Monday, November 17, 2014

Public Forum on November 24 [Updated]

[Updates: The slides that were presented during the forum are now available by clicking on this update/link.  If you were interested in this meeting, but unable to attend, please get in touch to share your comments, suggestions, and questions!  The same offer also applies, of course, to everyone who was able to attend.]

All members of the PSU community are warmly invited to attend a public forum on Academic Program Prioritization on Monday, November 24, 3-4:30pm in CIN 92.  (For those who don't recognize that number, this room is in the 5th Avenue Cinema whose entrance is at 510 SW Hall St between 5th and 6th Avenues.)

The specific goals for this public forum will be:
That said, if you have any questions about APP, or just want to know more about our plans and current status, please come and join us for the forum!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Criteria, Metrics, and Questions: A First Draft

At the Senate meeting on November 3, the APPC shared a draft document offering some specific proposals for the parameters that PSU might use in its APP process.  This includes a set of six high­level criteria, together with associated metrics (capturing quantitative data) and questions (capturing qualitative data).

These items are shared in a draft, incomplete form that we hope will stimulate and focus a productive conversation as the APPC, the Senate, and the faculty as a whole work together to finalize the details for the APP process in the Academic Year 2014-15 . We welcome and strongly encourage any feedback that will help to improve the draft set of parameters that are described in the report.

Why is APP Restricted to "Academic" Programs?

Why is the focus of APP limited to academic programs? After all, there are many things going on in the university that fall outside the immediate scope of any particular academic program.  Examples range from athletics to administration, dining to housing, parking to facilities, and outreach to research. If we're going to work on prioritization, wouldn't it make sense to pursue a broader review that considers the priorities for all of these activities at the same time?

The words behind the APPC acronym already capture the restricted scope of our work to academic programs, and the specifics of the committee charge further emphasize the point. But in this post, we'll dig a little deeper to explore the motivation for limiting the scope, while also reinforcing the need to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What is an "Academic Program"? [Updated]

As the name suggests, "academic programs" are the focus of our APP process.  But what exactly do we mean when we talk about "academic programs"? It turns out that this particular term is used in several subtly different ways across the campus, so it is important for us to be as precise as we can about what it means in the context of APP.

[Updated: November 23, 2014: Please read on to see the draft/proposed list of academic programs that will be included in the APP process for AY 2014-15.]

Academic Program Prioritization vs Academic Program Review

Academic Program Prioritization
Academic Program Review
Weighing all programs against a common set of criteria
Determining whether a program meets the bar for its field
All programs considered at the same time
A subset of programs considered each year on a rolling schedule
Conducted at the program level
(with multiple programs per unit)
Conducted at the unit/department level
A broad look at information
A deep look at information
Internal review, with criteria including performance and relationship to academic priorities
Internal and external review, with criteria based on discipline-specific standards and metrics
End result: programs assigned to categories with recommendations for investment and reorganization
End result: action plans for carrying departments forward

On APP Recommendations and Senate Oversight

As specified in the committee's charge, and assuming that everything runs to schedule, the work of the APPC will end with the delivery of its final recommendations in June 2015.

In this post, we'll take a look at the question of what might happen after that.  This includes the safeguards and oversight that is built in to the process as well as the role of the Senate in shaping the ways in which the recommendations are used and the scheduling of future iterations of the APP process.

APP at Other Institutions

There have been Academic Program Prioritization efforts at numerous colleges and universities across the continent.  Those of us involved in APP at PSU can certainly learn a lot by looking at how those other institutions have conducted their processes.

In some cases, there are good ideas, tools, and strategies that we can adapt to meet our needs here. It's hardly surprising, but one of the most commonly shared features of a successful APP process is a commitment to communicate with and engage the campus community.

Of course, there are also opportunities to learn from experiences on campuses where APP did not work well, resulting, for example: from a lack of transparency or of faculty involvement; from a failure to set reasonable expectations; or from the use of a priori assumptions about what the results of APP should be. By observing the pitfalls elsewhere, we can attempt to avoid running in to the same issues here.

The Path to APP at PSU

People often ask what prompted the introduction of an Academic Program Prioritization process at Portland State. Some wonder, for example, if it was motivated by particular budgetary issues, or by the need to address other specific organizational problems or challenges.

Those who are only hearing about it now in Fall 2014 might be surprised to discover that, in fact, discussions and planning for APP have been taking place in the Faculty Senate throughout the past year.  From the perspective of APPC, at least, there is no emergency situation or looming financial crisis that drives our work.  Instead, we approach this an opportunity for careful, thoughtful, and faculty-driven development of an APP process that will provide long term benefits in helping to shape and guide the future of our university.

The purpose of this post is to document key events during the past academic year, culminating in the charge to the APPC in June 2104 to begin an Academic Program Prioritization exercise in the 2014-15 Academic Year.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What is Academic Program Prioritization (APP)? [Updated]

[Updated: November 23, 2014, with a revised version of the original text.]

Do you juggle?  If not, one way to get started is to pick up a "Learn to Juggle" kit, like the one pictured, which I found at a local bookstore.  And, if you follow the instructions—and are willing to put in a little time and practice—then you might just find that you develop the hand-eye coordination that is needed to keep the three colorful juggling bags in flight, moving them backwards and forwards, smoothly, from one hand to the other.

This might seem like an odd way to start a post on Academic Program Prioritization. But the fact is, with all the work that is being done at PSU, there's a very good chance that each and every one of us already has some well-developed juggling skills. I'm sure, for example, that all of us are constantly trying to keep any number of "balls" in motion at the same time so that we can support our students, teach our classes, conduct our research, and engage with the communities that we serve.


A Window in the University Welcome Center: Welcome in many languages!
Welcome to the new website for the Academic Program Prioritization Committee, or APPC, at Portland State University!

We will be using this site to share announcements, information, and perspectives about Academic Program Prioritization (APP) as we move through the process. Please check this site on a regular basis, sign up for our mailing list, and don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like to find out more about APP at Portland State!