Moving at the Speed of Academe (not all universities are created equal)

How fast do things work at your institution?  I find that many faculty echo the frustrations John Kilbourne describes in this Chronicle Op-Ed.  Universities can be painfully slow to implement new changes.

In my own institution we don’t have this problem.  Two years ago a group of creative writing faculty approached me, the English Department’s undergraduate director, about initiating a new degree program, the BFA in Creative Writing.  These programs are relatively new in the U.S. (there are only around 55), but given our institution’s great creative writing faculty and undergraduate interest, it made sense to start a discussion.

From that moment it was about a year later that we had a curriculum in place and working through the internal approval process.  We were given the green light to take it for approval at the state level.

Once we hit the state, it did take time to revise and reconsider our goals and what we hoped to accomplish  with the program.  Those discussions were time consuming, but illuminating.  We all learned a great deal working through the process.  Our BFA was approved in July 2012 and we will start admitting students in January 2013.  That was two years start to finish.

I fully realize that my institution is unique in this way. Our administrators embrace the idea that great ideas sometimes need to be fast tracked for maximum impact.  There are downsides to moving quickly–we have instituted programs that did not work out long-term. I’ve also seen programs pop into existence before the faculty were fully ready to take on the challenge of managing a new academic program and students.  Still, I’m pleased to work at a university where we can meet the demands of our students and embrace changes more quickly than is typical of a large institution.  I think it is a great motivator for faculty and benefits our students.


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