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Strategic Plan for Sociology

Context For Planning

The Department As the most comprehensive of the social sciences sociology seeks to understand the ongoing human construction of the worlds we inhabit. Its affinity for the liberal arts tradition, we think, is obvious. By fostering what we sociologists like to call the sociological imagination (Mills 1961) we engage ourselves and our students with a multifaceted, interdisciplinary, critical consciousness of the complex and dynamic inter-relationships between individuals, groups, and socio-cultural structures and systems. We do this by drawing as freely as possible from across the disciplines in an effort to create knowledgeable, culturally literate, politically astute world citizens well-rounded by a liberal arts education. The Department of Sociology at GVSU began to take on its current form in 2000 when it split from its former partners in the joint department of sociology, anthropology, and geography. Since that time we have evolved into a department with eighteen full-time faculty and a relatively steady number of about 130 majors. Our faculty have attained local, national, and international recognition for scholarship, service, and teaching. Our students are active in the campus and local community. In recent years we have had great success with graduate school placements. Our students have either been accepted to or gone on to enroll in graduate programs at Brandeis, The Ohio State University, the University of California at Davis and at Santa Barbara, and Arizona State University among others. The Sociology Department is currently a major contributor to the University-wide General Education program, the Honors College and interdisciplinary programs. Members of our department regularly teach three courses in the Social Science Foundations, one World Perspectives Courses, and eight courses in U.S. Diversity. The department teaches nine issues courses in five of the issues categories. In an average academic year, approximately 70% of the sections we teach are designated General Education. While we see our heavy commitment to general education and to other programs as wholly appropriate and even natural given the critical and multi-paradigmatic character of sociology it also presents significant challenges. We struggle to meet our teaching commitment and typically rely on adjuncts and visitors. Our current strategic plan positions us to do well in the coming years. We are forward thinking with our faculty goals, curriculum and student needs. For example, we recognize our great need to hire more faculty and reduce our reliance on adjuncts and include in our plan our goals for hiring more tenure track faculty. We look to integrate more opportunities for our students to think outside the box, for example through the Sociology Colloquium or community partnerships. We believe we are evolving to meet the needs of students and our university through curriculum revision of our major, minor and aging and adult minor. Every day we strive to provide our students with the best preparation and education for their future. While this will always be a moving target, we hope our current strategic plan moves us forward in this endeavor in positive ways for the coming years.

Mission

The Sociology Department is a student-centered, diverse, and inclusive learning community that engages in critical social inquiry extending knowledge to enrich individual and public life.

Vision

We are dedicated to the teaching, production, critical examination, diffusion and application of social knowledge in its many forms. We will prepare our students to critically analyze and theorize the empirical realities of our social world. We will foster a diverse and inclusive community of social inquiry, discourse, discovery, expression, and reflection.

Value Statement

The Sociology Department values:

  • Excellent teaching in the liberal arts tradition through active student-teacher engagement and achievement supported by appropriate class size and a high proportion of permanent faculty.
  • Intellectual inquiry and discourse among faculty and students.
  • The production of scholarship that engages and informs sociological areas of study.
  • Service to the Sociology Department, the college, university, our profession and the community.


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.2

1. Empower the new hire to further develop the Aging & Adult Life minor.

Baseline

Implement the new curriculum.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
Anna Hammersmith has developed a a detailed proposal for an interdisciplinary program with Social Work. This is currently in negotiation.

2017 Status
Substantial Progress
We successfully revamped the minor and the changes went into effect Fall 2017. We also hired a new tenure-track person (Anna Hammersmith) to begin Fall 2018. She will again revise the minor, given that prior to her hire we could only create a generic minor for want of specific expertise. Anna also has a lot of ideas on how to make the minor more interdisciplinary and perhaps build it into a life-course major as well.

Objective 1.A.3

Hire two new tenure track faculty to replace retirements, and three new tenure-track positions to meet student demand for courses.

Baseline

Five faculty deficit relative to enrollment and program needs.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
We hired a replacement this year (beginning Fall 2019) to replace Cheryl Boudreaux, who retired in 2017.

2017 Status
Not Yet Initiated
The department will apply for new tenure-track hires.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 1.B.1

The Sociology Department seeks to create an inclusive learning environment that attracts and serves a diverse body of majors.

Baseline

Based on data analyzed in the department's 2014 Self Study, our majors are currently more diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender and first generation college students than the university as a whole.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
Our new TT hires over the last two years have increased the percentage of women faculty, although the gender mix is still unbalanced at 10-men and 6-women. To reflect our discipline nationwide, bot in terms of the professors and the student majors, those numbers should basically be reversed.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
The Sociology department continues to attract majors and minors who are more ethnically diverse than the general GVSU student population. Given that our major specifically addresses the social conditions of marginalzed and under-represented people in society, this correspondingly attracts students interested in studying inequality.

Outcome C: Grand Valley has mutually beneficial relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and connections with local, state, national, and world communities.

Objective 1.C.1

Promote student engagement in our local community by providing internship and/or community-based research and/or service learning opportunities each semester.

Baseline

Students do internships each semester, with the number of students varying by semester. Likewise, we have courses that sometimes engage in community-based research and/or service learning on a course-by-course, semester-by-semester basis.

Progress

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
My hopes to expand the community internship program have not met expectations.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
Enrollment in the Practicum (Internship) remains relatively low.

Objective 1.C.2

Develop inter-disciplinary minor with Seidman College of Business

Baseline

New course for Business majors, SOC 109

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

Objective 1.D.1

To create a new course in Sociology of the Environment to offer Sociology students a course in this growing area of focus and contribute to the Environmental Studies minor.

Baseline

We do not offer such a course.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
Rather remarkably, we were granted a TT hire for Sociology of the Environment. However, I must qualify this by noting that the Provost's office made this a joint hire with ENS, so we really only received half of a new TT line.

2017 Status
Minimal Progress
We have been unable to acquire a tenure-track line for this purpose over the last several years. Funding for new or replacement tenure-track hires has been extremely difficult to obtain and this hinders our strategic objectives.

Objective 1.D.2

To hire a new TT faculty member in the area of Social Movements

Baseline

We currently have no such person.

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

Objective 1.E.1

Provide students with guidance for careers and graduate school through an annual workshop.

Baseline

We currently provide guidance to our own advisees and hold an annual advising week with advising hours in our conference room.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
We continue our routine advising.

2017 Status
Minimal Progress
Our majors are interested mostly in career advising, and much less concerning their academic schedule.

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.1

Codify adjunct hiring policy to: Ensure adherence to dept. norms and learning goals; Ensure adoption of relevant Gen Ed learning objectives; Encourage use of FTLC.

Baseline

Currently the hiring policy is handled by the Department Chair, with new formal guidelines for quality assurance.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
The policy as developed last year has been approved and implemented. The main areas of concern was for non-credentialed adjuncts, for which I developed tested field experience protocols.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
We submitted Quality Assurance plans in Fall 2017. However, in my first partial year as chair, indeed my first substantive act in May 2017 was to hire several adjuncts to cover 13 unstaffed sections beginning Fall 2017 left over from the previous chair's scheduling. This experience suggests that we cannot be too particular about adjuncts, for two reasons: 1. The pay is extremely poor. 2. Few qualified people are available in any case.

Objective 2.A.2

To drastically reduce/eliminate our reliance on adjuncts/non-permanent faculty (in accordance with CLAS & departmental values) by hiring 5 faculty members; 3 replacements and 2 new tenure lines to teach General Education survey courses (SOC 105-Social Problems and SOC 101-Introduction to Sociology).

Baseline

At present, adjuncts teach 43% of SOC 101 contact hours 83% of SOC 105 contact hours Numerous and varying sections of upper-level courses.

Progress

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
Adjuncts currently teach 51% of student contact hours overall. The percentages have declined in SOC 101-Intro because of fewer sections offered overall. In SOC 105-Social Problems, adjuncts teach 76% of all contact hours. I find this completely unacceptable, especially given that SOC 105 is a vital SOC major and GenEd course that counts in two foundational categories. Even more problematic, ADJ and VIS now teach 18% of upper level course contact hours.

2017 Status
Not Yet Initiated
New or replacement tenure-track positions are extremely difficult to obtain. Consequently, this problem has become substantially worse over the past two years. Since adjunct hiring resides with the chair, I will always strive to follow the QA guidelines I created. At the same time, due to limited availability and low pay, ideally qualified faculty are not consistently hired, yet staffing must be fulfilled without reducing the number of enrollment seats.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 2.B.1

Ensure that all new employees participate in intercultural training and development.

Baseline

No such mandate currently exists.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
Most of this training occurs for faculty who participate in hiring committees or some sort of review process. In other words, intercultural training and development as such occurs when a faculty specifically requires it. beyond that, much of Sociology research and practice inherently involves intercultural awareness and often direct examination.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
Our one new hire in several years participated in various professional development workshops.

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

Objective 2.D.1

To hire an environmental sociologist to expand the department's focus to a growing area of scholarly and policy inquiry of critical importance that will allow the department to offer a unique sociological contribution to the Environmental Studies Minor and the University Sustainability Initiative

Baseline

We have no such expertise.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
We received approval to hire, and successfully hired an Environmental Sociologist. Although not requested, this was given to us as a joint hire with ENS.

2017 Status
Not Yet Initiated
We have again been turned down to hire this position.

Objective 2.D.2

To hire a political demographer to expand the department's focus to an important area of scholarly and policy inquiry of critical importance.

Baseline

We do not have a demographer.

Progress

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
We have only made progress if receiving a rejection to our request counts as progress.

2017 Status
Not Yet Initiated
We have again been turned down to hire this position.

Objective 2.D.3

To Hire a TT position in Social Movements.

Objective 2.D.4

Hire a TT faculty member in Applied Sociology

Baseline

This will be a replacement. We do not currently have a person with this expertise.

Objective 2.D.5

To hire an Expert in Community Engagement and Applied Learning

Baseline

This is a replacement hire. We do not currently have a person with this expertise.

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

Successfully implement the new department major and use it to recruit new majors and shorten time to graduation.

Baseline

The new curriculum has been approved and will take effect in Fall 2016.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
The new curriculum functions as intended. It speeds time to graduation, and delivers a superior educational experience by fulfilling GenEd and disciplinary requirements in a substantive sequence.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
The new major facilitated a record percentage of four-year senior graduation (72%).

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 3.B.1

Increase number of Sociology faculty who receive inclusion training.

Baseline

We now have a couple.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
Two faculty are certified inclusion advocates.

2017 Status
Minimal Progress
One additional faculty member for a total of three have I&E training.

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

Objective 3.D.1

To meet demand for hybrid and online courses in sociology.

Baseline

We have six faculty trained to teach hybrid or online courses. Thus far, we have offered Introduction to Sociology and various other courses online, including Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems, and Sociology of Work & Employment online.

Progress

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
We offer several online sections which are all popular.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
Online courses have become very popular and readily fill. This creates a new challenge--maintaining quality through tenure-track faculty and low enrollment caps, yet still meeting demand. We substantially lack the tenure faculty necessary to meet demand.

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

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

Objective 4.A.1

The Sociology department will continue and enhance students' opportunities for high impact learning experiences, including independent research, community-engagement through research and service learning, and internships.

Baseline

Currently, several faculty supervise independent research with students in the major, the McNair program, and the Honors College. Some classes require students to conduct community-based research, and students in the major have an opportunity to conduct internships.

Progress

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
As reported previously, high impact practices are highly desirable but very difficult to truly implement in large (>25) sections. Therefore, the vast majority of sections offer at best an ersatz version of high-impact and experience-based learning.

2017 Status
Substantial Progress
High impact learning experiences, independent research, community-engagement through research and service learning, and internships are regular part of our curriculum integrated into many courses. Such practices are often inherent in the study and teaching of people in society. However, the lack of new faculty hires has greatly increased class sizes over the last several years, which makes high-impact methods increasingly difficult if not impossible to undertake. Adjunct faculty typically lack the training and commitment to carry out high impact practices.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 4.B.1

To retain and expand the Department's student-run drama troupe called "Act on Racism," which uses the technique of liberation pedagogy developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire to allow students to use their own experiences as an educational starting point that encourages personal transformation. The troupe performs skits about racist incidents and inter-racial misunderstanding to educate audiences about subtle forms of racism.

Baseline

Currently, Prof. Stewart leads the troupe, which performs both on and off campus throughout the academic year.

Progress

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
The groups continues to languish for lack of funding.

2017 Status
Minimal Progress
We applied for a permanent budget increase ($1300) to support and expand this program. The request was rejected. All funding requests from every administrative office has been rejected over the last several years. This seems to indicate a stance of non-commitment to race\ethnic equality and justice.

Objective 4.B.2

Promote the Sociology Speaker's Colloquium

Baseline

At least two speakers each in Fall and Winter.

Progress

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
This Winter, we have two speakers scheduled, and one next Fall ( so far).

Outcome C: Grand Valley has mutually beneficial relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and connections with local, state, national, and world communities.

Objective 4.C.1

To maintain and increase Sociology faculty participation in local, regional, national, and international professional associations.

Baseline

Currently, numerous Sociology faculty give presentations, organize sessions, hold office, and/or have run for elective office in the Michigan Sociological Association, North Central Sociological Association, Midwest Sociological Association, American Sociological Association, International Sociological Association, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Latin American Studies Association, Third World Studies Association, and other professional organizations. Two faculty edit the Michigan Sociological Review.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
This objective describes the ongoing process of professional Sociological activity. As such, it is expected of all TT faculty.

2017 Status
Achieved
This is a definite strength of our department. Our faculty participation rate in local, state, regional, national, and international associations is nearly always 100%. Many faculty participate in multiple events. In fact, all Sociology faculty enthusiastically participate at all levels of conference activities: organization, committee service, and scholarly presentations.

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