Phase one of the Academic Affairs Program Prioritization (AAPP) process — creating an evaluation framework for academic programs — has ended and phase two has begun.
Mary Doyle, vice provost for academic planning and co-chair of the phase one task force with Ken Casavant, professor in the School of Economic Sciences, said the deans received a packet containing instructions, guidelines and evaluation rubrics on Jan. 14.
 “We wanted to provide (the deans) with as many tools as we could,” Doyle said. “We wanted to make it useful and make it simple.” 
According to the flowchart, the deans are in the process of providing the framework and evaluation guidelines to program chairs and directors. Once each program area has completed its self-assessment, the deans will “review, comment, summarize and prioritize” each program and forward the information to the provost by March 15.
 
Initiatives dovetail
David McLean,
a task force member and department chair in civil and environmental engineering, said one of his initial concerns was that the process not be a further burden to program leaders. But, he said, the resulting framework “really should not be a burden. It’s reasonable in size and scope.”
McLean said creating the framework was an “open process” with a lot of give and take among members. By asking for both quantitative and qualitative data, the task force is hoping to get a true picture of each program’s strengths and potential for growth.
“It’s a necessary process to help guide the future direction of the university,” he said.
This work is intended to dovetail with work faculty already have completed in preparation for WSU’s 10-year reaccreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Another complementary initiative is work to update WSU’s strategic plan, an effort headed by Larry James, associate executive vice president.
Assessing strengths
According to the AAPP information packet, “With few new resources available for investment in strategic priorities, the university must use existing resources in the most efficient manner possible.”
As outlined by the phase one task force, deans and academic leaders will determine what constitutes an “academic program” and faculty in each program will evaluate their work in three areas: teaching and learning, research and scholarship and outreach and engagement.
 
The phase one task force identified eight areas for assessing strength: centrality to the WSU mission, cost effectiveness, demand (both external and internal), impact, productivity, quality and size.
“The evaluation rubric allows faculty to plot their program strengths on a continuum of alternative futures,” Casavant said. The four alternative futures for a program are “growth and investment,” “maintenance,” “reorganization, consolidation or reduction” and “phase out.”
 
Phase two next
Membership of the phase two task force will be announced soon. Members will be charged with reviewing the self-assessments and the deans’ priority recommendations.
The task force will take part in discussions with the deans, chancellors and program leaders to form recommendations to the provost. The provost plans to announce program prioritization decisions by the end of spring semester.
Then, according to the published timeline, the provost, chancellors and deans will have until June 30 to develop an implementation plan based on the provost’s decisions.
Doyle said implementation could begin immediately and likely will extend over several years.