Be prepared to adapt to change.
This statement is a paraphrase of a philosophy that is often stressed to students in higher education as an ideal to live by as they go into the real world. For those enrolled in the Miami University graduate program and for those considering enrolling in the future, this alluded change is arriving a little sooner than the “real world,” as graduate programs and practices are currently in the midst of evaluations.
Some of these graduate program changes have already been established and are in the process of being implemented. Among the most recent changes is an update to the definition of being a full-time graduate student. A full-time student must take a minimum of nine credit hours and a recommended maximum of 15.
Bruce Cochrane, dean of the graduate school, said the new requirements are normal.
“This was done mostly just to simplify our rules and bring them into line with what is really current normal practice,” Cochrane said.
The Strategic Priorities Task Force (SPT) offered input in its report on how the graduate school can run more efficiently. Cochrane said these recommendations would significantly affect the department.
“I think, like with everything else in the report, what the SPT is indicating is that there is going to have to be a combination of potential budget reductions and new revenue generation,” Cochrane said. “In this time we need to focus our resources with academic quality. The report simply implies that we need to develop a procedure to look at programs in a very quality-based way.”
In the draft report, the SPT recommends reviewing programs for viability, increasing the efficiency of the remaining programs and making sure there are more programs that generate revenue. If the recommendations are followed, the SPT predicts the graduate program will be able to take approximately 40 percent of its savings and reinvest them into sustainable programs.
As with their other suggestions, the SPT is not being greeted with open arms for these recommendations by some students.
Stephanie Brehm, Graduate Student Association president, said she has some concerns.
“The mission of the school is to be an undergraduate institution, so it is obviously going to be focused on the undergraduate aspects,” Brehm said. “In terms of the graduate school, they really want revenue-generating programs. I’m in the religion department, one of the smaller departments, and I think cutting the smaller departments will be a detriment to the graduate department at large. We get a lot of great people from assistantships, for example, from these programs that would not choose Miami otherwise.”
Aliya Rahman, a graduate student and teaching associate in the educational leadership department, agreed. She expressed concerns that some smaller programs could not meet this standard so they may need to be cut .
“I’m in one of the largest programs, but I’ve taken a lot of classes outside of my own department, and without those classes my doctorate would not be the same,” Rahman said. “Efficiency is not the only economic goal that there is. Equity is important. Community building is also important. I think the task force has focused a little too heavily on efficiency.”
Steve Wyatt, committee chair of SPT, said the recommendations in the report are simply that, recommendations. He said too much concern over the recommendations has been expressed.
“The key issue here is that first and foremost we made no recommendations that we eliminate anything, make that clear,” Wyatt said. “There have been no programs that have been singled out for anything.”
Wyatt said the SPT simply encourages close examination of graduate programs.
“What we’re recommending is a comprehensive evaluation of these programs, all of them, for viability,” Wyatt said. “Viability includes being able to sustain themselves financially as well as quality and other considerations”
Cochrane said the changes being implemented and the suggestions being given by the SPT will continue to make the graduate program at Miami one of the best.
“If we follow the spirit of the report, graduate education at Miami will be much more focused on quality and will remain an integral part of the institution,” Cochrane said.