April 26, 2000


To:       Interim MSU President Terry Roark


Cc:      MSUN Provost Roger Barber


Ref:     Report on Program Review



This report is provided in response to Chairman Jasmin's request at the March 23, 2000 meeting of the Board of Regents related to MSUN program review.  Specifically, following a series of presentations by a concerned faculty member and several students from the areas of metals, manufacturing, and biology, Mr. Jasmin requested that I report to the board following meetings with them.  The meeting summary states that “Regent Jasmin requested that Chancellor Rao meet with campus representatives and give his recommendations to the Board of Regents. Chancellor Rao indicated he will come back with specific recommendations on how to address specific concerns, some of which might be new programs.” 


On Monday, March 27, 2000, immediately following the board's meeting in Havre, I met with MSUN's Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Club, comprised largely of students currently enrolled in the metals and manufacturing programs at MSUN.  On Wednesday of that week, March 29, I met with students and some members of the natural science faculty.  Each meeting lasted two hours.  On Wednesday, April 5, I participated in a forum of all interested students, conducted by Dr. Kevin Brown, Assistant Professor of Communication.  Additionally, the primary topic of discussion at a regularly scheduled student forum with the chancellor on April 3 was program review.  In addition, various meetings with the IEET Club and members of the electronic engineering faculty took place. 


In the first two meetings, Provost Barber and I responded to a range of questions and concerns expressed by students.  The questions largely related to the threshold criteria used and concerns focused on the credibility of their degrees in the future.  There were some misunderstandings on which we were able to offer clarification, such as whether or not currently enrolled students could complete their degrees and whether or not courses would continue to be offered in disciplines where majors or minors were eliminated.  The most difficult issue related to the recommendation by the MSU campuses to forward program review to the board for action rather than submission at the March meeting. 


These meetings were very useful.  In fact, we used information gathered from these forums to compile a press release prior to the evening of April 5.  We were able to focus information in the release on what appeared to be the most commonly misunderstood pieces of information.  This press release is attached as ITEM ONE.  Additionally, the meetings helped us clarify process issues.  We were able to point out that Provost Barber began the program review process discussions with faculty, primarily through chairs/deans, last October.  We pointed meeting participants toward the provost's web site, which contained detailed reports and updates on program review. 


To help provide a broader context for program review, we explained that overall enrollment decline at MSUN was likely to result in some programs being identified in the system-wide program review process.  We explained that there was a relationship between program review, low enrolled classes, and the institution's budget.  We talked about the importance of developing new programs on a regular basis as one way of addressing issues that have arisen as a result of program review. 


Our discussion with student groups quickly focused on new programs, how to move ahead of eliminated programs, and issues around governance and student involvement in curricular matters.  The latter is a matter that the student senate will address with the faculty senate as there is no formal relationship between the two groups with regard to curriculum review or development.  Given emerging student interest in curricular matters, non-voting participation of a student in the faculty senate's curriculum committee might be worthy of the faculty's consideration.  Students urged MSUN to improve its marketing, move ahead quickly with new curriculum, new delivery options, and involve students more in the curriculum related processes.  Yesterday, the faculty voted to approve the addition of two students on the senate’s curriculum committee at MSUN.


The April 5, 2000 forum on program review, organized by the student senate, was perhaps the most public of the meetings associated with program review.  As you may be aware, articles were published by both the Havre Daily News and the Great Falls Tribune.  The Daily News presented a description of the meeting.  The headlines and content chosen for the story in the Tribune left the impression that the meeting was designed to assuage the concerns of the meeting participants.  Our discussions on how many of the new program proposals would potentially replace lower-enrolled programs eliminated in program review apparently led some to an impression that old programs would be "restored."  Responses to questions about my role related to the approval of new programs seemed to be tied more to "restoring" program cuts than I expressed.  For purposes of this report, I refer you to Regent Hamilton's synopsis of the forum on April 5, which is attached as ITEM TWO.  I believe that hers is an excellent summary of the meeting. 


Meetings with students and some members of the faculty left us with the impression that there seemed to be a lack of knowledge about the program review process and the provost's attempts to involve faculty in his weekly work with the chairs/deans and directly.  ITEM THREE, attached, presents Provost Barber's 34-point listing of meetings and activities designed to keep appropriate people involved in the process.  Additionally, I met personally with my faculty colleagues in workforce program areas with low enrollments to attempt to move ahead with strategies to help turn low enrollments around.  The first of these meetings was in the spring of 1999 and the latest was early in the fall semester, where we urged program changes prior to program review. 


Our meetings with students and members of the faculty were constructive. Participants were civil, reasonable, and honest.  The information that we gathered from the participants involved helped us identify quickly responses for many of the eliminated programs (contained in ITEM ONE).  Montana State University, the Commissioner's Office, and the Board of Regents will receive a number of important proposals for new programs that we believe will help attract many more new students and avoid the loss of students who might have been attracted to programs that were eliminated for reasons of low participation. 


Students and faculty members who participated in the many meetings of the last few weeks helped gather information that we considered in assembling the following recommendations for the Board. 


·        That the Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S. Ed.) degree in General Science be retained. 


·        That the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in General Science be eliminated.


·        That the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology be retained.  The degree has been reworked with fewer course requirements and more shared classes with the general science teaching degree.


Both the general science teaching degree and the biology non-teaching degree will have a common core of courses.  That core will total 35 credits.  In addition, the selective course list for each degree will be almost identical.  These two degrees are attached to this report as ITEM FOUR.


Currently, 24 students are listed as biology majors, and the MSUN recruitment office has received 181 inquiries about biology, 44 of which are from Montana high schools.  Many of the low enrolled courses will be addressed by the biology faculty's proposal.  Biology is one of few areas on the campus that offers a faculty with five Ph.D.'s in the discipline.  Clearly, the expertise exists and we believe that the newly structured offerings may help ensure the best use of state resources.  We all understand that these offerings may be reviewed again in future years. 


·        That the Bachelor of Science program offering in Electronics Engineering Technology at MSUN be temporarily extended through 2000-20001.  A new degree in Computer Engineering Technology will be submitted to the Board of Regents in July.  That degree will replace the B.S. in Electronics Engineering Technology


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