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Review leads to sweeping changes in grad programs

May 11, 2006

KALAMAZOO--After nearly a year of reviewing graduate-level degree offerings, Western Michigan University today announced sweeping changes campuswide designed to reallocate resources so that every graduate program has the fiscal support necessary to excel.

WMU President Judith I. Bailey and Provost Linda Delene outlined the changes as part of a presentation to a May 11 meeting of WMU's Faculty Senate. The comprehensive plan announced includes development of new programs, allocation of new financial resources for 15 degree programs, mergers of several programs and elimination of programs that do not match the University's strategic plan and resources.

"What will emerge from our Graduate Program Review is a graduate education environment with increased strength in the sciences, engineering, education and health care--exactly the strengths that will position WMU to meet Michigan's needs in the coming years and address national developments," Bailey said. "We'll continue and enhance our current strengths in disciplines as diverse as engineering management and medieval studies. And we'll build additional national recognition in some important new areas."

The decisions announced are the result of a Graduate Program Review launched in July 2005. The effort involved review teams made up of faculty members and department chairs from every part of the University. Recommendations were developed by department chairs, deans and the University's academic leadership.

"I have accepted the recommendations and intend to take them, exactly as you see them this afternoon, to the Board of Trustees in July," Bailey told the gathering. "I have confidence in the process that was followed and in the recommendations that have been finalized in academic affairs."

Bailey said WMU, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary as a university in 2007, must build on its legacy and meet the external and internal needs of its next period of growth.

"In a very real sense," she said, we are "self-funding our strategic move forward by reallocating existing resources." The decisions, she noted, do not constitute a reduction in funds but rather a redeployment of funds that will ensure the University's graduate programs become "stronger, larger and more vibrant."

Bailey said the moves outlined May 11 will allow WMU to invest in programs that have great capacity for enrollment growth and increased levels of quality, and the changes will lead to savings that will be reallocated and reinvested in graduate education over the coming years. The amount of funding available for reallocation is expected to be in excess of $2 million.

If approved by WMU trustees, the changes would become effective with the start of the fall 2007 semester. They include the following strategies.

The addition of two new doctoral degrees will be proposed--in communication and medieval studies. Four new master's programs also will be created--in ethno history and material culture, environmental studies, teaching and world languages.

New financial resources will be invested in 15 graduate degree programs campuswide, ranging from engineering management and science education to music, speech pathology and audiology, and medieval studies. Current funding levels will be maintained for 11 other doctoral programs and 38 master's programs.

The merger and unification of some programs will take place to achieve synergies in talent and programming as well as to realize greater administrative efficiency. For instance, four separate doctoral programs in engineering will be unified into a single degree program with four concentrations, while two doctor of philosophy programs in evaluation will be unified into one. In addition, 24 master's-level programs will merge, with the precise final configuration for those mergers being determined during campus discussions in the coming months. The mergers will establish the curricular structure needed to set clear priorities in resource allocation.

Eight doctoral programs and 13 master's programs will be eliminated. Programs at the doctoral level that are slated for elimination are: applied economics, clinical psychology, comparative religion, computer science, public administration, school psychology, Spanish and statistics. Specialist degrees in school psychology and educational leadership also will be closed. Master's programs to be eliminated are: applied sociology, art (Master of Fine Arts), art (Master of Arts), biostatistics, earth science, elementary school teaching, industrial psychology, middle school teaching, molecular biotechnology, operations research, socio-cultural foundations, teaching of geography and teaching of music.

The programs eliminated involve about 240 students or 5 percent of WMU's 4,800 graduate students. Students in the programs slated for closure will have the opportunity to complete their degrees. Those in doctoral programs will have up to seven years to finish their studies from the time they began their programs. Students at the master's level will have up to six years from their program start date to complete degrees.

The changes will not result in layoffs of tenured or tenure-track faculty, but faculty and staff assignments will be adjusted to reflect shifting priorities. Complete details are available through the Office of the Provost Web site. The full text of Bailey's Faculty Senate presentation is available through www.wmich.edu/president.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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