Program review continues sparking changes

A summary of the current status of the 2021 Expedited Program Review and the Oracle’s coverage of Hamline’s changing academic departments.

Lydia Meier, Senior Reporter

The proposed Undergraduate Framework that has come out of last year’s Expedited Program Review (EPR) just passed a faculty-wide vote on April 21 with 75% for, 19.4% against and 5.6% abstaining. This means it has been approved for adoption, Mike Reynolds, current Hamline Faculty Council president and English professor, explained.

Hamline’s external creditor, the Higher Learning Commission, requires schools to conduct program reviews every five to six years, the Oracle reported on November 17, 2021. Hamline’s last program review was during the 2016-2017 school year. During the 2021 spring semester, the Hamline College of Liberal Arts (CLA) carried out an Expedited Program Review (EPR).

“The expedited process was initiated to examine the changes that have occurred over the past five years, the most recent relating to the changes in number and type of student enrollment and the drastic and unpredicted changes to departments that COVID-19 has produced,” the Oracle reported on March 24, 2021.

In the fall of 2021, the Hamline School of Business (HSB) and School of Education and Leadership (HSEL) also conducted reviews.

In January, Interim Provost Andy Rundquist began organizing faculty discussions and then a cross-committee group to create the proposed Undergraduate Framework, Reynolds said. He believes that the forums and discussions have contributed to a stronger collective understanding and less frustration among faculty.

CLA Dean Marcela Kostihova sees the Undergraduate Framework proposal as a way to increase interdisciplinary experiences for Hamline students.

“If you look at the last three years, I mean, it is one challenge after another and all of them are challenges that humanity has never seen before, ever…There’s not a single discipline that can solve them on their own. You need to have people who are coming together with different disciplinary backgrounds who are ready to work with people who come from different demographic backgrounds,” Kostihova said in an interview for a November 17, 2021 Oracle story.

Hamline departments have experienced many changes over the past few years, including the Modern Languages department phasing out the German program during the 2021-2022 school year, and the Religion department facing continual adjustments since their official sunset and realignment into the Global Studies Department during 2020.

Now, the Studio Arts and Digital Media Arts (DMA) departments are already in the process of merging, as many other departments prepare for a similar possibility. Reynolds sees it as likely that the English department and Communications Studies department will merge as well.

Additionally, the passing vote means that students will likely see changes as soon as the fall of 2022. 

“Curricular changes aren’t being wholly determined by EPR’s recommendations, but those [recommendations]  do provide a strong vision for possibilities that many programs are evaluating already,” Reynolds said.

The proposed framework would integrate the Hamline Plan requirements into students’ main curricular studies. Hamline letters Q, W, P, O and D would be integrated through majors, alongside at least one of the disciplinary breadth outcomes (S/N/H/F and/or R&M). Departments will need to demonstrate alignment with this structure by February 2023

Another proposed change is creating a system of skill-based minors, which Reynolds says may create more minors, affect existing ones and sunset others. Minors would have to fulfill Hamline letters C, O and W by the spring 2023 semester.

Also included in the framework is a description of an “immersion” program, where students would take five connected courses over the course of their first three semesters at Hamline. These classes would satisfy the FSEM, three of H/F/N/S requirements and either D or G. Pilots for the immersion program would begin in the 2022-2023 academic year.

Reynolds said that Hamline letters E, R and M will still be required, although they may need to be fulfilled through elective courses. 

The proposed framework states that it was created “to help students navigate their Hamline Plan courses in thoughtful and more deliberate ways, to create a sense of community and belonging, and to prepare them for their future careers.”

Although he can’t speak for any other departments, Reynolds said that the English department has gathered student perspectives’ throughout the process.

“As [English] convene[s] in fall with Communication Studies, student engagement in our deliberations about how to change will be vital. I’m not sure how other programs and departments are approaching this. I can say personally that I think it’s invaluable to have students in the discussions.”