By Casey S. Elliott
Directors of Ohio University's 88 graduate and professional programs are working to complete self-studies of their units by early October as part of Ohio University's effort to identify and strategically strengthen its graduate and professional offerings.
The self-studies, which seek an array of information on each program's faculty, students and accomplishments, are due to the university's Task Force for Centers of Excellence for Graduate and Professional Programs on Oct. 6. Departments began the self-studies this past spring, and each department determined how it would conduct its review.
Completion of the self-studies is part of a process for meeting Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut's call that the state's public universities identify and establish goals for their strongest programs. A report from each university identifying these so-called centers of excellence must be submitted to the chancellor by June 30, 2009.
"It does Ohio no good to have 13 universities competing for resources, students and faculty," states the USO plan, released in March. "In a competitive global market for talent, the only way for the system as a whole to raise its quality is for each institution to develop distinctive missions and centers of excellence that are recognized by students, faculty and business leaders."
Ohio University's nine-member task force will rate graduate and professional programs on a variety of things, such as their distinctive features, faculty credentials, external funding, faculty scholarly and creative activity, student selectivity and quality, and synergy with undergraduate programs. Its work will culminate with a report due in January to Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl and the 10 academic colleges' deans.
"In an era of tight fiscal budgets in the state, it is important for us to be selective about our graduate programs," said Ben Ogles, a task force co-chair and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "This provides us an opportunity to emphasize our strengths."
Ann Fidler, interim associate provost for strategic initiatives, said the task force will contribute to discussions to take place over the course of this academic year to identify Ohio University's centers of excellence.
"What we learn from the report will be added to conversations that faculty, department chairs and deans will be having about the selection of our overall centers of excellence," Fidler said. "We began with the graduate and professional piece because we know far less about how our programs stack up against those of other universities than we do on the undergraduate side."
The Graduate and Professional Centers of Excellence Report will use the information the departments and schools are gathering to summarize contributions that each program is making to graduate or professional education both at the university and, more broadly, in the state and the nation. Strategic decisions about future investments in graduate or professional programs called for in the Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan will utilize the findings of the report.
"There is the potential that the results of this evaluation could lead to conversations about program elimination, however, the main goal is to identify excellent graduate and professional programs," Ogles said.
Department of Geological Sciences Chair Greg Nadon said the self-study process mirrors an academic unit's traditional program review. While time-consuming, the process is a valuable one, he added.
"We talk a lot within our college, and we know where our strengths lie," he said. "This (review) helps people outside the college see where our strengths are."
In addition to Ogles, the task force includes co-chairs David Juedes of the College of Engineering and Graduate Council and Jeff Connor of the College of Arts and Sciences and University Curriculum Council; graduate department representatives Bob Lazuka of the College of Fine Arts, George Johanson of the College of Education, Dawn Deeter-Schmelz of the College of Business, Peter Coschigano of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Claudia Hale of the Scripps College of Communication, Brooke Hallowell of the College of Health and Human Services, and Anne Loucks of the College of Arts and Sciences; Frank van Graas, Russ College of Engineering, and Peter Wickman of Graduate Student Senate. Two ex-officio members assist the team -- Associate Provost for Institutional Research and Assessment Michael Williford and Interim Associate Provost for Graduate Studies Katherine Tadlock.