Strategic Curricular Review Memo

November 16, 2006

Dear Colleagues,

We are entering a very exciting time for Illinois Wesleyan University.  The Strategic Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in February and calls for us to complete strategic planning for the curriculum.  Many things have changed since the last curricular review, including a growth of the faculty and an expansion of the curriculum.   We have also seen dramatic changes in the society in which we live.  Thus, it is time to take stock of what we are currently doing and celebrate our accomplishments.  It is also time to examine whether there are ways for us to further enhance student learning and better prepare our graduates for the future – a future that requires them to be broadly educated, adequately prepared to live and work in an increasingly technological and global society, and challenged to contribute as citizens of the world.

My hope is that we will use this opportunity to reinvigorate our teaching and introduce faculty development programs that continue to prepare us for engaging students in new courses at the forefront of our disciplines.   We also can consider enhancing programs that do not currently have sufficient faculty and expanding programs into new areas.  We need to address these issues and reflect on the education we provide to our students.  The time is ripe for us to move forward on implementing our part of the strategic plan.  (A copy of the Teaching and Learning Goal of the Strategic Plan is available at http://www.iwu.edu/president/Strategic/Goals_Teaching.shtml.)

The curriculum rests squarely in the hands of the faculty and changes to the curriculum should come from the faculty.  The curriculum is tied to faculty resources so any discussions involving the curriculum will also need to include a discussion of resources.  A major outcome of the review is to create a process by which our curriculum is developed strategically so that in the near future resource allocation, program development, and program assessment are built into a periodic review of each part of the curriculum, from departmental and school offerings to the general education program.  In that way, we can identify areas that need additional resources and/or faculty lines.  At the same time, we need to enhance faculty development to better deliver our programs.  Although course load reduction is not an immediate objective, part of faculty development is the systematic reduction in workload and more efficient use of resources. Therefore, we have the opportunity to develop initiatives such as a course release program, an expansion of the junior leave program for all probationary faculty members, funding for a lecture series in support of the curriculum, a leave program for senior faculty, and the expansion of the Mellon Center.  Programs such these will be important in supporting our development of the curriculum.

Three basic parameters of this strategic curricular planning cycle are listed below

  •  No tenured or tenure-line faculty member will lose his or her position nor will any major programs be eliminated as a result of changes to the curriculum.
  • The standard faculty course load will remain at 6 courses per year for the near future. 
  • We will continue to emphasize the liberal arts as the core of our students’ education, and we will continue to provide opportunities for professional and pre-professional preparation in selected fields. 

All elements of the Illinois Wesleyan education are on the table for discussion, including but not limited to internationalization and study abroad, writing instruction, Gateway colloquium, May Term, interdisciplinary programs, information literacy, opportunities for student learning beyond the traditional classroom setting, and the relationship of majors to the general education program.  The curriculum is based on our mission, vision, and identity so we must be cognizant of these defining statements as we discuss the curriculum.  We need to think broadly but also keep in mind our limited resources and ways we can use our resources to advance our mission.  We also need to address the capabilities of our students.  Finally, we need to know how to use new resources as they become available.

I have consulted with CUPP, FDC, and CC regarding how we should begin the process and the following is a result of these discussions. The process will consist of two phases.  The first phase will involve reflection on our current curriculum and examination of the curricula at peer institutions to determine not only the elements of our curriculum that need to be revised or enhanced but also identify areas of particular strength at Illinois Wesleyan.  The second phase will be to transform ideas into reality and propose specific changes to strengthen, refine, and enrich the curriculum.  An implementation planning document will address both resource and staffing needs and outline a process for continual curricular review. 

I will create a Curriculum Strategic Planning Task Force to carry out the first phase of the review and ask that it be completed by the 2007 Fall Faculty Conference.   The Task Force will be composed of the following members:

  • One representative from Council on University Programs and Policy,
  • One representative from Curriculum Council,
  • One representative from Faculty Development Committee,
  • Four “at-large” members elected from the faculty, and
  • Two student representatives.

The representatives from CUPP, CC, and FDC will be elected by each committee and the “at-large” members will be elected from the faculty following standard procedures.  The committee representatives will work with their respective committees and provide a conduit for information to flow between the Task Force and the committees. The elected faculty members will continue on the Task Force through the second phase.  The Task Force chair will be elected from the at-large members in order to provide continuity through the 2007-08 academic year.  Zahia Drici, Director of General Education, Jean Kerr, May Term Director, Stacey Shimizu, Acting Director of the International Office, and Mona Gardner, Director of Institutional Research and Planning, will act as Task Force advisors to provide information as needed.  Other members of the Illinois Wesleyan community may be consulted for additional information.  The Task Force will work in consultation with the Provost, but the Provost will not serve on the Task Force.  The Provost will provide support for the Task Force in order to facilitate its work.  The charge for the Task Force is included below.

The Charge:

  1. To gather information and perspectives on our current curriculum from students, alumni, faculty, university-wide program directors, and other important constituencies (e.g., employers and graduate schools).
  2. To explore best practices of innovative curriculum and teaching at other universities.
  3. . To summarize the strengths and weaknesses of our current curriculum based on the analysis of our curriculum and best practices elsewhere.  This summary will provide the basis for a set of objectives to improve our curriculum to be developed during the next phase.

The Task Force will need to complete its work and present its summary to the faculty during the 2007 Fall Faculty Conference.  That way, the faculty will be ready to start the second phase with the purpose of making specific recommendations for changes in the curriculum by the beginning of the 2007-08 academic year.  The second phase should be completed by the end of the 2007-08 academic year.  The Task Force will have the opportunity to hold a series of open forums and focus groups early in the spring semester as data are gathered and the objectives are refined.  The Task Force will also provide regular updates at faculty meetings.  As a part of this initial planning process, all faculty members will have a chance to be heard and provide input into the development of the objectives. 

The Task Force has a full agenda to complete in a short time period.  I look forward to seeing the results of its work as the academic year progresses.  I also ask for your assistance in helping the Task Force complete this important project.

If you have any questions about any aspect of the review, please do not hesitate to contact me at provost@iwu.edu.

Sincerely yours,

Beth A. Cunningham
Provost and Dean of the Faculty