Final vitalization recommendations posted

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

Workgroups No. 8 and No. 9, Academic Visioning I and II, posted their recommendations on the vitalization project webpage earlier this week.

Workgroup No. 9 recommended looking at reorganizing the academic colleges’ structure; reorganizing academics on Eastern’s website; creating a task force to develop and establish a University College; developing interdisciplinary and three-year, 3+1, 3+2 undergraduate and graduate programs; expanding undergraduate online learning opportunities; creating a task force to evaluate and implement a new academic calendar; and providing support to departments for studying or piloting tuition discounts or premiums where appropriate.

The workgroup had three different options for organizing academic colleges in its report.

It explored reorganizing options, considering a move toward smaller schools or clusters of programs, but conversations with department chairs in consultation with their faculty led the group to conclude this may result in greater “siloing,” or isolation, of units.

After getting feedback from faculty and chairs and using reports from Workgroup No. 8, Workgroup No. 9 focused on three organizational models.

One recommendation was keeping the current academic colleges as they are, with the four colleges of Arts and Humanities, Education and Professional Studies, Sciences and Business, and Applied Sciences.

Keeping the current structure would mean Eastern would promote stability and avoid the cost of hiring new administrators and staff, especially in light of unstable budgets and enrollment, the group wrote.

However, the group stated that this structure might not highlight the academic departments with the highest student demand, such as those in healthcare, technology and the sciences.

Another option the group suggested was looking at having five academic colleges. These colleges would be for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Business; Education, Health and Human Services; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

While the option would help the university “clearly promote” its academic strengths, it would also require a new dean and associate dean, the group wrote. There could be additional costs for marketing materials for the colleges and costs to re-code programs being moved to new colleges as well.

The third option is changing the four academic colleges: Arts and Sciences; Business and Technology; Education; and Health and Human Services.

“This approach would still highlight healthcare opportunities, along with business and technology, and education,” the group wrote.

Workgroup No. 9 wrote that this option would not require an additional dean, though it would be unlikely that an existing dean would transfer to a new college, meaning a further cost could exist.

According to the report, survey respondents expressed concerns that humanities and fine arts would receive less funding and attention in this college structure system because of the emphasis on STEM education.

Having a separate STEM college may serve as a better  marketing and recruitment tool, the group wrote.

Workgroup No. 9 suggested a new academic website that would offer a one-click option for major and programs grouped by interests. A task force could work with marketing and every department, the group wrote, to develop the interest areas for the coming year and departments could decide where and how they are listed.

In the report, the group wrote that a University College could include the Center for Academic Support and Assessment, Gateway, TRiO, the Student Success Center, Study Abroad, Disability Services and other offices related to undergraduate advisement and support services.

Support for this University College at the Town Hall meeting held by the workgroup was “relatively mixed,” according to the report.

Thirty-seven percent supported the idea, while 31 percent were neutral.

While some respondents noted this system may save money and enhance interdisciplinary programs, one respondent said having a college that does not give out degrees could dilute the significance of the other colleges.

To help with marketing and recruiting, Workgroup No. 9 suggested a scheduling strategy it calls “Prime Time Scheduling,” though it offered the ideas as a flexible template rather than a prescriptive model.

“The Workgroup requests that the President create a task force to thoroughly examine the possibility of implementing ‘Prime Time Scheduling,’” Workgroup No. 9 wrote.

“Prime Time Scheduling” would include switching from a 15-week to a 13-week semester, creating a new academic term, going to a twice-a-week class schedule — Monday/Thursday and Tuesday/Friday or Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday —and reserving Wednesday or Friday for once-a-week classes, labs, committee meetings, office hours or campus events.

Workgroup No. 8 was charged with looking at looking at program development that would increase enrollment.

Under new, emerging and expandable areas, the Workgroup No. 8 listed health, engineering, agriculture, the Doudna Fine Arts Center and the Tarble School of Fine and Applied Arts.

Eastern’s strengths were listed to education, sciences, humanities and fine arts, as well as business and technology.

For new or revised degree programs, Workgroup No. 8 recommended making the following areas of potential enrollment growth the highest priorities: health-related fields, such as medical technology or medical health/humanities; education; engineering and technology; and online programs such as graduate degree programs and online general education ‘bridge’ programs.

Workgroup No. 8 recommended the university consider collaborating with regional community colleges to create more 2+2 agreements in face-to-face and online high interest majors.

One of these programs was agricultural business or agricultural economics. The group wrote that another option for this collaboration could be online undergraduate degree completion programs for adult, nontraditional and place-bound students. In the report, it listed “great potential” for programs in nursing, psychology, criminology and criminal justice, communication studies, journalism, business administration and sport management.

The group chose health-related programs, the Doudna and the Tarble, teacher education, a Center for Excellence that would aid undergraduate student research and online graduate programs as potential signature programs.

A signature program, as defined in the report, would be a degree or collection of degree programs that show the institution’s mission and are distinctive in the marketplace.

Criteria include the uniqueness of the program, external prestige, accreditation, graduate success and attaining high enrollment goals among others.

However, the group wrote that each college could establish its own criteria in the context of “broader, more generic” criteria.

“Each group should be able to identify a few signature programs or collection of programs through an established process,” Workgroup No. 8 said in the report.

One possibility the group suggested is to have programs submit an application addressing its signature program criteria to the dean of their college or other curriculum bodies.

Workgroup No. 8 was also charged with recommending micro degrees, which Eastern President David Glassman defined as “subject matter expertise certificates or badges that can be obtained from the university without satisfying a major program or other university curricular requirements.”

The group recommended several examples of potential micro degrees: leadership, data analysis, computer skills and programming, financial literacy, 3-D printing and manufacturing, assessment in education, autism services, child life specialist, emergency management, end of life care, English as a Second Language, ethics, graphic art, information literacy, professional writing, social media marketing and website design.

Though the committee determined that individual micro degrees are not likely to have an impact on recruiting students, providing a variety of micro degree choices could help with marketing.

“Generally, the more micro degrees we have, the better,” the group wrote.

In the appendix, the workgroup listed program proposals they heard during meetings and data sources such as online survey and town hall meeting feedback.

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