Memorandum 37 – Academic Centers

Approved June 4, 2012

1. Introduction

In support of Norwich University’s mission and 2019 strategic plan, academic centers at the University are established to strengthen and enrich research, public service, or instruction programs operated by our faculty and staff. They may also offer additional research opportunities, public service activities, and educational experiences for our students. Centers have the potential to support economic development within the State and beyond, by providing employment and offering technical assistance and training.

2. Defining Academic Centers:

Each center consists of “a group of faculty [and staff] members recognized as having related fields of knowledge and scholarly interests.” A center must identify a research, public service, or instructional activity directly in line with its mission, with the understanding that it may also carry out additional activities related to its primary mission. Centers do not have responsibility for, or authority over, academic curricula.

  1. Research Center: The primary mission of such a center is research, but it may also provide public service/technical assistance and instructional/training activities as secondary components of its mission.
  2. Public Service Center: The primary mission of such a center is public service or technical assistance, but research or instruction/training activities may be carried out as secondary components of its mission.
  3. Instructional Center: Such a center has training or instruction as its primary mission, but research and public service/technical assistance activities may occur as secondary components of its mission.

3. Creating, Establishing, Evaluating, and Closing NU Academic Centers:

Request to Create a Norwich University Academic Center

  1. The first step in establishing a new NU center is to obtain permission to create such a center from the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs (SVPAA) by preparing a letter of intent that addresses:
    • mission
    • detailed description of the center’s organizational structure (departmental, inter-school, inter-college, external partners, etc.)
    • type of center (research, public service, or instructional)
    • funding sources

    The letter must be signed by the individual (i.e. faculty/staff member, department chair, academic dean, Associate Vice President for Research (AVPR) or Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs (AVPAA), Vice President (VP), or the SVPAA) whose area of focus is primarily associated with that of the proposed the center, as well as by others within the University substantially impacted by its work.

  2. The letter should be submitted to the AVPR, who will forward the request to the SVPAA for review. The SVPAA will provide a written assessment of the request within a few weeks.
  3. Following a positive response from the SVPAA, the term “center” (not the formal name of the proposed center) may be used provisionally to seek external funding. When funding is obtained, the center’s proposed director may request approval from the SVPAA to use the formal name of the proposed center and to arrange for publicity. Norwich’s Office of Communications should be the conduit for all publicity

Request to Establish a Norwich University Academic Center

  1. Plan Submission: A center’s proposed director should submit a proposal to the AVPR to establish a center within one year of receiving permission to create it. The AVPR will send the proposal to the Faculty Development Committee (FDC) for review. This group has been chosen to evaluate proposals because centers are discrete organizations within the University and represent publically highlighted professional work of NU faculty. Since the FDC comprises representatives from all of Norwich’s colleges, its members will serve as a peer review panel that:
    • ensures that the proposed center does not duplicate the work of other University organizations
    • provides a service or focus on activity needed by or benefits the University
    • guarantees that faculty are aware of the proposed activity and are able to contribute suggestions or comments
  2. Review Process: The Faculty Development Coordinator will make the FDC’s recommendation to the AVPR, who will send the proposal for review to the either the AVPR (for research centers), the AVPAA (for public service or instructional centers), or the Vice President (for centers specific to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies), and then on to the SVPAA. The SVPAA, in turn, will make a recommendation to the President of the University. Upon approval by the President, the AVPR will notify personnel associated with the new center that they may initiate its establishment. This authorization will remain valid for two years.
  3. Plan Format: Proposals are submitted using Form A (PDF), which is appended at the end of this policy. The following text provides context and supporting information to be used when preparing proposals.
    1. Name: The proposed name for a center should concisely describe the focus of the center. Although some organizations use the words “center” and “institute” interchangeably, Norwich prefers the former term; “institute” should be used for organizational units (either academic or administrative) with broader interests, as compared to the specific focus of a center. This policy also guides the creation of institutes.
      A proposed name should not be similar to that of an existing unit at Norwich. The name should not include the term “Norwich,” in as much as “Norwich University” should be assumed to be part of the name of the center.
    2. Mission, vision, and goals: The mission, vision, and goals for the new center must be defined, explaining why this activity needs a charter outside of an existing academic department. This section should also address how the proposed center will exhibit prominence. The mission statement should communicate the primary objectives of the center, defining the measures of the center’s success. The statement’s prime audience is internal. The vision for the center should explain its purpose in terms of values rather than of measurable metrics. It should communicate to those in the center how they are expected to behave, and inspire them. For the public, it should instill confidence in the center’s usefulness.
    3. Organizational structure and governance: Structurally, all Norwich University centers are organizationally associated with the Office of Academic Affairs. Consequently, they report to the SVPAA, and through him/her, to the President. Every center must be primarily affiliated with a dean (or his/her designee), and either the Associate Vice President for Research (for research centers) or the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs (for public service and instructional centers). These relationships must be clearly defined in all proposals to create, establish, or close a center, and the reporting structure must be integral to any and all review processes.
      Interdisciplinary centers that involve several partners may manage their relationships via instruments such as Memoranda of Understanding, bylaws, or independent agreements. Center-level decisions may include board member appointments, processes to add or remove partners, or approaches to new enterprises. The Office of Academic Affairs exercises full authority over centers with multiple partners if they lack clearly written bylaws.
      Proposals must define the relationship of a center to its associated NU department or school, and to its college, as well as across the entire university community. If it is interdisciplinary, a plan is needed to define how interactions among departments, schools and colleges will be managed. Governance and administrative structure need to be described, as do mechanisms for identifying leadership and to whom its leadership will report.
      If the proposed center’s activities and mission are similar to those of other NU organizations (departments, schools, colleges or centers), the proposal must be endorsed by those organizations. To that end and to strengthen collaboration, the proposal should make clear that all interested parties have been made aware of the proposal. Written endorsements from key administrators and faculty should also be included.
    4. Financial Support: Centers must show a strong financial foundation, or expectation of the same, preferably based on external sources. Centers should have a clear plan for achieving sustainability with an annual budget and plan for future funding that clearly places time limits on substantial institutional support. Any proposed release-time for the director or other personnel needs to be specifically addressed in the proposal with recognition of the full costs of such release.
    5. Staffing: Each center will have a director responsible for the center’s daily operating decisions. The proposal should describe how the director is appointed and evaluated, as well as detail any special responsibilities.
      Needs for additional staffing must be thoroughly addressed, including how staff support will be provided and why that level of staffing is sufficient.
    6. Space: Each center requires a physical location with which it is associated, typically where its staff and activities will be housed. Proposals need to address the adequacy of the proposed space, for meeting both present and anticipated needs.
    7. Evaluation: A center’s evaluation process should be designed to reflect the level of its activities, but should include an annual report and a periodic review process that includes external evaluators. The proposal should define the framework against which productivity and impact of the center will be measured.
    8. Lifecycle: A center’s mission should focus on specific research and/or service and instructional goals. If these goals are met or change, the need for the center may evolve as well.
    9. Center website: Each center must create and support a website, which at a minimum, must display its name, mission, and contact information for the director and staff.

    4. Reviewing and Evaluating Academic Centers

    1. Reporting Requirements: Each Norwich University center is required to undergo an annual review with its primary administrative affiliate. This review should comprise a discussion centered on a report prepared by the center’s director that summarizes the year’s progress in the following categories:
      • scholarly, public service, and instructional activities
      • publications, presentations, and projects (faculty, staff, and student)
      • budget and funding sources
      • plans for the upcoming year
      • outstanding issues

      Every three years, each center must complete a more extensive review, per a schedule set by the Office of Academic Affairs. Prior to each review, the office will notify each center’s director and provide information on the process, schedule, and requirements. Reports are to be submitted using Form B (PDF), which is subject to amendment as centers evolve at Norwich. Completed documentation should be sent to the AVPR, who will coordinate the review.

    2. Evaluation Criteria: The three-year report focuses on items specified in the center’s Request to Establish a Norwich University Center.
    3. Review Process: After submitting the three-year report, the information will be reviewed by the AVPR (for research centers), the AVPAA (for public service or instructional centers), or the VP (for centers relating specifically to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies), and then forwarded to the SVPAA before moving on to the President.
    4. Review Results: At the conclusion of the evaluation process, the results of the three-year review will be sent to each center’s director. If the review identifies unsatisfactory performance, a remediation plan including process, milestones, and responsible parties will be developed in consultation with the AVPR, the center director, and other appropriate parties.

    5. Changes to Academic Centers

    1. Renaming: Proposals to rename centers may be initiated at the level of the center, the college, the Office of Academic Research, or the Office of Academic Affairs. Endorsements by key personnel are required. Proposals should be sent to the SVPAA, who in consultation with the FDC will make a final recommendation for the President’s action.
    2. Reorganizing: Proposals to reorganize or restructure centers (e.g., combining or splitting centers, or creating an umbrella structure) may be initiated at the level of the center, the college, the Office of Academic Research, or the Office of Academic Affairs. Endorsements by key personnel are required. Proposals should be sent to the SVPAA, who in consultation with the FDC, will make a final recommendation for the President’s action. However, if the reorganization will create an entirely new center, it must be approved by using the process outlined above in Section 3.
    3. Discontinuing: In cases where a center’s faculty support wanes, finances fail, or its mission is complete, the center should be officially discontinued. Proposals to discontinue a center should generally be initiated by its primary administrative affiliate, and be submitted using Form C (PDF). Requests to close centers will be considered by the SVPAA in consultation with the FDC, and a final recommendation will go to the President for action.


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