Miami University faculty leaders voted Monday on changes that should help create more four-year degree programs at the university’s campuses in Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester Twp., said Michael Pratt, associate provost and dean of the regional campuses.
The University Senate approved the creation of six new academic departments: social and behavioral sciences; education and society; biological sciences; mathematical and physical sciences; humanities and creative arts; and languages, literature and writing, according to Miami.
These will be new academic departments in addition to the six already in place at the College of Professional Studies and Applied Sciences housed at Miami Regionals. By the time students start class fall semester 2016, the college will have a new name and 12 total departments with degree programs offered only at the regional locations, Pratt said.
Miami University is Butler County’s largest employer. Currently, about 7,000 students attend Miami Regionals.
The creation of these new academic departments is the latest in a series of changes made to restructure Miami Regionals to boost enrollment and provide more opportunities for students in the region, Pratt said. But the multi-year process that saw committees form to make recommendations and address concerns is nearing an end, he said.
“The regional campus degrees are focused on the local economy and the local job market, so they are unique degrees,” Pratt said. “The students that will gravitate to us are students that are looking for programs that will take them right into the workforce.”
Curriculum for new four-year and graduate-level degrees to be offered at Miami Regionals will be developed under these new departments, which will still need approval from the university’s board of trustees, according to the associate provost.
While new degree programs are expected to start next year, not all of the programs in the pipeline will be in place by then.
“We will have all of our faculty resources organized, and we will have the ability to continue to build additional degrees going forward next fall,” Pratt said.
Four-year degrees obtained at Regionals will have different names and coursework than four-year degrees obtained at the main Oxford campus. Foundational classes offered to all Miami students no matter where they’re enrolled will be the same, but the degree programs offered at Regionals will be designed for a different set of students than those who pursue degrees in Oxford, Pratt said.
The differences between an Oxford diploma versus a Regionals diploma will be the dean’s signature and college name, he said.
Monday’s vote of 43 faculty senate members in favor, one opposed and one abstained signals they are confident about moving forward and supporting the creation of the new departments, said Yvette Harris, chair of the executive committee of the University Senate and psychology professor.
“I think with our meeting yesterday, people, they were finally satisfied with the deliberations and discussions,” Harris said. “The concern is protecting faculty, making sure faculty who have dual appointments understand and administrators understand the responsibilities of the respective departments.”
Despite the expansion of bachelor’s programs at Regionals, students already do and still have the option of completing an associate’s degree and relocating to Oxford if they’d like, officials said.
Other decisions still to come include a new name for the future 12-department college at Regionals. The University Senate is scheduled to meet again Dec. 7 and could discuss dual appointments of professors that teach at Regionals but are members of Oxford-based colleges, said John Skillings, process coordinator for Miami who helped facilitate discussions about the changes.
Additionally, plans are to still discuss how to structure the regional college’s governance and how decisions get made.
“Governance is important because it deals with the curriculum,” such as degree requirements, Skillings said.
“I think the big driving force here is the desire and the need to add more four-year degrees. As we add degrees, that’s essential for the needs of the state, the needs of the region but it’s also essential for the future success of the regional campuses,” Skillings said.
“I think in terms of where we are… people discussed it a lot. They realize change is necessary to have these four year degrees… they’ve realized we’re going to have to make some changes compared to what we have had in the past,” Skillings said.