Breadth of Core Courses in Anthropology & Sociology
As later discussed under Curriculum Review, the Department’s faculty is concerned with the breadth of training for our undergraduate majors in anthropology and in sociology, even as we recognize that our cross-disciplinary emphasis is a Departmental strength. Our offerings are deep and wide in cultural anthropology, but sporadic or non-existent in the traditional core fields of archaeology, physical anthropology, and linguistics. On the sociology side, our major’s students are required to take a course in introductory research methods and the Senior Capstone Seminar, but they are not required to take a course in social statistics, as is required in most other undergraduate sociology programs. Hence, despite the decided advantages of our cross-disciplinary orientation, students preparing for graduate studies in mainstream anthropology and sociology programs may find themselves at a disadvantage in these respects. This disadvantage may carry over into the job prospects of some of our B.A. graduates. The Department’s has spent considerable attention on curricular reform in recent years. Attention to these particular issues, which involve lively intellectual and pedagogical debate among the faculty, represents a continuation of these efforts.
b. Advising While appointing a faculty member as Undergraduate Coordinator has improved undergraduate advising, there remains considerable room for improvement. Most basically, there is need for expanded and more consistent faculty involvement in undergraduate advising.
The Department should deepen its engagement in South Florida by energetically committing its efforts to supporting student internships. An exemplary approach to internships is Professor Shearon Lowery’s Special Topics courses on South Florida prisons and prisoners (see the front-page story in South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 16, 2003). Serving as an intern and writing a research report could possibly become a required undergraduate course. A faculty member could be given a course release each academic year to serve as Internship Director.
d. Prior Basic-Skills Preparation of Undergraduate Students As is lamented throughout the university, our undergraduate students on the whole are inadequately prepared for college work in basic skills of reading, writing, computation, and logic. Possibly even more troubling is their generally weak preparation in basic study and work habits. Such problems may be especially serious at FIU in view of its missions of multicultural and urban education. The extent of the problems calls for new university-wide initiatives that begin at least at the start of the freshman year, but perhaps as early as the high school years via innovative outreach programs (e.g., as the University of California system has introduced). Given the Department of Sociology & Anthropology’s emphasis on cross-cultural issues, our faculty (and students) should be active participants in FIU initiatives to address the problem of inadequate student preparation in a multicultural setting.
e. Office Space for Teaching Assistants & Adjunct Faculty There is a critical lack of office space for teaching assistants and adjunct faculty at University Park. The University Park shortage substantially diminishes the quality of undergraduate training, even as we devote increased attention and resources to our B.A. curriculum. This problem is particularly troublesome because the strength of our faculty’s record of external research funding implies a comparatively high percentage of undergraduate teaching by graduate students and adjunct professors.
f. Quality of Classrooms & Computer Labs
Classrooms and computer labs are generally substandard, often markedly so: they are poorly maintained; facilities such as computers, video hardware, and software are unreliable; and classroom acoustics in the Paul Cejas School of Architecture Building are woeful. These problems pose a serious detriment to the quality of undergraduate education.
g. Faculty and Student Assistance with Web Sites, Instructional Technology & Software Dr. Charlyne Walker does a superb job of assisting faculty with personal web sites, instructional technology, and software. Despite her outstanding efforts, however, Dr. Walker alone cannot possibly address the faculty’s rapidly growing need for assistance as web-linked instruction, PowerPoint presentations, and the like become more important to undergraduate teaching. There is urgent need to establish a competent staff of adequate size to meet the burgeoning faculty demand for such assistance, as FIU’s Vice President of University Technology Services, John McGowan, and Dr. Walker are energetically attempting to do. The University must also ensure that undergraduate students have routine access to help with instructional technology and software.
h. Computers & Software for Students The College of Arts & Sciences has taken great strides to meet faculty computer needs. Nonetheless, the University needs to ensure that undergraduate students have ample access to up-to-date computers and software, both on and off campus. This remains a notable impediment to undergraduate teaching.
i. Video Instructional Resources Video instructional resources have become an important teaching tool, perhaps particularly for teaching cross-cultural and global issues, the Department’s focus. FIU’s video holdings are quite inadequate, however, obligating faculty to purchase such materials (at their own expense) through commercial channels. Classroom facilities for showing videos are inadequate as well.
j. Divided Campus Responsibilities: Biscayne Bay Campus & University Park Campus
While the Department has recently lost two Biscayne Bay faculty members to other universities (anthropologists Janet Chernela and Robin Sheriff), its present faculty includes several members with Biscayne Bay appointments: Stephen Fjellman (anthropology; currently Associate Dean, Honors College), Hugh Gladwin (anthropology; Director, Institute for Public Opinion Research [IPOR]), Abraham Lavender (sociology), Jean Rahier (anthropology; African-New World Studies), Ida Tafari (Visiting Assistant Professor), and Richard Tardanico (the current Department Chair). The Department has attempted to offer the full major in Sociology & Anthropology at both campuses. Increasingly, however, it has done so at BBC via adjunct and visiting faculty. Although the adjunct and visiting faculty members are excellent instructors, this arrangement represents a de facto diminution of the Department’s commitment to BBC. Most basically, the fact that the University’s principal resources and programs are located at UP puts BBC students and faculty at a substantial disadvantage. At a minimum it obligates BBC students and faculty to spend considerable time traveling from one campus to the other, to the detriment of their work obligations and their personal well-being in general.
2. Graduate Program a. Out-of-State & Travel/Research Funding for Graduate Students As with other FIU programs, the Department of Sociology & Anthropology has difficulty attracting out-of-state applicants. A fundamental reason is the paucity of out-of-state tuition waivers. Neither the Department nor the University can improve the quality of graduate students without the addition of more out-of-state tuition waivers. Increasing the number of enhanced assistantships is another need, as is improved travel and research funding for graduate students.
b. Departmental Space & Facilities
Departmental space and facilities for graduate students are grossly inadequate. The only significant space for graduate study/research, computation, and discussion is a crowded, deteriorating seminar room, to which, moreover, graduate students do not have consistent access. In addition, the seminar room’s computer and printer facilities are quite inadequate for current needs, and fall woefully short of anticipated needs as GIS research becomes integrated into the program. The inadequacy of such space and facilities is another serious detriment to the quality and national competitiveness of the Department’s graduate program. Not to be lost in this array of needs is that of carrel or office space for graduate students.
Space for Teaching Assistants
The absence of office space for teaching assistants is another serious detriment to the graduate program. Besides impairing the quality of the Department’s undergraduate instruction, the absence of such space impedes the professional development of our graduate students.
The Department’s graduate seminars are typically held in the one crowded, deteriorating seminar room that also serves as the common space for graduate students and the site for faculty meetings.
Software for Quantitative & Qualitative Research
FIU is far behind national standards in its institutional support for the growing variety of software that is integral to both quantitative and qualitative training. For example, Research I universities generally provide institutional access for graduate students and faculty to StatTransfer or DBMS/Copy, which have become essential for transferring quantitative data from one statistical software program to another. FIU does not hold an institutional license for either program.
Research I universities increasingly provide institutional access not only to statistical programs SPSS and SAS (which are based on the computer languages of the 1960s-70s) but also to Stata, a PC-age program that is rapidly rising as the general-package statistical software of choice in the social and policy sciences (see the Department of Sociology web sites of, e.g., Harvard and UCLA; and the statistical computing web site of UCLA’s Academic Technology Services). FIU does not hold an institutional license for Stata. Nor does it to other widely used statistical programs, such as SysStat and MatLab (the latter being important for GIS applications). Regarding qualitative research, software programs such as Atlas and NVivo are becoming basic tools for graduate instruction and research. FIU does not hold institutional licenses for such programs. In the Summer 2003 the Department did manage to purchase a license to install Stata on 10 computers in the Graduate Seminar Room,while LACC, via its license for NVivo, generously provided the latter software as well. But, besides the fact that seven of the 10 computers in the Graduate Seminar Room are woefully outdated, the Stata purchase was squeezed out of extreme belt tightening in other budget areas, and funds are unlikely to be available to purchase Stata’s or Nvivo’s new editions in another year or two.
Software for GIS training and research is becoming essential as well. It will soon become important within the Department given the anticipated increased profile of offerings on sustainable communities and the GIS proficiency of Professors Gladwin and Tardanico (and probably of some upcoming hires). Under the terms of FIU’s institutional licenses, however, obtaining GIS software is prohibitively expense for students and faculty alike. It must be noted that, while the Green Library’s GIS labs are excellent, achieving proficiency in GIS and applying it to research require wider, more flexible access to GIS software (along with adequate hardware).
Deficient institutional support for such quantitative and qualitative software programs is a major impediment to the improvement of departmental (and university) graduate training, as well as to the faculty research upon which such training is based.
c. Knowledge of Contemporary Issues & Debates concerning Comparative/Global Research First-year graduate students currently take core courses in theory (two semesters), introduction to research methods (one semester), and applied social statistics (two semesters). The Department provides wide-ranging graduate-student preparation in these courses. Yet deficient knowledge of contemporary issues and debates concerning the nexus of theory and methodology in comparative/global research (and arguably, in sociological and anthropological research in general) is pervasive among the program’s graduate students.
This problem perhaps calls for a second-semester seminar on issues and debates in comparative/global research—the graduate program’s unifying theme—which could integrate the core courses by connecting theory and methodology with regard to today’s major currents and debates. The seminar could revolve around interplays of theory and methodology concerning research in the Department’s specializations of transnational migration/race-ethnicity, environment and sustainability, and comparative social conflicts (see Program Overview below). It could provide students with much deeper grounding in the intellectual underpinnings of comparative/global research within the framework of contemporary issues and debates.
d. Scholarly Speaker Series Another reason for deficient knowledge of contemporary issues and debates concerning comparative/global research is the absence of a scholarly speaker series in anthropology, sociology, and comparative/global studies. This deprives students of formal and, perhaps even more important, informal dialogue with the national and international community of scholars whose work pertains to the Department’s specific research agenda. Such dialogue is vital to the intellectual, scholarly, and professional development of graduate students, and cannot be met by otherwise excellent FIU forums such as the Presidential Lecture Series.
e.Exposure to the Gamut of Faculty Members, including the Biscayne Bay Campus/University Park Faculty Division The exposure of graduate students to the faculty is heavily slanted toward the relatively few faculty members who teach the core requirements (theory, research methods, and social statistics) and substantive seminars. This marginalizes much of the faculty from the graduate program, including those faculty—especially at Biscayne Bay Campus—who have active research agenda. The problem hampers graduate students, both in their overall academic and professional development and in choosing appropriate faculty members for thesis and dissertation committees.
Two complementary ways to solve this problem are (1) to provide a more frequent rotation of faculty members who teach the core requirements; and (2) to incorporate into the program a pro-seminar on faculty research. More fully integrating the Biscayne Bay faculty into the graduate program, however, represents a formidable logistical challenge.
f. Thesis-Dissertation Writing Seminar
Particularly because English is the second language for so many graduate students, there is need for a regularly offered graduate seminar that focuses solely on the mechanics of grammar and organization in writing a thesis or dissertation. In addition to helping the students, such a seminar would alleviate the heavy burden of thesis-dissertation advisors with regard to English-language editing.
g. Professional Development Another problem concerns education in practical aspects of professional development, which the Department has just haphazardly addressed. Among these are employment trends within and outside academia; considerations in choosing academic specializations and thesis topics; issues in choosing thesis advisors and committees; strategies for obtaining professional employment; vita preparation; conference participation; research, publication, teaching, and service expectations; interviewing; and other features of professional development in university and non-university settings.
h. Annual Evaluation of Graduate Student Performance & Progress A procedure of rigorous annual evaluation of graduate student performance and progress needs to be implemented. Such evaluations are important not only for individual graduate students but also for the program-wide establishment and maintenance of high academic standards, for the promotion of on-going student-faculty dialogue, and for departmental community building.
i. Internship Program Internships with government and community institutions can provide rewarding opportunities to define thesis and dissertation topics, collect data, develop professional skills in general, and promote socially responsive research. The Department should establish an internship program for graduate students. j. Graduate Student Recruitment
While the overall quality of the graduate students is improving (according to average GRE scores and GPA’s), the Department needs to push aggressively to recruit increasingly more qualified graduate students. This push will require major improvements in graduate student infrastructure and funding, including more enhanced assistantships. It will also require continued improvements to the Department’s web site, as well as the creation of a professional-caliber brochure and recruitment through the Department’s network of alumni and professional collaborators. If 2003-04 faculty recruitment proves successful, recruitment campaigns should center on environmental anthropology/environmental studies and on transnational migration/race-ethnicity.
3. Faculty & Staff a. Hiring Replacement Faculty & Additional New Faculty In 2002 the Department lost two senior members with excellent records of external research funding (William Avison, sociology of medicine, who departed to the University of Western Ontario; Walter Peacock, quantitative methods and sociology of disaster vulnerability & mitigation, who departed to Texas A&M University). In 2003 the Department lost to retirement another key senior member with an excellent record of external funding, Betty Morrow (qualitative methods and sociology of disaster vulnerability & mitigation), and will lose to retirement other key senior members in 2004 (Anthony Maingot, political sociology of the Caribbean & Latin America; and William Vickers, cultural & environmental anthropology, Andes). Still another key senior member (Janet Chernela, cultural & environmental anthropology, Brazil) is leaving FIU (for the University of Maryland). And in 2003 the Department lost two bedrock junior faculty members (Robin Sheriff, cultural anthropology, Brazil, to the University of New Hampshire; and Nadine Fernández, cultural anthropology, Cuba). These positions represent painful losses in terms of quality, grants capacity, and Latin American/Caribbean expertise. Within five years or so, other senior faculty members will retire (Jerald Brown, cultural & environmental anthropology, the U.S.; Stephen Fjellman, cultural anthropology; Hugh Gladwin, cultural anthropology; and Barry Levine, sociology, the Caribbean).
A related problem is that several departmental faculty members (currently four) hold FIU administrative appointments that command virtually their full attention. Professor Douglas Kincaid is Vice Provost for International Studies; Professor Steven Fjellman is Associate Dean of the Honors College; Professor Hugh Gladwin is Director of the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR); Professor Lisandro Pérez (founding director of the Cuban Research Institute) is Director of FIU’s new International Migration Initiative; and Professor Guillermo Grenier will serve as Interim Director of the International Migration Initiative in 2004-05 during Professor Pérez’s sabbatical. These administrative appointments seriously detract from the Department’s research, teaching, and service capacities. Still another problem is that at any given time several faculty members (currently five) are on leave.
The Department did add an outstanding new assistant professor in Fall 2004 (Laura Ogden, cultural & environmental anthropology, the Everglades) who will spearhead the replenishing and deepening of the Department’s excellence in environmental anthropology/environmental studies. But at a minimum, the lost members must be replaced to maintain the quality of the Department’s research, teaching, and service, as well as to replace its losses in external research funding.
The replacement faculty and additional new faculty need not be senior professors. Of the faculty’s 21 current members, only one is an assistant professor (anthropologist Laura Ogden). Hiring replacement and other new faculty at the junior level would promote the Department’s continued vitality. Furthermore, the replacement faculty should reflect the department’s cross-disciplinary, core specialization areas: transnational migration/race-ethnicity, environment and sustainability, and comparative social conflicts (Appendix B). And given the Department’s Latin American/Caribbean and comparative/global focus, most of the new hires should be made in association with LACC and the Center for Transnational and Comparative Research (including Asian Studies). There is particular need for new faculty who can teach theory, research methods (including GIS), and social statistics at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
b. Faculty & Staff Salaries
Current faculty salaries are considerably below national standards for Ph.D.-granting departments (see XII.B). This causes three basic problems. First, key faculty members leave FIU for other institutions that offer significant salary increases. Second, many faculty members who stay at FIU spend increasing amounts of time engaged in overload teaching, outside consulting, and the like, to augment their salaries, thereby detracting from time spent on the fundamental tasks of research, teaching, and service. Third, comparatively low salaries frequently cause personal financial problems for faculty members, which also can reduce the quality of faculty work.
Staff salaries are also woefully low by national standards (according to the Department Chair’s informal telephone survey of Chairs at several universities of varying rank nationwide). A highly skilled staff is essential for a nationally competitive graduate program. FIU cannot compete for adequately skilled staff members unless staff salaries are raised to national standards.
c. Institutional Support for Junior Faculty Other Ph.D.-granting universities commonly provide extra measures of institutional support to junior faculty such as significant funds for equipment, software, and summer research, and a one-semester sabbatical. FIU does not routinely provide such support, which is decisive both to promote high-end scholarly achievement by its new generations of faculty and to secure their commitment to FIU over the long run.
d. Office Space/Facilities & Staff Training Office space for faculty and staff is cramped, including insufficient storage space and generally closet-sized, windowless offices. In addition there are no offices for visiting faculty, thus limiting the Department’s capacity to encourage the flow of new ideas for research and teaching. Institutional support for computer hardware and software is deficient, despite the notable efforts by the College of Arts & Sciences’ understaffed team. Software training for the staff must be improved, too. For example, the Department’s office staff could be trained to update the Departmental and faculty-personal web sites, the maintenance of which is difficult given the weight of other demands on faculty time.
e. Faculty Teaching Credit for Thesis & Dissertation Supervision
As FIU’s graduate programs expand, faculty need to receive course-load equivalent teaching credit for supervising theses and dissertations. Otherwise the increased supervision burdens will detract from the faculty’s scholarly productivity (including grants writing).
f. Departmental Associate Chair with Emphasis on Undergraduate Programs As the Department (and University) increasingly emphasizes not only graduate studies but also improvements in undergraduate studies, there is growing need for a full-time faculty administrator within the department to take charge of all aspects of the undergraduate program.
g. Departmental Scholarly Speaker Series As mentioned for graduate students, the presentation of colloquia by outside scholars is an integral part of major graduate programs. The fact that the Department of Sociology & Anthropology does not have funding to support a colloquia series notably restricts the faculty’s participation in vital scholarly exchanges of ideas and networks of activities.
h. Biscayne Bay Campus/University Park Campus Division The division of the Department’s faculty into Biscayne Bay and University Park appointments detracts from the quality of the Department’s undergraduate and graduate programs and imposes heavy burdens on the Biscayne Bay faculty. The burdens include the Biscayne Bay faculty’s substantial extra travel time and marginalization from both the Department’s graduate program and the University’s resources, which are concentrated at University Park.