College faculty endorsed Goucher’s academic strategic plan in their meeting this past May. Specific sections of the Plan, which members of the faculty have been working on since the Board of Trustees approved Goucher’s overall strategic plan in October 2011, will now be sent to individual departments and committees for work-shopping and official approval.
“I’m really excited and I’m really very, very thankful that the faculty put in a huge amount of work and a lot of thinking about how we can improve the quality of the academic experience for students and how can we best support students and faculty in learning,” Provost Marc Roy said. “They put a tremendous amount of effort into that and the result, I think, is an exciting Plan.”
The Plan’s first step is the expansion of the degree programs offered by the Welch Center for Graduate & Professional Studies. In May, the faculty approved three new programs proposed by the Center.
“They’ve done some incredible work in the Welch Center to pull [the programs] together,” Roy said.
The three new programs are all based around the synthesis of existing programs: a technical degree in digital arts, a master’s in environmental studies that will focus on cultural sustainability, and a master’s in management.
According to the Provost, the management program is “not as intensive as an master’s of Business, but it’s not meant to be.”
The program will instead serve students who need management skills to advance in their chosen fields. Additionally, all of the new programs will be available to Goucher undergraduates as a four-plus-one program, where students receive both a bachelors and master’s in five years.
Goucher is currently waiting for the new programs to be approved by the Maryland Higher Education Committee. All three of the programs have been submitted, and if approved, should be ready in early August 2014.
One of the most exciting actions outlined in the Academic Strategic Plan’s final report is the creation of a Math and Science Center modeled after the Writing Center. Currently, specific planning for the logistics of the center has not yet occurred. According to the final report, necessary actions to establish the section include establishing a “faculty working group to organize and oversee the Math and Science Center,” deciding how the center will be funded, and identifying students who could be trained to tutor.
“I love the idea,” Roy said. “Nobody has been given the task to develop this . . . ultimately some sort of collaborative effort between some groups of faculty and probably ACE [will have to occur].”
One of the other innovative strategies integrated into the Academic Strategic Plan is the creation of a new Global Liberal Arts degree. This strategy has its roots in the Crossroads Task Force, created in September 2011. According to Roy, there have been no new developments in the creation of the degree over the summer. A group of faculty still must be assembled to determine the details of the program, such as what majors could be offered and what partner institutions Goucher would work with.
“What we’re seeing is that many of the new students have had more than one international experience, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there are students interested in this idea,” the Provost stated in response to the other major question surrounding the program: Is any viable market for the degree?
Many of the strategies in the Academic Strategic Plan are expanded versions of Crossroads recommendations. Partly as a result of Crossroads, the Plan emphasizes scheduling more classes in the winter and summer to maximize campus resources.
The Academic Strategic Plan also expanded a Crossroads recommendation that Goucher research atypical pedagogical options, such as online courses flipped classrooms. According to the final report, the strategy is to “embrace innovative pedagogy [and] new paradigms for instruction,” and to “create non-traditional teaching materials and methods such as interactive lessons, videos, slide shows, surveys, experiential learning opportunities, etc.”
Similarly, the Academic Strategic Plan expanded the Crossroads recommendation that student mentoring be emphasized at Goucher and applied it to faculty mentoring as well. According to Roy, while there has traditionally been an informal mentorship for new faculty members when they first arrive at Goucher, their support systems usually dwindle the longer they are here. Steps to increase faculty mentorship will begin this fall. The school also plans to begin helping new departments chairs acclimate to their roles.
Because most of the Plan’s strategies are small changes that can be put into action in the next year or innovative new initiatives, there is still much work to be done.
According to the Plan’s final report the goals are wide ranging and include, among others: to “internationalize the curriculum,” “develop the 21-century learner,” improve mentoring of both students and professors, increase “opportunities for faculty scholarship,” to generate start-up funds for new, financially prudent innovations, and to restructure student and faculty workload.
The Crossroads Task Force has been “monitoring the progress toward the implementation of [its] recommendations,” wrote trustee William Couper in an email. Couper was appointed as the new Chair of Crossroads over the summer and conducted his first Crossroads meeting as chair on Monday September 8. He has been a member of the Task Force since January.
According to the Provost, President Ungar’s departure shouldn’t have an enormous effect on the Plan.
“Obviously a new president could come in and have different priorities,” Roy stated, “[However,] I would hope that the priorities would not be significantly different… This is, basically, a five-year plan. We may or not accomplish all of that,” Roy said, “ [but]it will guide our decisions as we move forward.”