The charge came from the Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College. “That commission has the charge of considering what we would need to do to improve the revenue situation of the college overall. One portion is programs, and when we look at the number ‘30 majors’ some of those… have an average of less than one graduate per year. It’s expensive to have that many majors carrying on our budget,” says Hendrickson.
Redefining academic departments
Academic departments and disciplines submitted proposals in response to the charge on March 1.
On April 15, a subcommittee of Academic Affairs at the college level and the Cabinet will finish reviewing the proposals. “We will plan how to expand, put the curriculum into effect, find money, make a marketing plan and make sure the faculty have the support that they need,” says Hendrickson.
Assoc. Prof. of Fine Arts, Philip Lindsey, submitted a proposal for the Fine Arts major. “We have to think: How can we make the college better? Looking holistically at the institution: How can we make our programs stand out to potential students and meet the needs of existing students?” he says.
In the proposals, departments and disciplines must identify themselves within three model categories: signature, sustaining or emerging.
Signature programs are those with the highest enrollment and retention potential. These will expand and receive increased funding, resources and marketing opportunities. The committee will select three signature programs by August 15.
Sustaining departments are defined as strong and stable. Many existing programs will fall under this category.
Emerging departments will reorganize or reconfigure. Within these departments, majors may be cut. They may become minors or combine with different departments.
A future in health care
A potential signature program will be in the medical field. Adding a major in health care will be a faculty driven project, with assistance from administration. If the college decides to invest in this or any of the signature programs, they will research enrollment trends, employment situations and surveys of the local community through data gathering.
Hendrickson’s charge may open career opportunities in health care. According to her, science is not a traditional field for women to enter, but Wilson has strong faculty with the skills to teach students and help them contribute to society.
Responses to the charge
Wilson College Government Association (WCGA) Constitution and Bylaws Chair, Stephanie Bachman ‘12 attended the meeting that initially introduced this concept. "Transparency and communication is going make the process ultimately positive or negative. I think when and if an opportunity arises for student input, please speak. We won’t be here or be affected, but we don’t want to graduate from a college with a degree or major that does not exist,” says Bachman.
WCGA President, Leslie Hoover ‘13, attended the meeting with Bachman. “I think students will begin to see more significant updates than normal, along with more interdisciplinary classes created… which will help to really make a person's education at Wilson look well rounded to future employers and graduate schools,” she says.
The college currently has 30 majors and 45 faculty members. According to some faculty and students, this number is too high for a small college to financially support as certain majors have low graduation rates. Additionally single faculty member driven departments maintain a heavy workload while developing their curriculum.
“Something has to give at the college. We have to attract today’s students and be competitive in the market place,” says Assoc. Prof. of Fine Arts, Robert Dickson.