In the few months since he began his role as dean of Florida Gulf Coast University’s College of Arts & Sciences, Clay Motley has hit the ground running with a focus on developing a strategic plan to support faculty and ensure student success.
Motley is no stranger to FGCU, serving as dean of the university’s Honors College since 2017 before being named interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences in August 2022. An FGCU faculty member since 2015, Motley is co-chairing the university’s strategic planning committee. Those factors have enabled a smooth transition.
“It’s a little different than if I came into this position being brand new, because I’ve been at the university for a while,” said Motley, a professor of English who specializes in the culture of the American South. “Plus, having done this job on an interim basis, I view that as having a bit of a running start.”
Motley leads FGCU’s largest college, with approximately 300 full-time faculty members, nine departments, one school and nearly 6,000 students. The college provides 90% of FGCU’s general education courses.
“In some ways, it’s been a huge transition simply because the Honors College doesn’t have any of its own faculty. That college is set up very differently. Going from a place that doesn’t have any of its own faculty or offer any of its own majors to a place that has 29 undergraduate degree programs, seven graduate programs and 300 faculty is quite different,” he said.
Despite the significant transition, Motley said his experience working across campus serves him well. “As dean of the Honors College, I had to work with every other college on campus. I had to work with housing, with financial aid and with our student life areas. I interfaced with so many different aspects of the university,” he said. “So while the transition in some ways was really radical, in other ways I at least had a good lay of the land in order to do what I have to do in the different context of Arts & Sciences.”
His first orders of business include developing a college-level strategic plan that will align with the university-wide strategic planning document currently in development.
“Much of my job is allocating scarce resources, whether that’s money, time, space, faculty positions or staff positions. Without a clear sense of how you’re allocating those and why, it can be confusing for the dean, the college and everyone in it,” said Motley, who is co-chairing the university strategic planning committee with Jorge Lopez, associate vice president of Student Financial Enrollment & Business Services. “It’s very helpful that I have a front-row seat to the university plan.”
An additional priority for Motley is creating enhanced professional development opportunities for faculty including a workshop to help junior faculty learn how to create promotional portfolios and a newly announced program providing faculty up to $2,000 for travel to present at conferences and other activities related to scholarship. He also is focusing on initiatives to help students achieve success in the classroom and make timely progress toward graduation. He plans to ramp up the college’s focus on global education.
“We want to grow the number of study-abroad opportunities that are offered in Arts & Sciences. We want to grow the accessibility of study-abroad to students through additional financial support. We want to help faculty who are wanting to teach study-abroad courses by giving them some pedagogical tools and support to help them teach international classes successfully.”
Motley pointed out that Fort Myers is closer to Havana, Cuba, than to the state of Georgia.
“We do have a five-county service region in Southwest Florida, but our region also encompasses much of the Caribbean and Latin America. It would make sense that FGCU puts a lot of focus in strengthening those international ties through our research profile and our teaching. I would like for Arts & Sciences to take the lead on that.”
The college also will focus on FGCU President Aysegul Timur’s aim to be a good partner and meet the region’s educational needs.
“What undergraduate and graduate programs are we developing or emphasizing that our region needs? What research areas are we supporting that our region needs? How are we using our faculty expertise to create partnerships with local organizations and local employers and help strengthen what they do?” he said. “The world doesn’t end with our five-county service region, but as a regional comprehensive institution, that’s where we want our biggest focus to be.”
Motley’s boss, Provost Mark Rieger, said he likes what he is seeing so far.
“Just months into his tenure as dean, Dr. Motley has set a new tone for transparency and communication in college leadership. He is well ahead of schedule in drafting a new college strategic plan, and we are benefiting from his leadership skills as we finalize the overall university plan,” Rieger said. “Perhaps most importantly, his enthusiasm and positivity are changing the culture of the college, and by extension, the entire university.”