Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
The fall season never disappoints in West Virginia with its bluebird skies, cooler temperatures and changing leaves. The combination of fine weather and having our students back makes the school year finally feel like we are almost back to normal.
Thankfully, our COVID numbers have been on the decline. At the same time, our student vaccination rate has reached 80%, and our employee vaccination rate is over 92%. The availability of the Pfizer vaccine third doses brings renewed hope in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
And as campus is bustling again following a well-deserved fall break, I welcome the chance to focus my Friday message on a topic other than COVID-19. Rather, I’ll provide some insight and updates on our ongoing Academic Transformation efforts.
Remember, each of these messages is archived on the Office of the Provost website for reference.
Program Portfolio Review
In spite of the pandemic, we continue to focus on Academic Transformation this year. We are wrapping up the program portfolio review process this month and will be presenting our final recommendations to the Board of Governors on October 29.
Through an extensive data-driven process, we identified 35 undergraduate majors or terminal master’s degree programs for further review. We also identified 30 “programs of opportunity” – primarily those within our current portfolio that demonstrate growth potential.
While this was an accelerated process, sparked by President Gee’s call for immediate action, it has involved a significant amount of effort. Our office collected and reviewed information, such as enrollment trends and student success data, and we researched external market demand. We also asked the academic units to provide additional information and context to further inform our decision-making process.
After reviewing the additional information provided, we made our preliminary recommendations. We then followed the steps outlined in the BOG rules and communicated our findings to the impacted units. In turn, they had the opportunity to respond to and appeal our preliminary recommendations through a formal appeals process in which they were empowered to present their case.
Out of the 35 programs and/or majors identified for future action or further review, only two units appealed the preliminary recommendation on October 12, 2021. The final results are noted under Priority 1 on the Academic Transformation website.
It is important to note that some departments and colleges have already initiated plans to transform and reconfigure their academic programs to meet the needs of their students while capitalizing on resources and faculty expertise. For example, the College of Creative Arts intends to consolidate multiple Art and Design majors into a single major with several areas of emphasis.
Moving forward, our office plans to implement a more rigorous annual review process that will engage department chairs, academic leaders and faculty in the continual assessment of their programs’ value and viability.
Next Steps and Big Ideas
Finally, my office is in the process of determining new Academic Transformation priorities for the 2021-22 academic year. It is likely that we will be looking at such areas as improving student retention and completion, reviewing the success of our doctoral and non-terminal master’s degrees programs, and identifying and prioritizing growth opportunities. We will continue to seek the feedback and input from faculty through various committees, including the Academic Advisory Council.
Some of the growth opportunities will likely include programs in our current portfolio that are already in high demand. Other program gaps have been identified through market and peer research. And still yet, there are opportunities we haven’t even considered.
To help us anticipate new areas of growth and opportunity, my office, in partnership with Health Sciences and the Research Office, is hosting the University’s first-ever Academic Innovation Summit on October 22 and 23. In this hackathon-style event, a group of top faculty, researchersand community partners–nominated by University leaders and others–will come together to generate ideas for new academic programming, interdisciplinary research projects and impactful outreach efforts.
We hope to follow the Summit with a mini-grants program in January to spark another round of innovative ideas among our entire campus community.
Stay tuned for more details and results of this exciting effort to generate the next BIG IDEAS for WVU.
After 18 months of dealing with COVID-19, it may seem counterintuitive to now engage in a major academic transformation effort. But in fact, the time has never been betterto tackle the challenges we face. As President Gee has reminded our campus community many times, the winds of change facing higher education will be even stronger post-pandemic. It is imperative that we act now to ensure our University continues to thrive into the future.
Rather than being fearful, we need to face the future with hope, optimism and a creative mindset. We need to lean forward and embrace the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, buoyed by our Mountaineer values and building from our many strengths.
Thank you again for everything you have always done to support our students and each other – but especially during the pandemic. I wish you all a successful second half of the semesterand hope you stay healthy, remain positive and find a measure of balance in your life.