With the end of classes and finals last week signaling the conclusion of this unprecedented Spring 2020, I can think of no better time to take a minute to reflect and thank all of our UTSA faculty for their efforts and accomplishments this semester.

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Looking back and pressing on

Dear Colleagues,

With the end of classes and finals last week signaling the conclusion of this unprecedented Spring 2020, I can think of no better time to take a minute to reflect and thank all of our UTSA faculty for their efforts and accomplishments this semester.  

I am reminded of a note that I received earlier this spring from one of our longstanding faculty that I think captures the spirit that makes our academic community so special — the commitment and can-do attitude of our faculty to serve our students.

“I know the past weeks have been taxing to say the least. I just wanted to pass on some encouraging information. Before coronavirus turned the world upside down, I was a chalk/blackboard enthusiast — I've always immensely enjoyed the lecture hall, and the blackboard was part of the 'stage' so to speak. I have never given an online lecture in [my] years of teaching … here at UTSA, and admittedly was a bit apprehensive initially. 

“However, after giving my first lecture online a few weeks past, I have really gotten to appreciate the format, and most importantly the students are very attentive, and appreciative of my efforts. I never thought of teaching [my discipline] online; however, I can see how this could be a wonderful preview of coming attractions. 

“I wanted to pass this on to you because everyone is being inundated with 'what if this, what if that,' etc. … In fact, a lot of good is coming about. It's not perfect, but nothing is. … So in short I would just encourage everyone to 'stay the course,' focus on what we can do for the students with what we have, and most importantly 'press on' for the good of the students and the University.” 

I applaud the work and creativity of our faculty who quickly transitioned to a whole new mode of instruction, and doing so in less than optimal circumstances, while at the same time managing family at home or from afar, helping neighbors and our community, all of whom have been both directly and indirectly affected by COVID-19. Our faculty have indeed “pressed on” for the good of our students during this unprecedented challenge from the pandemic.

Let me also recognize the leadership shown by our Faculty Senate, which has been a key partner in moving rapidly to consider and endorse many variances to our standard procedures and processes.

There are few things more fundamental to the role of faculty than the assessment of student mastery. With the review and advice of the Faculty Senate, a large majority of faculty elected to provide a Credit/No Credit grading option, where suitable, for their courses — and approximately one-third of students chose that option. I consider this outcome a win for all that balances the various challenges that our students also faced this semester. 

We should all be proud of the accomplishments this spring! As I have sought feedback from our students, I am struck by the frequency that they have commented on the support they felt by the faculty. As our colleague noted, nothing is perfect — as there are certainly some lessons learned from this spring that will be useful for summer and beyond. These lessons will inform the ongoing training and support as we prepare for summer. The partnership between the College POCs/Department Faculty Champions and the Academic Innovation team was one of the key components to engaging faculty this spring and is fundamental to our ongoing training plan.

Academic Innovation and the College POCs/Department Faculty Champions will be surveying both faculty and students May 18–24 to collect feedback to help finalize the training that will begin the week of May 26 and continue throughout the summer. Please check out our Plan of Action for Summer Online for the most up-to-date information.

Through the Tactical Team process that will develop proposals for re-opening UTSA’s campuses, the planning for Fall 2020 academic instruction is kicking off soon — considering all of our pedagogical varieties and different faculty and student needs — and is being led by College of Sciences Dean David Silva and Interim Vice Provost for Academic Innovation Melissa Vito. More information on the work of all our Tactical Teams will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.        

While screen time and a relentless “zoom” environment will never substitute for rewarding face-to-face interactions that define our academic community, these ways of staying connected and delivering our curriculum have also fostered new opportunities for creativity and ingenuity. And as our colleague noted, “a lot of good is coming about.”         

Please make sure to take some time for yourself — to rejuvenate and refresh. Thank you again for your efforts this spring and your commitment to support our students’ learning with empathy, rigor and flexibility.

With warm regards,

Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D.
Peter T. Flawn Distinguished Professor
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Integrity • Excellence • Inclusiveness • Respect • Collaboration • Innovation