Workgroup eight, Academic Visioning I, looked at what could make a program signature and what they need to do to decide that at their meeting Monday.
Workgroup chair Jeff Stowell, a psychology professor, said a signature program is one that sets Eastern apart from every other state institution.
He said Eastern President Glassman helped the group define it as something the university does better than its competitors.
“Hopefully it will attract students,” Stowell said. “The possibility is that it might allow our signature programs to have more resources to grow more.”
While there could be a reallocation of resources to signature programs, Stowell said this is not guaranteed.
The factors that make a program “signature” include external recognition, accreditation, potential for growth, and excellence in faculty and students.
When looking at ways to identify what makes a program signature, the group is not just considering a single program, but how a group of programs might be identified as signature.
Nora Pat Small, chair of the history department, suggested that the arts program as a whole be looked at as a signature program.
“It’s something we have, it would not be hard to construct,” Small said.
She said part of this is having the foundation of the Doudna Fine Arts Center and the Tarble Arts Center, as these buildings stand out, and are used models for other universities.
“They are themselves distinctive modernist structures,” Small said.
Eastern is also one of the few universities in the nation where all of the arts programs are accredited.
There is also an aspect of student involvement Small pointed out, as both the Doudna and Tarble hire students from a variety of majors.
She said Rehema Barber, director of the Tarble, said the center is an “interdisciplinary collective” bringing students from multiple disciplines to the Tarble to work, study and enjoy the art and programming it provides.
With a high demand for Master’s programs, Small said the department could see a transition into offering more of these kinds of degrees, such as a Master’s in theatre management, applied theater, arts administration, and arts administration and policy program among others.
Amy Rosenstein, a special education professor, said this could be stronger if Eastern had more of an atmosphere for the arts.
“It’s a really good idea, but it needs to be coupled with a rebranding of arts and what they mean here on campus and how they appeal to people,” she said.
Stowell said to identify these programs it would be going beyond just saying Eastern is a signature university as a whole, and pay attention to individual aspects it does well.
“There are things we do better at than other schools that we need to call prospective students attention to,” Stowell said.
During the meeting, the group said they wanted to see what the departments had to say about the programs and what could be considered signature.
However, Stowell added that he still needs to figure out whether they just need to identify what the process of deciding these signature programs will be like of if they need a list of programs that are signature.
One concern brought up during the meeting that there could be contention between programs when deciding which ones are signature.
Biological sciences professor Britto Nathan said every program on campus could be considered “signature,” and picking them could be difficult.
Small said this was not just about picking a signature major, but about the entire campus community.
“To my mind, you can’t have 18 signature programs. The arts are something that everybody can participate in,” she said. “It lends itself to making this place a real campus community, so not siloed.”
Rosenstein said this brought up the question of what is the main point of Eastern and how the university wants to see itself.
“Some of this has to do with visioning of EIU, and in last five years lost our way in terms of what we are,” she said.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]