BY HOLLY FISHER
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
Strategic Pathways Phase 2 is currently in full swing reviewing possible changes to numerous elements within the UA system. Preliminary reports have been submitted for consideration on eight areas, four academic and four administrative.
In this and the next issue, I will endeavor to provide a succinct summary of what is on the table for each of the affected departments. My hope is to keep you informed until such a time as the information is more accessible to students.
Each area of concern has a list of suggests for possible changes, with detailed pro/con lists for each. Each idea is judged on its ability to meet the concerns of fostering higher enrollment, including non-traditional students and those from outside of the state, improving on-campus and online student experiences, and decreasing how long it takes students to earn degrees.
The first area of academic concern is eLearning. The review team focused on meeting the goals of improving system-wide access, decreasing redundancy, and increasing efficiency. Based on the pro/con list, out of the five ideas presented, the review team’s top suggestion is an Inter-University Consortium. The Inter-University Consortium would bring all of the individual universities together into an eLearning-focused partnership. All members would have a say in programs, and share all responsibilities and resources. Obstacles that would need to be addressed include more time to design and implement the idea, a need for more staff attached to the program, and adding more layers to the decision making process.
The next area of focus is the Fisheries program. The intention is strengthening all of the certificate, associate, and bachelor programs across the board. The main goal is to prepare students to meet up to 90% of the projected labor demand of 2025. Out of seven proposals, the choice with the most pros is to jointly offer programs, with greater integration between UAF and UAS. This would allow the UA system to take better advantage of the benefits of both campuses, including UAS’ superior natural resources and UAF’s state-of-the-art research facilities. Negative concerns include a need for more front end investment, problems coordinating upper division classes, and possible difficulty recruiting students to new joint programs. A second suggestion includes UAA in the greater integration, but this would incur significant front-end costs and resource reallocation for the Anchorage campus.
Community Campuses are being considered for restructuring, single administration consolidation, or greater integration with the larger universities. These changes are hoped to foster increased enrollment, lower tuition costs, and to better prepare students for a variety of fields. They have the same labor market projection goals as the Fisheries department. When considering which of the six suggestions has the highest number of benefits, the forerunner is Enhanced Collaboration and Alignment Among Community Campuses Across UA System. This would hopefully widen the number of areas that can offer programs, encourage more interschool collaboration and cooperation, and have a minimal startup cost. The main issues are how to equal distribute authority and resources, and how to facilitate such a major cultural change within the schools.
The main focus of Health Team reviews was how to restructure the programs to best prepare nursing and other health profession students for jobs in the high demand field. Like the previous two, they have a 90% by 2025 labor market goal. Unlike the other programs, the review teams did not present a list of oppositional ideas. Instead, they suggested either expanding the current model of coordinated programs on different campuses, or replacing it with a single College of Health. This does not address the desire to restructure, but it would allow more change with less cost. The second option would combine all programs under one school’s administration, with local campuses maintaining course offerings. This would improve efficiency and program contact, but would impact accreditation and increase front end costs. A complementary proposal was to create a Vice President of Health programs position to represent the programs on an executive level, addressing a concern about the lack of upper-level representation. All of these ideas have an equal number of pros and cons, so there does not appear to be a frontrunner at this time.
All of this information is available on the Strategic Pathways website. There are also feedback forums, which all students and faculty are encouraged to use should they have comments or suggestions on these proposals.