Board Approves New Programs, Drops Others

Paul R. Yoder Jr. responds to a committee report as fellow trustees listen. Paul R. Yoder Jr. responds to a committee report as fellow trustees J. Richard Thomas and Gerald R. Horst listen.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Approving several new academic programs and taking actions to strengthen the future of the university was the primary focus of the Mar. 24-25 meeting of the EMU board of trustees.

The school’s governing body heard a summary report with recommendations that followed nearly two-years of comprehensive work by a "prioritization" steering committee.

Prioritization report

The 13-member group, chaired by University President Loren Swartzendruber, led a process of evaluating all university programs to ensure that they fit the university’s mission to serve the Mennonite Church and larger world.

Dr. Swartzendruber gave a Powerpoint presentation on the project. The goal of the campuswide effort, he said, is "to experience healthy organizational change that will make EMU a stronger,even higher quality program in the days ahead.

"This has been a transparent process all along, with findings and committee proceedings and recommendations posted on the web site for everyone to read," the president said.

The board took action to approve the prioritization report, with many of the recommendations to be carried out in a gradual, "evolutionary" fashion.

Merging departments

Among the changes, the board approved a recommendation to merge the art and communication departments to form the visual and communication arts department, effective fall 2006.

Marie S. Morris, undergraduate academic dean, pointed to the advantages to be realized by merging the two departments, noting that "the faculty are young and passionate about their discipline, with a positive effect on students.

"It is important to model a faith-based collaboration in the context of a liberal arts and Anabaptist faith context where students are equipped to engage in creative activity in a variety of media forms," Dr. Morris said. "Students will be enriched by the mixing in classes of students who are working in traditional studio arts and those working in digital applications. The critical analysis, combined with working side-by-side, will push each student to a greater level of excellence," she added.

The board also approved recommendations to add a major in digital media and a major in photography, effective fall 2006. Both programs are in response to student interest and will provide increased collaboration of students and faculty, improved advising and mentoring and more efficient budgeting and instructional space use.

New MBA track

Also approved was a new health services administration track within the master of business administration program, starting fall of 2006. Allon Lefever, MBA director, said the courses will be offered on-line and will take two-and-a-half years to complete the certificate at one course a semester.

President Loren Swartzendruber speaks to the board of trustees. President Loren Swartzendruber gives a summary of the campuswide "prioritization" process to the EMU board of trustees.
Photo by Jim Bishop

"The courses will emphasize case studies and ethical considerations and will prepare potential managers of nursing homes, retirement communities and other health care systems," Lefever said.

The trustees also approved recommendations to discontinue several academic programs with low enrollment, effective fall 2006 – the German major and minor, the economic development major and minor and the marketing minor.

"We weren’t certain when this process started where we’d end up, and in fact, we’re far from done at this stage," Swartzendruber said. "This huge task will mean little if we don’t continue working on it on an annual basis."

Other business

The trustees also:

–Approved a preliminary operating budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year of $25.5 million, a 3.6% increase. The new budget includes $ 5.5 million in student scholarships, a one percent wage increase for faculty, staff and retirees and $1.4 million toward capital projects;

–Approved five-year contracts for 10 undergraduate faculty members and one seminary professor and promotions in rank, effective fall of 2006, for seven undergraduate faculty;

–Heard that University Fund revenues for 2006-06 are at $944,520, about $130,000 above the same time last year, with 17 contributions of $50,000 or more received so far the current fiscal year. The board also was told that first-year student applications and deposits are "substantially ahead of 2005."