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Deans form task force to examine graduate, professional offerings

Sept. 12, 2007

From staff reports

Ten Ohio University deans today jointly announced that they have created a Task Force on Centers of Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education. The task force will undertake a systematic, comprehensive program review to identify centers of excellence in the university's master's, doctoral and professional offerings. 

This summer, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland announced that the state would move toward developing a University System of Ohio. As part of the initial effort, Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, has instructed public universities to inventory their centers of excellence.

Considering the direction that the state is taking with the USO and the importance of graduate and professional education to Ohio University's mission, the deans collectively agreed that the university must take the lead in assessing the strengths of its graduate and professional programs. 

In addition to helping prepare for its entry into the USO, the review will help the university to examine the best way to use resources dedicated to graduate and professional education. 

"Even prior to the chancellor's announcement that we will move toward a system in which there are ?centers of excellence' and greater coordination among universities, I was concerned that we were spreading increasingly limited resources across a range of graduate degree offerings that was too broad -- the proverbial inch deep and a mile wide," said Ben Ogles, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who volunteered to chair the task force. "As a result, I am eager to engage in a process that will allow us to focus more narrowly on our graduate strengths." 

The task force also aligns with the strategic planning process that the university community has undertaken during the past three academic years. Dora Wilson, professor of interdisciplinary arts, noted the connection. 

"As a faculty member on the Vision OHIO Graduate Priorities Implementation Team, I recall that our discussions continued to evolve around the issue of moving away from being all things to all people," she said. "Most assuredly, we need to focus our resources on areas of strengths at Ohio University."

Greg Shepherd, dean of the Scripps College of Communication, stressed that while the task force will be engaged in the process of identifying strengths, its work also should be understood as a manifestation of the university's commitment to graduate and professional education. 

"Ohio University is committed to being an institution with a well-supported graduate education mission," he said. "It is important that we identify and fund programs of excellence in order to best advance this mission. 

"The Task Force on Centers of Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education will lead us in this process and help ensure that we are building, maintaining and growing those programs that lend Ohio University distinction in graduate and professional education," Shepherd added.   

The dean of each college with graduate or professional degree offerings will appoint a task force representative who is well-versed in issues surrounding graduate and professional education and is widely respected by colleagues across the university. At least one college representative will be a member of the University Curriculum Council, and one will be a member of Graduate Council. In addition, there will be a graduate student representative. 

The Graduate Studies Office and the Office of Institutional Research will provide data and administrative support for the effort. Katie Tadlock, interim associate provost for graduate studies, and Mike Williford, associate provost for institutional research and enrollment planning, will serve as ex-officio members. 

All schools, departments, programs or colleges offering graduate or professional degrees will be asked to submit to the task force a report, due Jan. 28, that assesses the strengths of their programs. During its initial meetings, the task force will develop the report format and guidelines.

The task force will begin its work shortly, with the goal of reporting findings to Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl by the end of this academic year. 

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