Provost Lyman’s Report to Faculty – October 2020

This report was shared with faculty and staff on Oct. 6, 2020.

Dear Colleagues:

As we navigate the seventh week of the semester, I take this opportunity to thank the faculty and all who support the success of faculty and students for your dedication as we make our way through what can feel like a perfect storm. In the face of our current circumstances, I acknowledge efforts both heralded and unheralded to help our students survive and thrive even as faculty and staff experience their own pressures in this time of unprecedented challenges and uncertainty.

Amidst uncertainty, there remain guideposts on which we can rely and there are emerging insights that can help us stay on course if we draw on them.  In this report, I will say more on emerging insights about the student experience during the pandemic, remind us of support for students and for faculty, provide announcements and updates, and call attention to faculty awards, honors, and publications.


  • Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Experience (Chickering & Gamson, 1987)*
  • What Students Are Telling Us
  • Encouraging Students to Seek Additional Resources and Support
  • Support for Faculty
  • Recent Faculty Awards, Honors, and Publications/Creative Work

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

Though first articulated over a generation ago by Chickering and Gamson, the seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education are well worth revisiting because they remain remarkably relevant. These principles, based on research on teaching and learning in college, affirm good work you are already doing and provide guidelines as you consider possible formative adjustments to your courses during the second half of the semester and as you plan your spring 2021 courses. In this taxonomy of principles, good practice in undergraduate education

  • Encourages student-faculty contact
  • Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  • Uses and encourages active learning techniques
  • Gives prompt feedback
  • Emphasizes time on task
  • Communicates high expectations
  • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

*Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z. F.  (1987, March).  Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education.  AAHE Bulletin, 39 (7), 3-7.

The principles of good practice in undergraduate education apply whether courses are seated, hybrid, or remote.  However, emerging insights suggest that these principles may be even more important in remote or partially remote than in seated settings.

What Students Are Telling Us

Consider what our students are doing and saying:

  • Students are withdrawing from remote courses at higher rates than from seated courses
  • When courses are online, undergraduate students prefer synchronous online over asynchronous online
  • When courses are hybrid, students prefer robust and regular seated components, and thus tend to favor and flourish more in courses with, for example, half the sessions seated as opposed to only one quarter or fewer seated sessions

These student patterns and preferences are strong indications that students want and need the structure and support that may be more readily facilitated when courses are seated. The principles of good practice in undergraduate education, which if followed tend to result in greater structure and support for students, would appear easier to implement in seated courses than in online courses, easier to provide in hybrid courses with robust and regular seated components than in hybrid courses with fewer seated sessions, and easier to implement in synchronous online courses that in asynchronous online courses.

The above emerging insights inform appeals already made to faculty to help us maintain the same course modality mix this coming spring semester that we achieved this fall, of having at least 25 percent of our courses offered as seated and hybrid. I reiterate this request here and strongly appeal to the faculty to consider these emerging insights, especially as you plan your spring 2021 courses, because we are now seeing that student persistence is higher in seated courses, that students prefer hybrid courses with a robust number of seated sessions, and that, for remote courses, students prefer synchronous online to asynchronous online modality. In addition, as you approach the second half of your fall semester courses, please factor in any of these findings that are relevant and make adjustments accordingly where possible.

Students, especially our first-time-in-college students, face a challenging transition from high school in the best of times and circumstances. With the majority of their courses being online, many are overwhelmed and in need of more structure and support. As I was reminded recently by a colleague, while many faculty have moderated their expectations of students during the pandemic, the familiar scaffolding of lectures and class discussions on which students have relied in order to learn class material may have largely disappeared. Without the familiar scaffolding of lectures and class discussions, and the faculty member “present” to mediate learning experiences, it is surely more difficult to get a handle on complex concepts and to construct one’s own understanding.

We have heard students say repeatedly that they feel as if they are having to teach themselves. Teaching oneself is always necessary to some degree in order to construct one’s own knowledge when in new conceptual territory. However, when students find themselves bereft of the support of faculty experts mediating their learning experiences by lecturing, guiding discussion, or providing structured active learning experiences in the classroom, it can be much more daunting for them.  Revisiting the seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education will affirm and also suggest ways of providing the additional structure and support that students may need in order to stay on course this semester, particularly in online and hybrid courses.

Encouraging Students to Seek Additional Resources and Support

Please encourage students to take advantage, if they have not already, of the Student Online Learning Orientation training course that was created especially for them at the start of the fall semester. You will find more about this self-paced online training course here. As you will see, faculty who would like students to go through the entire course can get verification of participation by having students take the optional final exam and present faculty with the certificate for the course.

Do continue to encourage students to avail themselves of other supports and in-person experiences that may be particularly needed or useful during the stressful semester midpoint.  This includes the Psychological Counseling Center which offers support whether students are on campus or remote. Kindly also remind students that the Library is open, albeit on a reduced schedule, for in-person services and encourage students to take time to visit the Dorsky Museum during its open hours.  Currently at the Dorsky, “We Wear the Mask,” an exhibition of works selected by Hudson Valley artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, is on view through November 22 in the Museum’s Seminar Room Gallery.

Support for Faculty

Support for faculty related to enhancing effectiveness in teaching and learning and especially in online courses is also available in abundance. In addition to the constant flow and numerous offerings of the Faculty Development Center (FDC), a myriad of trainings and other instructional support resources are continually being made available by the Office of Instructional Technology (OIT). A self-paced online training opportunity remains available that was provided last May 1 when all faculty and staff were automatically enrolled in the Blackboard course called Training: Developing a Blended Learning Course. You will find more about this course here.

Faculty colleagues are also available to offer direct advice and guidance to the faculty through the Peer Instructional Design Mentor Teacher Program launched this fall as a resource for academic faculty who are looking for a new kind of professional development for online and hybrid education. The schedule for the seven Mentor Teachers can be found here.

In addition to the support of the new online faculty fellows known as Peer Instructional Design Mentor Teachers, look for future news and information about two other faculty fellows program opportunities bolstering support for New Paltz faculty and ultimately fostering greater success for our academic programs and our students.  These are the brand new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Faculty Fellows Program and the fifth cohort of the Sustainability Faculty Fellows Learning Community.

Recent Faculty Awards, Honors, and Publications/Creative Work

You will find recent recognitions of additional faculty accomplishments here.


Thank you for your continued dedication to the academic advancement and personal growth of our students. Students notice your investment in their achievement and success and I know that they are grateful.

Best regards,

Barbara Lyman
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs