Hiram College has partnered with the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., to help guide its academic redesign process. Three advisors from RAND are working in tandem with Hiram faculty, administration, staff, and students to examine the College’s current academic structure and explore opportunities to enhance it. Through its collaborations with various campus constituents, RAND will help develop an innovative and highly customized academic design for Hiram, one focused on preparing the College’s 21st-century students for fulfilling careers and the ability to address the urgent challenges of our times.

“We are fortunate to have a world-class social science research team helping us design an academic structure that promotes integrated and experiential learning,” says Hiram President Lori Varlotta, Ph.D., adding that “the project is being fully funded by a trustee as a designated donor contribution.”

A team of three RAND research advisors first visited Hiram’s campus on March 5 and 6. Then, they met with nearly two dozen Hiram representatives, including members of the Strategic Academic Team, Senior Cabinet, Board of Trustees, and faculty, as well as several students to gather information about the progress of the strategic design thus far.

“By examining three academic structure proposals that came out of faculty brainstorming sessions, our consultants started to delve into deep discussions with a cross-section of Hiram constituents during their second visit on March 19,” said faculty chair Nicolas Hirsch, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology. During that visit, RAND met with dozens of members of the Hiram community. They are now using the qualitative data gleaned from their many focus groups plus the quantitative data they are reviewing from Hiram’s faculty portal and internal reports to shape forthcoming recommendations.

To gauge and refine some of the earliest ideas being floated by RAND, Hiram professors Roxanne Sorrick, Ed.D. and Brad Goodner, Ph.D., are bringing together all interested faculty who want to participate in those discussions. Sorrick says she is “pleased that Hiram is able to enlist RAND to assist in the design of practical, thoughtful, and visionary academic structure that will organize curriculum in a manner that best serves the College’s students and future.”

“We look forward to presenting our recommendations in April,” says RAND senior behavioral scientist Gery Ryan, Ph.D., and assistant dean for academic affairs at Pardee RAND Graduate School. At that time, RAND team members will share their proposals in large-group and small-group sessions that include all interested faculty, staff, and students. “We’re delighted to work with Hiram College as it looks to secure its future and address the best interests of its students.”

“There is a new normal in higher education today,” says President Varlotta. “Tuition-driven colleges that fail to acknowledge it are likely to fail. At Hiram, we are redesigning our academic structure to address the changes at play head on.”

Decisions on Hiram’s academic redesign are expected to be finalized and announced in late May.

by Denise Henry