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Strategic Plan for Chemistry

Context For Planning

Chemistry became an independent department in 1971, and its degree program received approval from the American Chemical Society a few years later. The department serves about 200 majors and approximately 4,000 GVSU students per semester. Since 2014 it has offered degrees in both Chemistry and Biochemistry. The department strives to provide consistent, high-quality lecture and lab experiences to students with a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from the general population seeking a physical science foundation to the next generation of science and health professionals. We engage as many of our majors as possible in high–impact learning experiences through undergraduate research. This Strategic Plan outlines our goals to: (i) provide consistent, excellent teaching across our courses with appropriate student support, (ii) provide more high-impact learning experiences to GVSU students, (iii) reach and maintain a sustainable number of faculty/staff through inclusive means, and (iv) promote and ensure safety in our laboratories. It was informed by the results of our previous Self-Study that included feedback from Faculty, Staff, and our External Advisory Board. Additionally, the department outlined key strategic areas in a series of departmental meetings in 2016-2017 that were assembled into the 2016–2021 Strategic Plan by the Steering Committee.

Mission

The Chemistry Department provides rigorous preparation of citizens whose career paths require expertise in chemistry. We are dedicated to rigorous standards for content knowledge, communication skills, research quality, and professional behavior. We are committed to demonstrating science as a human endeavor and as a way to understand the natural world. The faculty in the Chemistry Department see themselves as resources for our units, university, region, state, nation, and world. 

Vision

The Chemistry Department prepares students for a diverse and changing world. We strive to contribute to a chemically literate society through teaching (with classrooms, labs, and research), scholarship, and service.

Value Statement

We value the development of knowledgeable and inquisitive students in the chemical professions. We value quality undergraduate research opportunities designed to make involvement in state of the art chemical research a part of a student's chemistry education. We value access to a quality education in chemistry for a diverse range of students. We value rigorous standards for teaching and learning. We value effective and innovative teaching practices. We value a collaborative, collegial, and cooperative teaching and learning community composed of diverse scholars. We value the synergistic relationship of teaching, scholarship, and service.

Strategic Priorities, outcomes, and key objectives

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 1.A.1

Increase efficiency/consistency of instruction in the 100/200 level multi-section courses for chemistry majors, biochemistry majors, and service courses through vertical and horizontal alignment of curricula.

Baseline

To be determined in year 1.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
CHM 115 alignment is complete with common syllabus, content outline and sequence, textbook and online homework, and a common final exam. The CHM 109/230 group implemented the curriculum changes starting Fall 2019, using more organic chemistry/biochemistry examples to better prepare students for CHM 230. CHM 109 also has a common syllabus, common course sequence, and common online homework. Early evidence in W2020 indicates the modifications have been successful in reducing time spent in CHM 230 on organic chemistry. The CHM 116 alignment group was convened in summer 2019 and are still working on developing a common syllabus and set of core content for the course.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
The CHM 109/230/231/232 working group has been working on revising the CHM 109 course so that it feeds into CHM 231 and CHM 230. The revised curriculum has been developed and we hope to run it for the first time Fall 2019. Currently all sections of CHM 109 and CHM 115 use a common syllabus with a common grading scale, common learning objectives aligned with the SOR, common online homework systems, common grade distribution for things such as final exam, laboratory, and online homework components. CHM 115 has also implemented a common final exam for the past two years. The curriculum committee has been charged this year with developing a list of things (e.g., syllabus, grading scale, online homework, grade breakdown, textbook, etc.) that in our alignment of sections in multi-section courses we should work to try and keep constant. They plan to present this list for Department discussion early in 2019. This will help us in moving forward in aligning the other courses.

Objective 1.A.2

Increase the number of chemistry/biochemistry majors involved in undergraduate research by 5%. Increase student awareness of research earlier in the academic career.

Baseline

To be determined in year one.

Progress

2019 Status
Achieved
Based on 2018 data, we are at capacity for the number of students we can reasonably mentor in undergraduate research and do not foresee an increase in the number of mentored students without more tenure track faculty. Time is the limiting resource, not space, resources, or the number of interested students.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
To establish a baseline, faculty reported the number of students they during 2016 - 1018 calendar years. Faculty mentored 97 students, 88 students, and 77 students during the 2016, 2017, and 2018 calendar years respectively. The average number of students per research active faculty member was 4.4, 3.8, and 3.3 over the same time frame. To encourage participation research recruitment presentations have been incorporated in the major’s organic sequence (CHM 245/247) and in junior seminar (CHM 391). The OURS Undergraduate Research Fair and the CHM Meet the Faculty Night continue to be promoted in all 100/200 level CHM courses.

Objective 1.A.3

Assess the departmental impact of the new biochemistry major.

Baseline

Currently, there are 82 biochemistry majors in the chemistry department; of this number, 10 are freshmen who have declared biochemistry as a major. In 2014-15 academic year, enrollment numbers in 461/462/463 were 344 in 8 sections of 461, 46 in 4 sections of 462, and 26 in 1 section of 463.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
Since the 2013/14 year, the year prior to the implementation of our biochemistry majors, we have seen an increase in the number of sections of biochemistry taught per semester (6 sections per year) as well as an increase in the number of students taught in biochemistry courses (218 students per year). We have also seen a steady increase in the number of biochemistry majors. However, we are currently in jeopardy of being able to support this major as biochemistry faculty (both tenure track and affiliate) are retiring after the Winter 2019 semester and we have not received permission to hire replacements. Further, despite this increase in biochemistry sections, students taught in those sections, and majors, we have not been approved to hire any new biochemistry faculty since 2013.

2017 Status
Minimal Progress
The following and the numbers of biochemistry majors from Fall 2015 - Fall 2017 (F15: 58; F16: 92; F17: 113) Further from 13/14 to 17/18 we have increased the number of sections of biochemistry courses taught by 4 (from 24 to 30) and the number of students taught in these section by 257 (from 1236 to 1493). These sections have consistently been over 80% capacity (from a low of 86% in 16/17 to a high of 92% in 17/18).

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 1.B.1

Increase retention of students majoring in chemistry/biochemistry by 5% while maintaining the diversity of the incoming class.

Baseline

Establish a baseline of biochemistry/chemistry major retention. Determine retention of individuals in underrepresented groups. As of fall 2016, Chemistry and Biochemistry majors included 7 Asian/Pacific Islander, 11 African American/Black, 13 Hispanic/Latino, and 4 multi-ethnicity students out of a total of 178, for 19.7% non-white students, compared to 17.9% for GVSU as a whole.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
Our number of chemistry majors remained constant at 99 from Fall 2018 to Fall 2019 and the number of majors in biochemistry increased from 125 to 137 from Fall 2018 to Fall 2019. In Fall 2016, we had a total of 178 chemistry and biochemistry majors, and in Fall 2019, we had a total of 236 majors, representing a 30% increase in our number of majors.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
The retention report data provided by institutional analysis indicates that we tend to lose most of our majors after their freshman year; however, the large majority of those students transfer to another major, often another STEM major. This is understandable as students are often unsure exactly what major they are interested in when they first begin their degree program. We will continue to closely monitor the retention rates to see if there are particular areas of concern that we can specifically target.

Outcome D: Grand Valley supports innovative teaching, learning, integrative scholarly and creative activity, and the use of new technologies.

Objective 1.D.1

Increase the quality and quantity of the advising and mentoring for our students, especially those in underrepresented populations, those in academic risk categories, and the transfer student population.

Baseline

Establish baseline based on departmental advising assessment plan.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
Initially we were using the Student Success Collaborative as a measure of faculty participation in advising activities, but since we are no longer able to determine which faculty are registered/use the SSC, and as the SSC is being replaced, this is no longer a viable means of measuring progress on this objective. However, over the past few years, the Department has implemented many initiatives to improve the quality and quantity of advising. These can broadly be categorized as "resources" and "events". Resources: First, we continue to refine our “Advising Highlights” program. In the Fall semester, we distribute 9 short PowerPoints, each focusing on a different advising issue (for example, availability of the Chemistry Success Center, University counseling etc.). These slides are sent to all Chemistry instructors (one per week) and are in some cases timed to university events (Career Fair, withdrawal deadline deadline). We have reviewed and updated the departmental advising documents on our website, with a particular aim to make degree requirement checklists more readable, and to clarify our course substitution policies. As part of a program initiated by the CLAS Dean’s office, we have prepared Majors Maps to help inform BIC and CHM students of the many extra-curricular and co-curricular opportunities that GVSU has to offer. Lastly, we have produced flow-charts to make it easier for advisors to promote and audit American Chemical Society degree certification. Events: We have continued several major outreach events including Meet the Faculty Night in September (~35 students) and three Group Advising sessions staffed by faculty in March (~15 students). As part of the Registration Outreach effort, facilitated by Assistant Dean Betty Schaner, we have been calling/emailing students (~40) who are not yet registered for upcoming semesters. This has prompted many students to finish registration mid-summer or mid-Fall semester. It has also allowed to identify students who are planning to transfer, and to offer resources to struggling students. Lastly, we initiated a Junior Graduation Check program last February—we identified CHM, BIC and CHMX majors who were likely to graduate in the next 18 months (~80 students) and made a huge push to get them to visit their advisor to plan out their last few semesters. Many pieces of anecdotal evidence suggest this was a success, and we plan to get more data this year as we repeat all of these events.

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
A document was crafted by our Scholarship and Development committee that included descriptions of resources and considerations for new faculty regarding student mentoring. A new advising initiative was proposed in early 2019. The goal of this new program is to actively engage in advising students the year prior to their last year at GVSU.

Strategic Priority Area 2: Further develop exceptional personnel.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 2.A.2

Provide better mentoring experience for visiting faculty and integrate affiliate faculty into departmental culture. Establish a Lighter Initial Load (25% less for first semester) for new visiting/affiliate faculty.

Baseline

Current mentoring practices of existing mentors for visiting/new affiliate faculty; course evaluation scores for visiting/affiliate/adjunct faculty

Progress

2019 Status
Achieved
In consultation with our affiliate faculty, we recently produced an Affiliate Best Practices document based on guidelines provided by CLAS that has been posted to our Faculty Handbook. Additionally, the Personnel Committee developed a revised mentoring plan document, again in alignment with University and CLAS guidelines, that has been sent to the Deans office for CLAS level approval. As part of this, all new TT, affiliate, and visiting faculty are assigned a faculty mentor.

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
Affiliate faculty have been encouraged and are eligible to participate in departmental committees (except those making personnel decisions). Since 2016, we have had affiliate faculty that have served on ad hoc committees and hiring committees. Affiliate faculty have also been encouraged to participate in peer observations of other faculty.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 2.B.1

Develop an inclusion plan for faculty hiring/searches.

Baseline

We follow best practices of inclusion and equity for the hiring process, but currently, no formal inclusion plan is in place.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
During the F2019, the department hired a new TT biochemist. The search committee (chaired by Mary Karpen and serving as inclusion advocate was John Golden from Math) pioneered a revised process for hiring in chemistry. In addition to working with Inclusion/Equity for disseminating the job posting to a variety of sources, the search committee used a modified rubric to score all applicants. After deciding on the appropriate candidates, each interview consisted of meetings with all faculty members and a research/teaching presentation. After each interview, all faculty were requested to complete a Qualtrics survey with many questions about the candidate, specifically requesting reasons (data) for each of their answers. All surveys (anonymous to all except the search committee chair) were compiled and independently summarized by at least three search committee members (including trends and frequencies of these responses). These main points from all faculty responses were presented at the department meeting before voting on the candidate to whom we would make the first offer. During this meeting, it was stated that the comments should be directed to positive reasons why a specific candidate should get the offer, instead of dwelling on any possible negative reasons why candidates should not get the offer. The overall process was designed to be more data-driven (relying on candidate materials and credentials), so as to decrease instances of implicit bias. In addition, the surveys after each candidate visit allowed every faculty member, regardless of department seniority, to provide their opinions with accompanying evidence without being in a meeting dynamic where some faculty are more vocal or quiet about their viewpoints.

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
The department has continued to use resources from Inclusion and Equity regarding faculty searches. Several faculty within the department have completed training to serve as inclusion advocates. A formal hiring plan will be discussed at the Spring 2019 faculty retreat.

Objective 2.B.2

Incorporate inclusion and diversity training in the professional development of chemistry department faculty and staff.

Baseline

Determine current level of professional development.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
At the end of the 2018-19 academic year,the Department participated in a workshop titled "Interpersonal Effectiveness for Work and Life: Be Empowered by Taking Ownership of Your Role in Communication" run by Elisa Salazar from HR. There have also been some faculty in the department that have chosen to engage in various types of inclusion/equity training across campus on an individual basis. Several faculty have expressed interest in inclusion advocacy training, but are concerned about the time required for training and updating training and the workload that comes from serving on search committees in other units. The inability to serve in one's own unit is also a drawback.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
The department participated in professional training about microaggressions and implicit bias at the end of 2017-2018. Steering has discussed including training on other topics or a yearly or biennial basis.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 2.E.1

Determine if Chemistry faculty wages (mainly affiliates, part-time, and visitors) are in parity with other departments at GVSU and at other peer institutions.

Baseline

To be established in Year 1 of the strategic plan.

Strategic Priority Area 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 3.A.1

Ensure the CSC is over capacity less than 10% of the time. Ensure that the student:(faculty/tutor) ratio exceeds 3.5:1 less than 10% of the time.

Baseline

PAD 399 has a capacity for 32 people, including faculty/student tutors. The average percentage of time that the CSC was over capacity in 2016-2017 is 3.3%; the CSC is at 90% or greater capacity 7.3% of the time. In 2016-2017, the student:(faculty/tutor) ratio in the CSC exceeds our target (3.5:1) 37.6% of the time.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantive Progress
Winter 2019: PAD 399 was at 90% or greater capacity 6% of the time the CSC was open, including both students and faculty/tutors. PAD 399 was over capacity 3% of the time the CSC was open. The average occupancy of PAD 399 when the CSC is open (including both students and faculty) is 17; the median occupancy is 16.5. The student:(faculty/tutor) ratio exceeds our target of 3.5:1 30% of the time the CSC is open The average student:(faculty/tutor) ratio was 2.9:1. Fall 2019: PAD 399 was at 90% or greater capacity 20% of the time the CSC was open, including both students and faculty/tutors. PAD 399 was over capacity 11% of the time the CSC was open. The average occupancy of PAD 399 when the CSC is open (including both students and faculty) is 21; the median occupancy is 20.5. The student:(faculty/tutor) ratio exceeds our target of 3.5:1 30% of the time the CSC is open The average student:(faculty/tutor) ratio was 3.1:1.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
Fall 2018 Data: CSC was 90% or greater capacity 12% of the time the CSC was open CSC was over capacity 5% of the time the CSC was open. The avergae occupancy of the CSC was 19 (median 18.5) The student:(faculty/tutor) ratio exceeds our target of 3.5:1 28% of the time the CSC is open. The average was 2.9:1

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 3.E.1

Prepare a plan to allocate research space and resources to expand our undergraduate research program.

Baseline

To be established in year one.

Progress

2019 Status
Achieved
At the current time, all faculty have adequate research space, and we have space for the new tenure track faculty hire.

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
To establish a baseline, Faculty reported the numner of students they have mentored during the 2016 - calendar years. The Faculty mentored 97, 88, and 77 students during the 2016, 2017, and 2018 years respectively. The average number of students mentored per Faculty member was 4.4, 3.8, and 3.3 during the same time frame. Based on the research space allocated to the Faculty, the average (square footage of space):(student) was 56.5 square feet.

Objective 3.E.2

Increase departmental support for NMR facilities.

Baseline

Tenure-track CHM faculty currently maintain our NMR facilities.

Progress

2019 Status
Minimal Progress
We are in the same position as we were in 2018.

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
The department has acquired a new JEOL NMR instrument. The college has granted the department two faculty 2 credits of release time to maintain the instruments and train new users. Additionally, we have hired student teaching assistants to serve in the NMR facility during our upper level lab sections that utilize the instruments heavily. This allows the instructor to focus on the students in the teaching laboratories.

Objective 3.E.3

Promote and maintain a safe laboratory environment for faculty, staff, and students.

Baseline

To be determined in year one.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
We continue our Department safety inspections of all teaching labs and forward any things that are not working (e.g., cabinet door below fume hood won't close) to the Director of Lab Services so he can coordinate with Facilities to get the items fixed. Most recently, we identified issues with eye-wash stations and had them fixed. We have worked with CLAS and our Chemical Hygiene officer to come up with a plan to routinely flush the eye-wash stations.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
Several items were accomplished towwards this objective. Safety inspections for teaching spaces were changed. The list of items to review was shortened and a better reporting tool was introduced. Inspections under the new protocol are beginning in early 2019. The safety inspections for research spaces are now being conducted by Jim Siefert and his staff. Additionally, the space renewal procedure for research spaces is going to include safety inspection results and require updated safety training. A new student keycard request form was introduced for the Allendale campus (Chemistry Department). We have also introduced uniform safety guidelines for all of our undergraduate teaching labs.

Objective 3.E.4

All research active ChemEd faculty will have dedicated research space that is of similar size and quality to the research space of other research active faculty using non-traditional spaces.

Baseline

ChemEd faculty currently share two research spaces totaling 220 square feet. However, this space is not evenly distributed amongst these faculty.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
Dedicated research space for the CHM Ed faculty has been increased. Additional spaces include a pocket lab on the second floor of Padnos that is shared by two faculty and a space in Integrated Science that another two faculty are sharing. There is an additional desk space that could be used; however, no wet lab space has been dedicated to these faculty. A comparative square footage analysis has not been done.

2017 Status
Minimal Progress
Square footage data has been collected for CHM for comparison with peer departments within CLAS. CLAS administration expressed concern in sharing that data for the peer departments we planned to use for comparison.

Strategic Priority Area 4: Enhance the institution's image and reputation.

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