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Provost's Memos

May 2, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that ten Innovation@UNC proposals will be funded for implementation in the coming year. Through this work, we will launch new academic programs, reach untapped student populations, test new pedagogies, and improve how we support students.

The overwhelming response to the Provost's call for proposals and the work of so many people across campus to support this process are truly an affirmation of your willingness to reach beyond the gravitational pull of the ordinary. The proposals that we were not able to fund reflect a wonderful array of innovative ideas, some of which we will continue to explore in the coming year. As you well know, we are responding to a magnitude of change unparalleled in UNC's history. This is a multiyear endeavor, and the work we have done this academic year through I@UNC is clearly moving us in the right direction.

You may recall, we initially received 74 I@UNC proposals involving more than 180 faculty and staff. Proposals were evaluated through a broad review process that included feedback from Comment Teams of faculty and staff, a Review Team of people with campus-wide leadership responsibilities, and other members of the campus. Fifteen concepts were identified to be developed into full proposals. The ten projects selected for funding are:

New Programs

  • Arts Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Brewing Laboratory Science Program
  • FETCH~LAB UNC—Facility for Education and Testing of Canine Hearing and Laboratory for Animal Bioacoustics
  • Preparing Educators to be Leaders of Comprehensive School Physical Activity

New Learners

  • Diversifying UNC Student Population—International Student Recruiting; Focus on China and Eastern Asia

New Pedagogies

  • Interdisciplinary Patient Simulation Academy
  • Gee, I Finally Made the Connection—Bridging Principle and Application using Guided Information Exploration Apps
  • Impacting Student Learning by Reforming the Biology First-Year Experience
  • The UNC Flipped Classroom Academy: Propelling UNC to National Prominence in Higher Education Flipped Learning Excellence

Student Success

  • Supplemental Academic Instruction in English and Mathematics

If you'd like to see the original proposals, they are available below. We will also be posting progress updates on the site when implementation is under way.

With your leadership, UNC is building on its strong heritage in academic excellence while reaching upward and outward for new opportunities.

Keep an eye out for next year's I@UNC call for proposals in the Fall. We look forward to seeing your ideas!

Best Regards,

Kay and Robbyn

March 7, 2014

Dear Campus Community,

I am writing to thank you everyone for participating in the 2014 Innovation@UNC Program (I@UNC) and to share the outcome of the initial review process with you.

We received 74 proposals that focused on new programs, new learners, creative pedagogies, and enhancements to student success. It was inspiring to see how many people are willing to invest their time and energy in this process. Moreover, reading all of the proposals was such an affirmation of what is special about UNC – our creativity, optimism, and commitment to excellence. The ideas are innovative and exciting, and I continue to have great faith in our collective ability to build on our heritage and strengthen UNC in this new era of unprecedented change.

As you know, the I@UNC initiative includes a broad review process. Thoughtful feedback was submitted by several groups: Comment Teams of faculty and staff, a Review Team of people with campus-wide leadership responsibilities, and other members of the campus through the I@UNC SharePoint website. The work of these reviewers, and the hundreds of comments they provided, are immeasurably valuable to this process. All concepts were evaluated based on the evaluation criteria posted on the I@UNC website

As a result of our review we asked the authors to proceed in one of following three ways:

  1. Submit a Full I@UNC Proposal
  2. Re-Submit a Revised I@UNC Concept Paper Next Year
  3. Explore the Idea in a Different Context

Everyone who submitted a concept paper received a letter indicating of which of the three categories their proposal fits and a separate file with specific feedback from reviewers.

Projects that were selected to move forward with a full proposal appear to reflect the intentions of the I@UNC program in their testing of a potentially game-changing concept for UNC. They are fresh ideas with the potential to make a significant impact who we educate and how we teach. They tackle serious challenges facing our university; and they extend our long-standing commitment to high-quality teaching and learning.

These concept papers, listed below, can be reviewed at share.unco.edu/i@unc 

New Programs

New Learners

New Pedagogies

Student Success

Once again, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to those of you who participated in I@UNC. I appreciate your generosity in sharing your hopes and ideas for the future, and I look forward to moving forward with some of these exciting proposals.


Robbyn Wacker, Provost and Senior Vice President

February 5, 2014
UNC Campus Community
Robbyn R. Wacker
Provost and Senior Vice President
Invitation to review Innovation@UNC proposals

Dear UNC community members,

I am pleased to announce that we received 74 proposals for the first round of Innovation@UNC funding. Thank you! I cannot begin to express my gratitude to each and every one of you for your collective investment of time, knowledge and creativity in this endeavor.

As you know, I@UNC is about testing your ideas for potential game-changing innovations that honor the fundamental tenets of teaching and learning we value. We have identified $1 million to fund proposals over two years. We issued a university-wide call for proposals in November 2013 and will solicit a second round of proposals in Fall 2014.

As I said in the call for proposals, I@UNC is about tapping into the imagination and inspiration of our UNC community to respond to the most significant and complex external challenges we have ever faced as a university. From the outset of this initiative, President Norton and I have expressed great faith in the ability of our university community to take on these challenges and solidify UNC's future in a changing landscape. Your response is a resounding affirmation that our faith is well-placed.

All of the proposals are now available on the I@UNC SharePoint website at https://share.unco.edu/i@unc, which can be accessed with your UNC login credentials. There are two ways for you to provide feedback on the proposals.

1. I invite you to offer your thoughts in the comment box located below each proposal on the SharePoint website.

2. I invite you to volunteer for one of the comment teams that will score the proposals using a tool based on the evaluation criteria identified at the launch of I@UNC. Each comment team will be assigned a group of proposals to evaluate, so your time commitment will be limited to about 90 minutes. To volunteer for a comment team, please send an e-mail to innovation@unco.edu  by noon Friday Feb. 7. Comments teams and proposals to be evaluated by each team will be identified and shared by e-mail to all of the comment team volunteers on Monday, Feb. 10.

The deadline for providing feedback, whether through the SharePoint site or as a member of a comment team, is 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17. The Review Team will use the feedback in its review of the proposals and, by March 3, will identify concept papers to be developed into full proposals.

Additional information about I@UNC is online at http://www.unco.edu/innovation.

November 13, 2013
UNC Campus Community
Robbyn R. Wacker
Provost and Senior Vice President
Provost’s Call for Innovation – I@UNC

As President Norton discussed in her State of the University address, I am writing to you about a university-wide call for innovation proposals. I am pleased to announce the launch of I@UNC, to share with you what it is and why I am so excited about it, and to invite your participation.

The Provost’s Call for Innovation (I@UNC) is about responding to the most significant and complex external challenges we have ever faced as a university. It is about tapping into the imagination and inspiration of our faculty, staff and administrators to identify unique ways to address these challenges. It is about proactively shaping our future and turning challenges into opportunities. I believe that because we are like no other university in our commitment and passion for teaching and inspiring students, we will not only meet these challenges but be an exemplar of what higher education will become in the 21st century.

Having been at UNC for a number of years, I am cognizant of the fact that over the years the campus community has been alerted to various warnings of an impending crisis that needed our attention.  Those past crises were generally linked to a single issue – adapting to the major decline in our state budget.  But the current circumstance we find ourselves in is unlike anything we’ve faced in the past.  Our present situation is far more complex. Here’s why.  It not only continues to be about our fiscal well-being, but also is now multivariate in nature. By that I mean our 2012 state funding level is the same as in 1996, and the number of high school graduates is declining, and competition in the higher education market is growing, and new technologies and program delivery strategies are emerging, and fewer students can now afford a college education, and there is increased oversight by federal and accreditation bodies, and people are questioning the value of a college degree.

The convergence of these multiple contextual challenges has changed the very nature of what it means to be engaged in the work of higher education today.  The interplay of fiscal, political, economic, social and demographic challenges, along with revolutionary changes in technology, requires that we respond so we can continue to offer education that is high quality, relevant, and affordable while remaining competitive among our higher education peers.

These challenges present a great opportunity for us to use our creativity and ingenuity to engage our current students and students we have yet to reach in new ways.  We can shape our future. Together, we can solidify UNC’s future in a new landscape with game-changing innovations that honor the fundamental tenets of teaching and learning we value.

I@UNC asks for your innovative proposals in the following areas:

New Programs: Respond to Emerging Needs

Propose new graduate and undergraduate degree programs, certificates, endorsements, professional development opportunities, or other types of programs to serve traditional learners or new populations of students, which respond to current and emerging social, cultural, and economic contexts.

New Learners: Reach Beyond Boundaries

Propose ways to reach new populations of learners with new program structures/models and/or delivery modes.

New Pedagogies: Re-imagine Teaching and Learning

Propose projects that transform student learning experiences using innovative pedagogies and/or technologies.

Student Success: Educate to Graduate

Propose projects to enhance student persistence, retention and degree completion through effective orientation, advising, supplemental instruction, and career development.

This campus-wide initiative seeks broad participation and collaboration by faculty and staff in both the submission of ideas and the feedback on proposals.  In addition to the current call for proposals, a call will be issued in the Fall of 2014. There will be $1 million available from our strategic initiatives reserve over two years for I@UNC projects.

We have created this website, which includes information about the four proposal areas, process and timeline, resources, and proposal guidelines and a link for asking questions. I will also host several Q&A sessions during the remainder of the semester. Dates, times and locations will be announced soon in UNC Today. In addition, I have been looking for a way to communicate with campus more frequently and directly, so I’ve decided to try Twitter. I invite you to follow me @provostUNC.

I look forward to seeing your proposals!

twitterFor updates follow Dr. Robbyn Wacker on twitter @provostUNC


Click here to view a printable version of this memo.