Ideas for programs discussed at town hall


Payton Blakney

Steve Brantley discusses program ideas for Eastern at the Work Group no. 8 town hall meeting Thursday night in The Grand Ballroom of The Martin Luther King Jr. Union.

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

Ideas for programs that could potentially grow enrollment were discussed at Workgroup no. 8’s town hall meeting Thursday.

The Workgroup is charged with making recommendations for new or modified programs, degree completion programs, signature programs and microdegrees.

It is one of two Workgroups in the vitalization project that continued their work into the second semester of the academic year.

Those at the town hall meeting formed into groups to discuss their ideas for the four charges and wrote their suggestions for each on a large sheet of paper. After they were done, they put the paper on the stage and put post-it notes next to ideas they liked.

Workgroup no. 8 chair Jeff Stowell, a psychology professor, asked the participants at the town hall meeting to think about what new or what combination of existing programs might attract students.

Gary Bulla, the department chair of the biological sciences department, said his group looked at programs that could have a large target population and a job outcome at the end.

“It’s nice to have areas where both are considered,” he said. “(We want to) put money to things that will benefit the students.”

One program that his group talked about is an Allied Health program. Bulla said it would be a new program, but right now the university teaches these topics across a lot of different departments individually, and offering it in a more cohesive way could be helpful.

One topic Bulla said was a little difficult to talk about were microdegrees, as universities are not used to doing those, as opposed to community colleges.

“Students want little things that can help them get a lot of different credentials,” he said.

Austin Cheney, chair of the technology department, said the two biggest aspects for him when looking at new programs is if there is a job market and student demand.

He suggested a program in sustainability and environmental management, an idea he said he has had for a long time.

English professor Suzie Park, another participant in the town hall meeting, looked at how much energy a program would have.

“How much interest do we already have here from students, from faculty?” she asked.

Park brought up the idea of a medical humanities minor, which she said would not have a start-up cost.

Catherine Polydore, a professor of counseling and student development, said the name of programs is important from a marketing standpoint, as students want to what they are doing when they leave Eastern.

Students also want programs that are interdisciplinary, Polydore said.

“It seems that the millennial generations are more global-thinking,” she said. “(Students) want to do multiple things, (they) want to be flexible.”

Park said she wanted the group to envision programs and pathways that allow students to be nimble and adapt to new situations from field to field.

Stowell said at the town hall, he heard ideas that the group had not considered before but also saw commonalities between what people suggested.

“It’s fun to listen to other people’s ideas who are passionate,” he said. “They could lead that program; be a champion for it.”

One common theme Stowell saw people talking about was enhancing the visibility of programs that could or would be signature programs.

“We can do better about marketing those programs and recruiting students,” he said.

Moving forward, Stowell said the committee would grab ideas from each table and prioritize them.

“We may request further information at committee meetings,” he said.

An online survey was sent to every faculty, staff and student.

The Workgroup’s final recommendations are due March 15.

“By then we will have discussed which of these ideas will be a priority,” Stowell said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]