Dear Hiram Friends,
It is Spring Break, and the first signs of the season are beginning to show: crocuses are popping up and American robins are digging through melted snow in search of their worms. While most of our students are in “chill mode” and away from Hiram hill this week, the Senior Cabinet and more than a handful of faculty are working closely with me and the Dean of the College on the academic redesign process that has been underway since the early Fall. The process has generated much campus attention. Additionally, it has garnered media attention from our regional business magazine (Crain’s Cleveland Business) and from our local paper (The Record Courier).
As I have mentioned in my previous communications to you, the academic redesign is an integral part of the 2017-20 Hiram College Strategic Plan. This redesign is driven by two compelling needs: 1) better align the College’s ongoing revenues and expenses, and 2) position Hiram as a mission-driven, market-wise model for the New Liberal Arts. As we set about to embody the New Liberal Arts, we are committed to prioritizing integrated studies, high impact experiences, and mindful technology. As part of the New Liberal Arts, students will develop not only a skill set but a mindset that charts their path for a fulfilling career, marked most likely by a variety of jobs, and for a happy and meaningful personal life.
The academic redesign process, like all processes I have guided at Hiram, is a transparent and data-driven one. This particular one is critically important since it is likely to be the case that a new program/major or two might be added, some programs/majors might be enhanced, others might be merged or shrunk. At every step of the process, we have asked faculty to participate in data collection and idea generation. During December and January, faculty worked with their departmental colleagues to submit a collective (departmental) report that addresses questions in five key areas: their program’s connection to the College’s mission, the quality of their program, analysis of the demonstrated student and workforce demand, use of college resources in offering classes, and their track record for innovation. Throughout the month of February, faculty and staff alike submitted short “innovation proposals” that either described a new program they wished us to consider or a suggestion for change or improvement in an existing academic or co-curricular program. We asked that anyone submitting an innovation proposal consider how the proposed program would positively impact enrollment. Folks really worked hard on this one; in total, we received 42 innovation proposals!
To fuel all of our thinking about what a redesign might look like, we have been able to contract—thanks entirely to a gift from a Trustee—with the RAND Corporation. As you probably know, RAND is a nationally recognized research organization. After initial conversations this week with a few faculty, a group of students, and members of the Cabinet, RAND will be back on campus over the next month to speak with many more faculty and staff so that they can solicit ideas from a broad swath of the campus community.
We anticipate this work will be wrapped up in May. I will receive reports at that time and use those reports to shape the recommendations I forward to the Board of Trustees. Given this timetable, I expect to be able to communicate the Board’s decisions and our next steps in early summer. This message to you is the first instance of a standing column that I will regularly write in this newsletter. I look forward to keeping you, our alumni, informed throughout the process via this new column and other alumni news channels moving forward.
Lori E. Varlotta