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Dean Platsoucas Gives Credit to Faculty, Staff in College of Sciences Address

Dean Chris Platsoucas

Chris Platsoucas, dean of Old Dominion University's College of Sciences (COS), praised his faculty and staff in the annual State of the College address this week for the pluck and ingenuity they have shown in austere budgetary times.

Even though the college's budget has been reduced by $1 million during the past two years, total enrollments in the college have jumped nearly 22 percent during the same period. Furthermore, between 2007 and 2009, the number of freshmen who declared as science and math majors has risen by 48 percent. "Thank you for doing much more, even with a little less," Platsoucas told his audience in the Ted Constant Convocation Center Big Blue Room.

While experiencing this rapid rise in the number of students, the college faculty also has been winning a remarkable number of research grants, the dean pointed out. In fiscal 2010 the grant awards totaled $20.6 million, compared to $13.6 million a year earlier. The awards are up a whopping 75 percent above those received - averaging about $11 million a year - annually between 2002 and 2007.

Platsoucas, who came to ODU as COS dean in 2007, said 22 new faculty members have been recruited since he arrived. "Twelve of these 22 are funded by federal, peer-reviewed research grants," he added. "These research grants have been transferred or are being transferred to ODU."

He also said that the majority of COS graduate students are supported by research grants and other non-institutional sources.

More faculty and staff effort has been directed in recent years to formal advising/tutoring programs designed to help undergraduates, especially freshmen, be more successful in difficult math and science classes, he said.

The initiatives include the SCALE-UP program that is credited with increasing the number of students who pass introductory physics. That program is directed by Lawrence Weinstein, University Professor of physics, and Charles Sukenik, associate professor of physics.

In addition, the Mathematics Science Resource Center (MSRC) was launched by Platsoucas in 2008, and is led by Terri Mathews, the COS assistant dean. "We founded the MSRC to coordinate the College of Sciences' retention effort and to provide extensive advising and tutoring on demand to students in academic difficulty in mathematics, chemistry and other courses with high degree of failure," the dean said.

"The results we have seen are very encouraging and have clearly impacted student success. MSRC has proven to be effective in increasing the average grades of the students and decreasing the DFWI (students who get grades of D, F or incomplete, or withdraw) of students who received intervention."

Unfortunately, the dean added, fewer than 20 percent of the students who need MSRC intervention are taking advantage of it. "Our objectives include substantially increasing the number of students attending tutoring." He said one reason he believes the goal can be met is that a survey in 2009 showed that 87 percent of students were highly satisfied or very satisfied with the tutoring services, and another 10 percent were satisfied.

In addition to his call for advances in teaching and research, Platsoucas listed these goals for the 2010-11 school year:

• Successful execution of 14 faculty searches

• Enhanced shared governance and communication in COS

• Begin a new undergraduate student recruitment program that focuses on students with SAT scores of 1,100 or higher who have been admitted to ODU, but have not yet matriculated. The program will pair these students with accomplished senior students during daylong campus visits.

• Establish a professional development program for high school and middle school teachers, focusing on mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and earth sciences.

This article was posted on: September 5, 2010

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