Board approves academic program prioritization plan
After more than a year of strategic discussions by senior leadership, followed by a thorough review process involving faculty and recommendations made by faculty members and senior leadership, the Heidelberg University Board of Trustees has approved recommendations for the new Educational Programming Strategy and Strategic Academic Programs Prioritization plan.
The plan includes the sunsetting of eleven majors, five minors and two graduate programs.
“These recommendations were not arrived at easily,” said Heidelberg President Rob Huntington. He added that the strategic academic program prioritization plan is a critical shift in educational programming strategy to Professional Liberal Arts designed to strengthen Heidelberg’s position in the academic marketplace and remain competitive well into the future.
“We made these recommendations based on the evaluations, rankings, ratings, and intense discussions with faculty committees and our senior leadership over the past several months and grounded on work that started before being confronted with the COVID-19 global health and financial pandemic,” Huntington explained.
“We firmly believe these changes will improve the overall quality of HU’s curriculum, make us more competitive in the higher education marketplace, differentiate our institution even more as a driver of student socioeconomic mobility, and strengthen our ability to help students achieve a life of purpose with distinction, which is our goal for each of our graduates,” Huntington said.
Using data from the review process, Heidelberg’s board approved the following programs for sunsetting: majors in Adolescent / Young Adult (AYA) Education, Bachelor of Music Performance Keyboard, Bachelor of Music Composition & Theory, German, Information Systems Technology, International Studies, Math, Philosophy, Religion, Spanish, and Video Game Production, as well as minors in Cybersecurity, Geology, Math, Physics, and Religion. The Master of Arts in Education and the Master of Music Education graduate programs also will be phased out.
The University will retain minors in several of the sunsetted majors, including German, International Studies, Philosophy, Spanish, and Video Game Production, and will provide an avenue for students to continue pursuing AYA licensure. The 62-year-old Heidelberg American Junior Year Program in Heidelberg, Germany will also continue, which includes semester and summer options.
Heidelberg is not recommending the elimination of any faculty with the sunsetting plan.
According to Interim Provost Dr. Bryan Smith, students currently enrolled in the sunsetted majors/programs will be able to complete their degrees in those programs.
“We want to assure all students, returning upperclassmen, entering freshmen, or new transfers, that we are committed to teach out all of these sunsetted majors, minors, and graduate programs to degree completion,” Smith said. He added, “We also intend to retain the required service courses in some of the sunsetted majors, which means that certain courses will still be offered from disciplines even if the major is being sunset.” Students were informed of the changes in a letter on Tuesday, August 18.
Throughout this review and recommendation process, a core group of faculty members reviewed and ranked the prioritization reports submitted by academic departments, while others had a strong voice in actually making recommendations for the strategic academic prioritization plan. They evaluated budget, curriculum comparison to market demand and areas for improvement, among other data, ultimately categorizing all of Heidelberg’s academic programs into areas for investment and growth, revision, evaluation and action, intervention, and sunsetting. The step-by-step process was deliberate and difficult at times, but ultimately successful in bringing the recommendations to senior leadership, who brought the final programming and prioritization recommendations to the Board of Trustees for approval.
Board of Trustees Chair Kathy Geier was impressed with the comprehensive approach to the process utilized to arrive at the recommendations for the new Educational Programming Strategy and Strategic Academic Programs Prioritization Plan.
“The thoughtful collaboration from several constituencies resulted in a roadmap that will contribute to Heidelberg’s future success,” Geier said.
Even though the process was challenging, the key faculty members underscore that it was necessary. “The process was very hard, emotionally taxing at times … but we care about the University and we also care about our colleagues and our programs,” said Dr. Marjorie Shavers, associate professor of counseling, director of the Master of Arts in Counseling program, one of four faculty members who served on the Strategic Budgeting Committee and one of seven who served on the Strategic Program Prioritization Task Force Committee.
According to biology professor Dr. Pam Faber, also a committee member, her colleagues understand their role in helping to recruit and retain students. “It’s no longer enough that we do an excellent job in our classrooms,” she said. “This is our new reality.”
Committee member Stephen Svoboda, assistant professor of theatre, explained that faculty members on the Strategic Budgeting Committee wanted to provide senior leadership and the Board of Trustees with thoroughly researched and reviewed options.
“Going into this process, we felt it was important to provide a menu of possibilities to senior leadership and the Board of Trustees so that we weren’t just dictating a few programs or ideas without sound rationale, but rather, we were providing a large menu they could review and comprehensively use to make decisions,” Svoboda said.
The process also produced several new strategic program suggestions for faculty consideration going forward. The involved faculty members, senior leadership and the Trustees believe that this programming strategy and prioritization plan will make Heidelberg stronger for its students.