What is program prioritization and why did Juniata undertake this process?Program prioritization is the process of evaluating and determining the appropriate mix of academic programs based on institutional mission, student interest, projected employment growth, and other factors with the goal of enabling Juniata to best align resources in order to strategically position the College for future generations of students. While student enrollment has declined with national trends, the number of faculty and Programs of Emphases (POEs) has stayed the same or increased, which is not financially sustainable for the institution. Our goal was to invite innovation and re-imagination in consideration of growth opportunities, while preserving the liberal arts experience. While this process is common in higher education, Juniata, for the first time at the behest of the Board of Trustees, began this process at the start of the 19-20 academic year.
What was the process by which programs were prioritized?
The process of program prioritization formally began with the formation of the Program Prioritization Committee in September 2019. This committee, chaired by Provost Bowen, included eight faculty representing both large and small departments in the arts/humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. They include senior faculty, mid-career faculty, and faculty at the early stages of their career to provide a range of perspectives. Members of the Program Prioritization Committee were:
Brad Andrew, Professor, Accounting, Business, and Economics
Jack Barlow, Professor, Politics
Judith Benz, Associate Professor, German
Kathleen Biddle, Professor, Education
Doug Glazier, Professor, Biology
Ryan Mathur, Professor, Geology
Donna Weimer, Professor, Communication and Theatre Arts
Sharon Yohn, Assistant Professor, Chemistry
The Program Prioritization Committee spent several months gathering data about each academic department for analysis. Enrollment for the past five years including, including the number of students graduated with the designated POE, number of secondary emphases, and overall enrollment in courses was collected. The number of full-time faculty, amount spent on part-time faculty, and operating budgets were also factored, as were projected job growth and student interest expressed when matriculating.
Upon compilation of this data, committee members vetted the data with faculty members at departmental meetings. The Program Prioritization Committee then developed recommendations, which included determining future allocation of resources based on whether a department would be enhanced, sustained, or curtailed. These recommendations were then shared with the Juniata College faculty and Board of Trustees.
What were the results of the process?
As a result of this process, the Program Prioritization Committee made recommendations for each academic program at Juniata to either be enhanced, sustained, or curtailed. Enhancement of a program could mean additional staffing, facility renovations, or developing new programs when resources become available. Programs that were sustained were deemed to be at the core of the liberal arts experience Juniata provides. They are staffed adequately for the foreseeable future in light of the analysis that was conducted. Curtailment of academic programs could include staffing reductions, or suspension of POEs, as well as a possible reorganization of academic departments to seek greater academic efficiencies. It should be emphasized that curtailment does not mean elimination of a discipline and that students still have the ability to individualize POEs and seek secondary emphases that enable them to pursue their interests. To date, only two POEs have been suspended, Religious Studies and Sociology, both of which have had fewer than three students graduating on average each year for the last five years. It is anticipated that in every case, current students enrolled in programs will be able to complete their designated POEs. Below are the recommendations of PPC:
- Accounting, Business, and Economics
- Computer Science and Information Technology
- Environmental Science and Studies
- Social Work, Criminal Justice, and Sociology
- Chemistry and Biochemistry
- Peace and Conflict Studies
- Art and Art History
- Religious Studies
- World Languages and Cultures
What exactly is being eliminated from Juniata program offerings?
As recommended by our accrediting body, Middle States, we are seeking to offer fewer courses overall in our efforts to streamline our offerings. We currently offer close to 100 designated POEs, which is not sustainable given the size of our student body and the size of our faculty. Departments that are being recommended for curtailment are Art and Art History, Geology, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Theatre, and World Languages and Cultures . Curtailing does not necessarily mean eliminating a POE, but could be a combination of reorganization into other departments, staffing reductions, or eliminating the POE. The Provost recommended to several departments in May that POEs be suspended and courses offered less frequently. Among these are Art History, Studio Art, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Russian, French, German as well as secondary education in French and German. The above departments average approximately 2 graduating POEs per year . Any POEs recommended for curtailment can be suspended with minimal disruption to students. All current students will be allowed to complete them to fulfill graduation requirements.
Does eliminating a POE, or curtailing the department mean the elimination of the department?
No. If a POE is eliminated, any current students will still be able to fulfill their graduation requirements, and future students will still be able to individualize their POES in those areas. By eliminating the POE, we reduce the course offerings but can maintain the core courses necessary for a well-rounded liberal arts education. In most cases, the elimination of a POE still means robust course offerings, just not on the same scale. The opportunity to individualize a POE in all disciplines present at Juniata remains available to every student.
What impact did COVID-19 have on these decisions?
COVID-19 has hit the world hard, and Juniata is no exception. COVID-19 impacted some staffing decisions, but the process of program prioritization was happening long before COVID-19. Program prioritization strengthens the Juniata curriculum moving forward, and that remains true regardless of the ongoing global pandemic.
What does this mean for the future of the Liberal Arts at Juniata?
Last year, Juniata launched a new curriculum to replace the general education requirements commonly known as FISHN which had been in place since the 1970s with a modest revision in the 1990s. The revised curriculum reflects Juniata’s core belief in the value of a liberal arts education while preparing students to take on the challenges of our current world. Our students will still explore issues, ideas, and methods across core liberal arts areas - natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. The suspension of some humanities POEs does not preclude imagining some new programs. For example, Juniata’s faculty Department and Programs Committee recently approved a Digital Humanities certificate and a secondary emphasis in Bioethics to encourage the study of philosophy. Furthermore, the new general education curriculum requires all students to take coursework in the humanities in the form of Humanistic Thought courses. A liberal arts education does not rest on the designated POE but is instead about the breadth of study available to students, and students will still be able to increase their world-view and add depth to their college experience. We believe this process strengthens the unique nature of the POE, something that is foundational to the Juniata College experience.
What does this mean for the future of the Juniata Education?
The program prioritization process was a thorough, data driven review of Juniata’s academic offerings. Education is not stagnant, and Juniata must be able to adapt and prepare for contemporary students and the College’s future. By undergoing program prioritization, Juniata is able to continue to provide robust offerings across disciplines, while also enabling the capacity to grow programs to meet student demands while remaining a true liberal arts institution. While those involved in the program prioritization process understand that this process is painful for some, it is our belief that we have become more nimble, are better able to meet market demands, and are better positioned to prepare our students for the world in which they find themselves living.