. But first, time for a little more baseball talk, just like when Donna Hernandez retired. One reason I like baseball is that it is about impossible to get good at. For example, win 6 out of 10 games all year long and you have likely won your division. Bat .300 and you are considered a very good hitter. Bat .325 and you are an all-star. Approach .350 and you are the league MVP. And bat .400? It has not been done in the modern era of specialty pitching. Ted Williams did it last – in 1941. So, why I would have ever headed into the department chair role thinking that I would have been able to accomplish everything I set out to do? I am not sure. But I did – chalk it up to unbridled optimism, I suppose. What I found out was that my baseball analogy is a good metaphor for life. Do we ever really accomplish everything we set out to do? It certainly didn’t work out that way for me. The last several years have been particularly challenging. I would not have predicted getting upended by a pandemic, a cyber-hack, and in recent years, a constant fight to even keep the building properly climate controlled, no less get some faculty lines back.
Here are some accomplishments I am proud of. Although I was supportive, they are far from my efforts alone. Rather, they are the collective results of a lot of hard work by a lot of individuals and committees, and they just happened in my time. In keeping with my baseball theme, I will count many of these accomplishments in the win column.
FACULTY – We hired a lot of good people in my time. The problem is that, unlike in previous eras, not all of them stayed. It is difficult to build curricula, maintain labs, support students and recruit without full-time faculty who stick around for a while. I hope that MU can get past these difficult financial times and restore some of our faculty lines as long as we have students to justify those lines. Given the excessive number of adjuncts we are using, I think we can make that case for several of those lines, and I am still optimistic we will be able to search one new hire during the next academic year. The Dean recently asked me what we need the most. I told him, we have need in several areas, but mostly we need someone who will stay here. Because of our laboratory-based nature, if ever there were a department that needs to operate with FT faculty, it is AEST. Our faithful adjuncts do a great job of pinch hitting, but it is always nice to have your starters in the line-up.
Successful Promotion Applications in my Time
- Ogutu – Full Professor (a little early, but I have complete faith here)
- English – Assistant Professor
- Johnson – Associate Professor
- Bowers – Associate Professor
- Painter – Associate Professor
- Snyder – Full Professor
- Warner – Full Professor
- Brusic – Full Professor
- Ogutu – Associate Professor
- Atwater – Associate Professor
- Khalighi – Associate Professor
- Karan – Associate Professor
Successful Tenure Recommendations in my Time
Successful Sabbatical Leave Applications in my Time
Emeritus Resolutions in my Time
- Hernandez (not formally recognized by MU, but it was fun for me to write!)
New Hires in my Time
I watched our curricular offerings both expand and contract over the past decade. With numbers driving every curricular decision these days, I am pleased that we have made some of the recent mergers. Programs will need to show an average of 15 graduates per year moving forward, and I think we have made the best decisions we could to support this mandate at this time. I am also glad we avoided having to move to a 4-credit course model for now, but we may need to move in this direction at some point in the future if we come under increased scrutiny to improve our F/S ratio. Time will tell. Here are some of the major curriculum efforts that occurred over the last 10 years.
- Automation & Intelligent Robotics Engineering Technology degree program
- Manufacturing Engineering Technology degree program
- Integrative Stem Education Methods Minor degree program
- Technology & Engineering Education Minor degree program
- Packaging Engineering Technology degree program
- Merger of ARET and RCS option
- Merger of Packaging Engineering with Graphic Communications
- Merger of Advanced Manufacturing option into MFET
We Increased our industrial interaction through internships, connections, visitations, and links to employers in my time. I was pushing for a required internship for all applied engineering programs, but then covid hit. I am still a big fan of internships, and I hope that we will continue to expand our internship opportunities over time. I love having those companies in the lobby to recruit our students. It reminds me of why we are here.
FACILITY – At the time I took over as Chairperson, the renovation of Osburn Hall was about 10 years old and the building was beginning to show some signs of wear. I set about to make some improvements and while many are now in the distant past, they have been collectively significant in shaping the appearance and functionality of Osburn Hall as it appears today. Here are a few of those improvements:
- New ceiling tiles throughout the classrooms
- New flooring throughout the hallways
- New exterior and interior signage
- New posters for the interior
- Personality profiles and business cards in the halls
- New painting for interior and exterior
- Replacement of main elevator
- Many revisions to materials labs
- Installation of an energy efficient lighting system on parts of the third floor
- Creation of the Packaging Engineering Lab
- Support for the evolution of the iSTEM Lab
- A Grant for the mini-lathes in the metals lab
- Many new pieces of CNC equipment
- Space improvements in the Metals lab
- New exhaust system for the Innovation Lab
- Conversion of the Nano lab to an Advanced Material Processing and Testing Lab
Disappointingly, almost none of it has happened without a significant amount of begging, cajoling, scraping, and scrounging – particularly in recent years. I have been trying to get space for our construction program to put courses under roof now for a decade with no real success. The University recently offered me the installation of a foundation and cement slab across the street west of McComsey Hall where the houses sit that are slated for demolition. For a few weeks this looked promising until DGS decided that the excess budget money allocated to tear down the houses could not be used to build a foundation or pay for concrete. The best they can offer me at this point is a graded piece of dirt for my 10 years of effort. I recently toured an off-site facility as a potential alternative, but everyone agrees that on-campus would be best. I will put this one in the loss column. Someday I hope we can build a fab-lab to support both the construction program and to serve as an incubator space for short-term start-up businesses.
RECRUITMENT & RETENTION
We have had some of our best recruiting years ever in recent years, but the population is a bit different these days and the local demographics are not that great either. We have opened the flood gates a bit wider by reducing our admissions requirements, and it is no surprise to me that we have greater retention problems as a result. After recently talking to a bunch of our teachers in the field we decided to do a targeted teacher-recruitment day just a few weeks ago. I think I can say it was successful. We haven’t had an open house like that one in a long time, and I hope we can follow up with targeted recruitment days for robotics, construction mgt, manufacturing, etc. That and an increased media presence I keep hearing is necessary through Instagram, Tik-Tok, and Snap-chat, etc. I recently attended a recruitment session at the ITEEA conference in Minneapolis. One presenter suggested that our media should be designed to catch future students’ attention in 5 seconds or less.
JACK & THE PROGRAM CORDINATORS
I will support Jack 100% and be there if he asks for help or advice, but I have no intention of being a pain in the rear. More than half of the leadership in the main office is about to change and that is a good thing. Time for some new directions. I have told Jack that the best part about being a chairperson in our system is that you are still faculty – just with a lot of release time to run the department and process all of that paperwork. If he does not like the job, and he might not, he can simply go back to the faculty.
I have enjoyed most of my time as chairperson. I wanted to do it, I have always cared about the place, and I worked hard at it in numerous ways, including recruiting many of you to come here and fighting to maintain some very nice labs and equipment. Most of all, I would like to think I have been here for the students, and the faculty as well. I will not miss being in Osburn every other Saturday on recruiting missions most of the year, or the anxiety attacks brought about by answering 20 emails, only to have another 30 pop up. I hope you will all remember me when enjoying a good Vulturefest years from now. I will be back at 67% in the Fall, hoping for a retirement incentive, and probably selling some Photovoltaic Installs on the side. Best to all. Time to go have much fun and travel while I still have some health.
– Submitted by Dr. Len S. Litowitz