The future of Plattsburgh State’s departments, programs, enrollment strategies and general academics continues to change in light of the college’s Plan for Academic Renewal.
Last semester, the Provost’s Cabinet reviewed nine programs in order to determine which of four recommendations — market-refreshing, restructuring, reducing or closing — the departments should adopt within their majors to boost enrollment.
This semester, another nine programs — math, sociology, English literature, writing arts, English language arts, communication sciences and disorders, the nursing RN to BS online program, business administration at the branch campus and supply chain management — will be reviewed.
The four recommendations are based on the first strategy outlined in the plan. The program review process was created to “build a more focused and strategic portfolio of academic programs, by developing and expanding programs in areas of academic excellence and strong market demand, while reducing or restructuring programs with weak prospects for sustainable enrollment.”
A link to a copy of this plan, along with a summary report of last semester’s reviews, was made available to all students this week through a shared Google Drive titled “Info for Students” in an effort to make PSU students more aware of changes surrounding their programs.
MERGERS AND CENTERS
Following its reveal at a faculty senate meeting Sept. 25, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs David Hill said discussion of creating centers that merge departments together was postponed until after all programs are reviewed.
“The original plan was to create a center that would basically be all one department,” Hill said. “That’s off the table for now.”
Physical mergers, however, occurred between a few programs already. Health wellness leadership and nutrition departments have been moved to Sibley Hall, while hospitality management and management information systems and analytics moved to Ausable Hall.
Among the nine reviewed programs last semester, the philosophy department was recommended to reduce their major credit requirements from 37 credits to 30, according to Philosophy Department Chair Beth Dixon.
The faculty has also decided to close its ethics and social philosophy study option from the major. So far, this is the only closing listed in the fall 2019 summary report.
Dixon said the study option was a collection of courses that concentrate a student’s curriculum around ethical theory with applied ethical courses and also included an internship. While those classes will still be available within the major, they won’t be labeled as such.
“It might seem like the deactivation of ethics and social philosophy [was] a shocking outcome, but not really,” Dixon said. “The worst-case scenario was that we would’ve lost the major curriculum in philosophy all-together from this campus, and none of us wanted that to happen.”
But during all program reviews, Hill said both the faculty and administration worked together on enrollment-boosting ideas.
“The faculty did an amazing job looking at what their program was, what it could be and what they might do in order to strengthen it,” Hill said.
Dixon said the philosophy department outlined restructured courses in its proposal to the administration, such as classes focused on foundations in critical reasoning and a graduation preparation course, that proved the program could function with fewer faculty and fewer classes.
GENERAL EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT
When it comes to increasing student engagement under the new plan, Student Association Coordinator for Academics Sarar Zaman is collaborating with SA President Rudaba Ahmed, Hill and Faculty Senate Chair Gary Kroll.
Zaman is focusing on reforming the general education program aspect of the renewal plan and emphasizing student outreach as a way to increase enrollment.
“The outreach has to be there,” Zaman said. “[Freshmen] want to use general education classes to explore and find what they actually want to do.”
Hill said making reductions in order to decrease instructional cost is a factor of the renewal plan but not a focus.
“With a decrease in enrollments, we have less money to play with,” Hill said. “There aren’t going to be more 18-to-22-year-olds coming around in the state. So our enrollment will stabilize at something less than it is now. That means that our academic side has to shrink because we don’t have enough money to maintain what we do now. In a family, it’s called living within your means. And sometimes, in order to do that in a family situation, you have to not do something that costs money.”
Although the philosophy department was reduced, Dixon stressed that the plan did not discourage the program from moving forward.
“We had a chance to do something really innovative with our skill development model of the curriculum,” Dixon said. “It’s fewer credits, but students will still have the chance to study philosophical issues that interest them, and that’s a good outcome.”
With the new course adjustments that faculty bring, Zaman hopes they’re taking the time to include student opinions on whether these courses would be helpful for their college education.
“Because at the end of the day, we’re the ones who go to class,” Zaman said. “There’s no point in this plan if it doesn’t focus on the students.”