Joseph Salamon, News Editor
The University of Missouri-St. Louis is in the midst of a campus-wide review of its academic programs. University of Missouri System President Mun Choi requested that each UM System campus conduct a review of its current academic programs in order to determine areas of potential growth.
The objective of the review process is to identify programs that are in highest demand among students and reallocate resources across the university in order to sustain and build upon them. The review committee is led by Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Christopher Spilling.
First charged with the task of assembling a committee, Spilling sought out many members of the faculty senate, as well as associate deans from each of the four major UMSL colleges: Education, Business Administration, Nursing, and Arts and Sciences. While other UM System campuses decided to hire external consultants to conduct the review, UMSL thought it to be more beneficial to deliberate internally.
“We’re spending time talking to the units. This isn’t a big campus. We know each other’s departments fairly well,” Spilling said. The decision to conduct the Academic Program Prioritization Review with UMSL faculty fell largely on the value of qualitative data.
The review process started in the fall of 2017, as the committee began looking at each program’s credit hours, majors, number of graduates, and financial data, but Spilling and the committee then shifted gears to dig a little bit deeper. “We decided that numbers are not the whole story,” Spilling said.
Splitting into four sub-groups, each led by an associate dean, the committee then visited each academic unit individually to further discuss both quantitative and qualitative data, gaining information about each program’s mission and history.
In the interest of reallocating university resources, the review committee must categorize each program or unit under the following guidelines: inactivation, subject to further review, combination or consolidation, strategic investment, or fine as is.
While the review process is largely focused on creating ways to bolster newer programs that are in higher demand, Spilling recognizes that also means cuts will have to be made to some programs as well. “We’re going to offer our recommendations, but we’ll lose some sleep over it, believe me,” Spilling said.
The committee has three weeks of deliberation remaining before it presents its recommendations to the provost, Kristin Sobolik, on March 15.
Sobolik, who is charged with taking the committee’s recommendations and turning them into actionable steps, expects to come up with plans for reallocating resources by the end of the semester. “It’s important for any institution to make sure that they maintain that relevancy to the population that they’re serving,” Sobolik said. “It’ll be important for us to make sure that we have coverage of programs across the system.”
While the program review is coinciding with Governor Eric Greitens’ proposed bill to cut state university funding by nine percent, Sobolik insists that the two aren’t related. “Right now I think higher education is in an interesting situation across the nation. We need to make sure we’re getting our word out about what an economic driver we are,” Sobolik said.
According to Sobolik, some of the academic areas UMSL is hoping to expand upon include cybersecurity, entrepreneurialism, and sports management. “We need support and resources to help bring those programs to fruition,” Sobolik said. “So in order to do that, we need to know which programs we should the reallocate funding to support the areas of growth, strength, and excellence that we have.”
More information on the Academic Program Prioritization Review, including frequently asked question and data reference, can be found on UMSL’s website.