Curriculum changes under consideration

Preliminary results of the 2017 program review enter the next round of discussion.

Catherine Stolz, Editor in Chief

After poring over hundreds of pages of program survey results, the Program Review Work Group (PRW) has come up with a list of proposed changes to the curriculum beginning in the fall of 2018. These recommended changes include sunsetting a number of programs, bolstering others, and reevaluating aspects of the Hamline Plan.

The PRW is made up of eight elected faculty members including Jodi Goldberg, Alina Oxindine, Robin Parritz, Mike Reynolds, Andy Rundquist, Earl Schwartz, Susie Steinbach and Bill Wallace. Meetings surrounding program review began in May and discussions spanned the length of the summer. Faculty were notified of possible changes just days before the start of school through a document entitled Preliminary Results of CLA Program Review.  Faculty had until February 12, 2018 to make comments on the changes via email.

The report outlines the sunsetting of a number of programs, including Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, East Asian Studies, the Certificate in International Journalism, and German and French instruction. These changes are based mostly on low enrollment and an underutilization of Hamline’s resources. The proposed elimination of these departments would allow for the creation of broader Social Justice and Global Studies majors, with tracks in gender and race for the former and tracks in global media, East Asian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies for the latter.

All performing arts classes may also be compiled into one major, including theater, dance and music.

Other potential changes include the elimination of all minors, replacing them with stackable credentials that would be more skills-based. Interim CLA Dean Marcela Kostihova explained that minors are not currently well-defined; some minors require as many as eight courses, while others require as few as four.

Capstone classes could also face changes next year.  Interdisciplinary capstones may be used to replace current capstones with very few students, broadening the focus of capstones and allowing students to present their research to peers in different fields.

Changes to the Hamline Plan could include a reduction in the number of disciplinary breadth courses required, bumping the number down from two courses in Fine Arts and Natural Science to just one. Another recommended change is the introduction of a Global Citizenship requirement, putting the Hamline Plan more in line with Hamline’s mission.

While these changes are by no means final, they are the first step in a process that hopes to better use the university’s resources.

Kostihova explained that the PRW meets every few years to look critically at the university’s methods of teaching and student learning outcomes. Each department on campus completes a self-study survey to evaluate student success, which the PRW uses along with other demographic data to determine how departments can better meet the needs of students.

She explained that in years prior, the PRW has primarily looked at past data in program review, but this year the focus is on the future.

“The landscape of higher education is rapidly changing,” Kostihova said. “We need to make sure we are looking forward.”

Communications professor Suda Ishida said these changes would allow for more inclusive and diverse program offerings in Global Studies. Ishida currently advises students receiving the Certificate of International Journalism, which requires students to have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, complete a media internship and study abroad. If the changes go into effect, Global Studies would develop a more inclusive track in global media.

“I understand the need for these changes,” Ishida said. “It’s time for a change and I think we need to embrace it.”

Women’s Studies professor Kristin Mapel-Bloomberg was less optimistic about the recommended changes, explaining that the Preliminary Report left many questions unanswered.

The Preliminary Report gives no indication about what would happen to faculty in eliminated departments, how funding would be distributed, or how university alumni and students would be notified of the changes.

The rationale for eliminating Women’s Studies centers around low enrollment, though according to institutional research data, the program is in the middle second quartile of all programs on campus. In other words, many majors have smaller numbers than Women’s Studies.

“My main concern is the students,” Bloomberg said. “Why is there no student involvement in this decision? Education is why we are here; students are the number one priority. This will have a huge impact on students and no one is asking for their input.”

Kostihova confirmed that no student input has been asked for in this process, and gave no indication that students would be able to comment any time soon.

“We are asking for a public forum,” Bloomberg said.  “This affects everyone here, it would be best to have robust public discussions on the subject.”

Members of the faculty have been given time to review the recommended changes and provide feedback via email to the PRW and Kostihova. The next steps could include a deeper conversation with faculty in the coming weeks and an external review process where deans and presidents from other colleges will look over the changes. A final report of planned changes is expected by the end of November, where they will again be presented to the faculty. The Board of Trustees and administration will make the final decisions by the end of the semester.

“We really have to talk and prepare ourselves,” Kostihova said. “This is a collaborative process and an ongoing discussion.”

The changes that become finalized at the end of this semester will go into effect in the fall of 2018, though all programs will be taught out. Anyone currently declared in a program that is eliminated will still be able to graduate with their degree, but no new students will be admitted to sunsetted programs.