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Academic Program Review Process

Self-evaluation is an essential discipline for any organization, as witnessed by the university's recurring cycles of strategic planning. Last fall, Illinois Wesleyan's Board of Trustees called for a comprehensive review of all current academic programs.

While the Board is the only body with authority to make final decisions, their decisions were informed by a remarkably lengthy and inclusive process, beginning with study and deliberations by the faculty-selected members of the Program Evaluation Task Force (PETF), who had the exclusive role of making the first round of comprehensive recommendations.

The first step in the PETF process was a survey of all students, yielding 120 pages of information –responding to questions about their majors and minors, why they chose Wesleyan, and what courses of study they would like to see here.

All department and program heads were invited to submit 8-page narratives to the PETF detailing the strengths, special contributions, and possible aspirations for their programs.

The PETF examined not only the narrative accounts provided by departments but also data provided both by the IWU institutional research office and an external vendor (Gray Associates). The latter provided an extremely rich database of information. The course-by-course enrollment information alone prints out at about 150 pages.

The PETF wrote its final report, with a recommendation for each department (invest, sustain, transform, or close). The PETF recommended the discontinuance of nine majors, including: American Culture Studies; Anthropology; International Business; Design, Technology and Entrepreneurship (DTE); Educational Studies; French; Greek and Roman Studies; the School of Art and the School of Music.

Next, detailed consideration by faculty committees, the Council on University Programs and Policies (CUPP) and Curriculum Council (CC), determined the recommendations to bring forward for a vote by the full faculty – conducted across multiple faculty meetings. These were followed by one round of administrative input.

All of the information went to the Board of Trustees for consideration at their May meeting. The trustees endorsed four of the recommendations for closure (American Culture Studies; Design, Technology, and Entrepreneurship [DTE]; Greek and Roman Studies; and International Business) and determined that further evaluation of the data was needed on others.

The Board formed a working group of trustees and faculty members to further review data for six programs: Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, the School of Music, and the WLLC programs in French and Italian.

Trustees participating in the study included Rich Hanna '81, Nancy Hutson '71, Mark Israel '91, and Danielle Kays '01. Faculty participation included David Bollivar '89, Ann Eckhardt '03 (current chair of the Council on University Programs and Policies, the faculty governance committee with the most authority), and Molly Robey (outgoing CUPP chair). Michael Thompson, Associate Vice President for Institutional Research, Planning and Evaluation, served as staff to the group and also provided guidance in data analysis.

The working group had access both to the Gray data (which tends to focus on the course unit) and internal data (which tends to focus on majors). Departments were offered the opportunity to provide a response, and that response went to both the working group and to the Board as a whole.

Throughout the process, alumni were notified via several letters and a video, and we received written feedback and calls from hundreds of alumni.

The Board, where ultimate decisions were made, has 40 members, 90% of whom are alumni of Illinois Wesleyan. Their range of service to IWU and their involvement in and awareness of the current environment in which universities operate are quite inclusive; some are or have been faculty at other organizations. And they take their responsibilities in this matter, as the designated stewards for the future of IWU, deeply seriously.

This comprehensive process has gone on for months and involved more than 2,000 people at a conservative count. All constituents played critical roles during the process, for which we are deeply grateful.