Efforts underway to advance strategic plan

Restructuring, partnerships, credit hours, research key

August 2, 2017

Preparatory work to pursue imperatives in the updated Advancing Excellence strategic plan, adopted by the Board of Trustees in June, is moving forward with significant activity kicking off with the start of the fall semester.

President George E. Ross said key initiatives include:

  • Review and restructuring of CMU's academic and administrative structure;
  • Review and modification of undergraduate degree programs to require no more than 120 credits unless otherwise mandated by accreditation;
  • Increasing research and scholarly activity; and
  • Strengthening business and community partnerships.

Adapting CMU's organizational structure

Two decades ago, Google, social media and smartphones didn't exist. Neither did a Central Michigan University College of Medicine or the university's engineering programs. And CMU's research portfolio was significantly smaller.

The world has changed, and so, too, must CMU, Ross said.

Ian R. Davison has been given a two-year appointment as senior vice provost of academic reorganization initiative, leading the way in examining the organization of departments and colleges for the first time in 20 years.

Provost Michael Gealt and Davison are considering creation of a few committees of faculty, staff and students to explore various aspects of the university. The goal is increased efficiency and effectiveness in order to enhance student success.

"The last time the university examined its structure and went through a reorganization of academic colleges was 1996," Gealt said. "It is a different world and a different university, which tells me it is time to do this. The Academic Senate will be engaged and apprised and will cast its vote on matters involving curriculum, colleges and departments."

Recommendations will be identified by early 2018 so the Academic Senate and other stakeholders have time to weigh in before proposals go to the Board of Trustees in April, Gealt said. Implementation would occur during the 2018-19 academic year.

CMU enrollment has grown significantly in 20 years, especially in STEM disciplines, and many new programs have been added. At the time of its last review in 1996, CMU was classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a master's comprehensive university. This past year, Carnegie moved CMU to doctoral higher research or R-2 status. This put CMU among only 5 percent of U.S. colleges and universities in the top two research classifications.

"We can't sit still while the world, our students and the careers they will have continue to evolve," Ross said. "As we celebrate our 125th anniversary, it's time to be thoughtful and bold in advancing excellence."

Davison said the review will ensure CMU:

  • Continues to make student success the highest priority;
  • Is positioned to leverage external opportunities and meet the challenges of the next decade;
  • Operates as efficiently as possible by improving communication and avoiding duplication of effort; and
  • Is prepared to attract and retain the best faculty and staff by providing opportunities for professional success and career advancement.

"The entire CMU community will be engaged as an invaluable source of ideas and suggestions and to provide comments and feedback on recommendations," Davison said.

Areas under review include academic colleges and departments, support units in the academic division, and areas such as advising that directly affect the academic success of students.

Jane Matty will serve as acting dean of the College of Science and Engineering for the next two years.

Modifying to 120 credit hours

While many CMU academic programs require 124 credits, others require more. The updated strategic plan requires modification of all undergraduate degree programs to require no more than 120 credits, unless mandated by accreditation standards. Gealt said this will allow CMU to stay competitive, and most importantly, it will ensure students are able to graduate in four years, with less debt.

Claudia Douglass, vice provost for academic effectiveness, will work closely with the Academic Senate this fall to conduct this review and pursue implementation, Gealt said.

Increasing research and scholarly activity

Central's research and scholarly activity has expanded significantly over the past 20 years, as the high research Carnegie classification indicates, Gealt said. That momentum needs to continue, with ever greater emphasis on external funding.

David Ash, vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, will take the lead.

"We'll look to departments to identify which faculty are active," Gealt said. "We want to raise awareness and engagement, and in doing so, give students ever more hands-on experiences and exposure to research and scholarly activity that's breaking new ground and contributing to the advancement of our communities, state, nation and globe.

"Some ask whether the pursuit of more research and scholarly activity diminishes our commitment to teaching and our strong sense of community. The answer is not at all," he said.

"By expanding our research and scholarly activity, we'll expose more students to greater intellectual challenges and engagement. They'll learn to think more critically and creatively and to be leaders in finding solutions. CMU's hallmark sense of community will remain strong, as faculty, staff, students, graduate assistants and external partners all rally to address societal needs," Gealt said.

Strengthening business and community partnerships

CMU announced last week the development of the Office of Business Engagement as a key step in advancing the partnership imperative.

The office, under the direction of Rob Vandorin, in a two-year appointment as interim director, will accelerate partnerships with business, industry and community organizations. It had its first event, with 28 individuals from 17 corporations and governmental entities, last week at CMU's Detroit office.

Gealt said he also is exploring community engagement on the academic side, with a goal of creating ever greater learning experiences that complement lessons taught in the classroom. He anticipates CMU will apply for a Carnegie Community Engagement classification in May 2019.