Hamline’s beginning of the future

Hamline’s CLA program review concluded in May of 2021, with it came recommendations that the institution is moving forward with and discussing.


Source: Marcela Kostihova

As the semester continues, the recommendations to come out of the  College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Expedited Program Review (EPR) of last spring are causing a buzz. 

Program reviews allow the institution to examine how it is doing, areas of improvement and ways the school can evolve with the changing expectations and technologies of the world. With these findings, recommendations are made regarding future steps the institution can make, which are usually voted on by faculty and other areas of the school such as administration. 

Program reviews happen every five to six years as a requirement from the Higher Learning Commission which is Hamline’s external creditor. Institutions benefit from doing them regardless of the requirement. 

Hamline’s last program review was in 2016-2017. The current review they are under is an expedited review meaning that it is happening quicker than it has historically.

Hamline’s CLA EPR has sparked many discussions and newly proposed decisions as the institution decides what to do regarding departments, majors and minors. Some of the largest topics under scrutiny currently are new groupings of departments as well as skill-based minors. 

These proposals were created from the recommendations to come out of the EPR. Many of these have yet to be voted on or finalized, as the institution is in the beginning stages of considering what these options mean for Hamline’s future, while some proposals have been decided on by Hamline acting on these changes. 

“I certainly hope that we tie together student interest and then market demand for both skills and deep knowledge and experiences that the students on the undergraduate and graduate side have,” Interim Provost Andy Rundquist said. “My hope is that we put together the right offerings to serve the students in ways that are going to help them be, of course, really well educated but also quite impactful in the world when they leave here.”

Most students on campus do not know much about any of the things that are happening. It was not until sophomore Eliza Goodman heard talk from friends that she learned of the EPR and from what she has heard, she is nervous for the future of her creative writing department. 

Goodman echoes a fear many students are experiencing: what do these changes mean for the institution they populate? 

“I’m really frustrated and kind of worried and concerned. I came to Hamline because they had a specific creative writing major, because it wasn’t just a subset of the English major,” Goodman said. “The idea of that being taken away or to no longer be a thing is really, really scary and kind of upsetting. Why am I coming here and spending my money when I could be going elsewhere?”

Goodman is referring to the proposed “RTS, Media, and Culture” department. Within this proposal for a newly constructed department, there are categories to major in, with options for specific concentrations. Creative writing would still exist, and be under an umbrella with other departments such as communications and English.

Another proposal that is being discussed is the ending of all disciplinary-based minors to create skill-based minors instead. The details are being worked out yet, as many faculty, administration and staff are not entirely sure what this looks like yet. Many feel that the skill-based minor approach opens the world of interdisciplinary discourse, a factor that is increasingly important as the 21st century faces unprecedented challenges. 

“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…We cannot go back and do what we’ve always done,” CLA Dean Marcela Kostihova said. “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 that they’re coming from economic, racial, gender, [etc], right, make sure that people can work collaboratively and equitably toward joint solutions.” 

With changes such as these, it does not affect any students who came in before the changes were implemented; students go by whatever system was in place when they started. 

During this semester other parts of Hamline are going through a similar program review process. The School of Business, School of Education, Student Affairs, Center for Academic Success and Achievement (CASA) and the Athletics Department are all under review. 

Some faculty fear that by doing it in this order, starting with CLA and moving to other areas, puts CLA in an especially vulnerable position. 

Some faculty also question the amount of voting and discussion that is actually taking place as they feel decisions are being made by administrators without their insight. 

“We appreciate the general strategic thinking and the vision for forward motion that emerged from the college,” English Chair and Professor, and President of Faculty Council Mike Reynolds said. “We think that A. there should be alignment of what it proposes with broader strategic, holistic assessments across all academic programs. And [B.] if we’re going to move to do anything, we should have a clear implementation process. We should follow the rules as was noted yesterday at the [faculty] meeting, of going through faculty approvals, and just, you don’t make changes that big and dramatic for so many things in three months, even in a 140 page document, it has to kind of go through other sorts of processes to be evaluated.” 

Aside from faculty, students feel very left in the dark with everything that has happened last semester and the current semester. 

“We pay so much to be here… I would really appreciate some input and some feedback and some general reaching out to us. The student body is a body. We function together, all of us collectively, different parts on campus, different parts of us in different spots,” Junior Yoora Lovaas said. “The more you try to compartmentalize us into smaller and smaller groups the harder it might be to function as a body together.”