By Lauren Grimaldi
Facing deep financial challenges, administrators at Roosevelt are tasked with keeping the university afloat while changes are made. In the late stages of fall semester, Provost Lois Becker shared the new ‘Building A Stronger Roosevelt’ initiative to faculty. This new initiative outlined a number of changes to specific academic programs, departments and much more throughout the university. Provost Becker discussed the new initiative in depth.
Roosevelt Torch: Can you begin with an overview of the ‘Building A Stronger Roosevelt’ initiative for students?
Provost Becker: Well, we’ve had some disappointments in terms of enrollment and it’s not just that on the academic side we’ve been looking at what we can do in order to make us stronger going forward. And so, there’s been a lot of review going on and there have been a lot of things going on in the academic side that I think are going to be very exciting for students. So we’ve been doing a lot of planning. One thing that we’re doing that I think is going to most impact students is we’re hoping in Fall 2018 to roll out a new general education program. And in order to have this program take in all the best practices for student professional development, retention, graduation and getting a great job afterwards- what we’ve done is we’ve assembled a team in terms of the general education requirements, there is a faculty group they are working with other offices and they have come up with the competencies that they want all Roosevelt graduates to have. And then in my office I have a new Associate Provost for Research (Mike Maly) and he’s working on faculty success and then we will have another for student success. And he’s working on putting together faculty who may be interested in similar things so that we can have- we’ve had great research and we’ve had great grants but now we’re going to get someone that coordinates the efforts. On the student success side we will have an Associate Provost for Student Success our center for teacher and learning. The Office of Student Services and Career employment is part of the team so that we can really get students trained up in these roles and eventually we want to have electronic portfolios that students can have show employers experiences and how they have achieved these different competencies. Part of the stress that we’re putting on professional development has to do with things like employers saying I can’t hire you, you don’t have any experience. So, what we want to do is give students as many experiences that show that they do have the experience to get the job done so students can reflect on it…We’re going to work with the Provost for Enrichment, advising, CTL,rounding it all up is the Assistant Provost for General Education. So there’s someone that can really see to it that we incorporate all these things, that we make it easier for professors and students to take on experiential learning. I’m really excited about it. In terms of the building and going forward that’s really want we want to do, enhance, as much as possible, the undergraduate experience.
Torch: Going back to what you said about the general education curriculum, what will that mean for the students that started before then?
Becker: When you do that, even for an individual major, you do have a plan so that nobody loses a credit. That will be once the curriculum is determined for the new program then we’ll make sure that students, whether they started two or three years before,in most cases their general education requirements will not change. You may have some people that are straggling, in which case we would make up a plan that gets grandfathered in, you know, what course counts for this, but people that are already in the general education program they will continue with their general education requirements as is.
Torch: More specifically about changes to specific departments, it is said that the professional studies program will be absorbed by some other departments. Can you talk about that?
Becker: When I look at Roosevelt’s history, Roosevelt has had just a great track record in terms of non-traditional students and the (College of Professional Studies) has played a big role in that but I think the times have changed. Today, I just read in a newsletter that I get that 73 percent of students are nontraditional. I need to understand better how they’re counting that, it sounds really high. But the fact of the matter is that really all of our programs have to accommodate different students. I think that our general education program, while it won’t be only for traditional students, is really going to support them. We also need to think about transfer students and adult students. To think that it is one department’s responsibility does not sound right and it isn’t consistent with the past of Roosevelt. What we did is that we took those different programs administratively absorbed them into other colleges. Hospitality management has gone into business which is actually pretty typical and makes the program stronger. Criminal justice has gone to the College of Arts and Sciences and then it becomes the responsibility of those programs to make sure that their programs aren’t just good for traditional undergraduates but that they have those things within the program- online, accelerated programs- that really appeal to those adult students. For the students themselves, their program will not change. When we adopt the new general education requirement in 2018 we will make sure that we offer different modalities that appeal to adult students. But the same case goes for those students. Those who enter now or next year, it will be the same degree program. For those who may be straggling, there won’t be many, we’ll have a special advising session, and a plan with them.
Torch: I noticed some changes to the Heller College of Business were also in the email to faculty. It mentioned that there is a search for a new dean?
Becker: There’s a search for a new dean and I think the deadline is coming up at the end of this month. So hopefully we have great candidates and we will start interviewing them. The other changes are that the former dean of CPS is now the associate dean within business. And she knows a lot about adult education and she is going to assist them to be able to make their programs to be more adult friendly than they already are now. Another change is hospitality management and organizational leadership which had been in CPS those also came over to business. Beyond that I would wait until the hiring of the new dean for more specific decisions.
Torch: There are some rumors and concerns going around the school about the future of the university. I’ve heard from faculty that Vice President McGuinness will be leaving his position soon. Is there any truth to that?
Becker: You know it’s not in my area, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. Following the interview, Provost Becker confirmed in an email that McGuinness will be leaving at the end of January after she confirmed the news with the President’s office.
Torch: Students also seem to be worried that their program may be eliminated.
Becker: We do have the planning and budget committee looking at individual programs. And a lot would have to happen before we would eliminate a program. Beyond what’s morally right we had accreditation obligations and accreditations to the state of Illinois so that we would never do that. One thing we do have to do is clarify the status of some of the programs because we do have a lot on the list that have not been accepting students for years, so we need to clarify but nothing would be sudden and we hope to talk to students before we decide to eliminate a program that has people in it. We would definitely talk to the students.
Torch: How would you recommend students come to you with concerns?
Becker: They can just write me. It has gotten a little crazy. We still have to go through the list of programs and make sure that everything is clear. They can contact me, but there’s nothing right now that’s on the chopping block.
Torch: There have also been rumblings about the Gage Building being sold, is there any truth to that?
Becker: Right now the university as engaged some experts to figure out what’s the most effective use. Right now there is no plan or anything up for sale, but we would like to get an idea of what’s the best thing to do.
Torch: Students are also concerned that some faculty members may be being asked by the university to retire early. Is there any truth to that?
Becker: We don’t ask people to retire early. That’s illegal. What we have done is put out retirement plans, certain people are eligible and others are not. Frankly, I’ve been a provost for 16 years and it’s a periodic thing thing that universities do. There are retirement plans out there if people are interested.