It was announced on March 1 by the University of Nevada, Reno that the University was beginning a process to review its curricula, a proposal that could eliminate a number of academic degrees and some departments in order for the University to meet state mandated budget reductions of 6.9%. I sent to the University media relations office the following questions, which were answered by Executive Vice President and Provost Marc Johnson. Part one is here and part two is here.
Q: What is the plan for Experiment Station dollars if CABNR departments are folded into other colleges or eliminated? What steps will the University take to ensure funds are appropriated in accordance with state and federal intentions?
Since this and other questions pertain directly to the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR), this may be a good place for me to summarize the proposed changes to that college. Through the proposal, most of the college’s degree programs and research initiatives would continue. Three of the college’s five academic departments (biochemistry and molecular biology, natural resources and environmental sciences, nutrition) would be retained with new reporting relationships. The School of Veterinary Medicine would relocate to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Center of Economic Development and the Applied Statistics Program would continue. Rangeland ecology would continue to be taught through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. The Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station (NAES) would also be retained and report to the vice president for research. The college and its administrative unit are proposed to close, as are the departments of animal biotechnology and resource economics.
NAES receives appropriations from the state and federal governments. NAES current state-fund allocations to the remaining three academic departments will stay with those departments and the NAES state-funded allocations associated with the two departments proposed to close, as well as part of the NAES state-funded allocations to CABNR administration, would be part of the University’s state-fund budget reduction. All continuing NAES appropriated state and federal funds will continue to follow state and federal guidelines for appropriate research activities.
Q: The recently posted FAQ documents says that students should develop an alternative academic plan if their programs are affected by this process. Does this essentially mean students should begin selecting other degree programs in the possibility their programs are eliminated?
We encourage students to take a long-term view of their path toward timely completion of a degree, and advising for all students for the fall 2010 semester is already underway. Each student registered in a degree program subject to curricular review has been contacted and a contingency path to graduation is being individually determined. Most juniors, seniors and masters students should be able to finish a degree prior to closure. In some instances, courses may be offered to allow current students to finish even after the spring 2011 semester; the degrees themselves will remain viable until students have the opportunity to graduate, in some cases in years after the departments have closed. It is anticipated that relatively few students would need to change majors as a result of the proposed degree program closures. Students absolutely do not need to select other degree programs at this time.
Q: How will program closures affect endowments if designated by department, discipline and/or college? Will donors receive back donations if endowment or other donation agreements are made invalid by programmatic closures?
This would be considered on a case-by-case basis and great care would be taken to ensure each donor gift agreement is honored.
Q: What will the proposed eliminations do to the University’s Carnegie classification?
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching offers a classification of colleges and universities which is a widely recognized and nationally accepted framework for use in describing institutions and the study of higher education. The University of Nevada, Reno is designated as “Comprehensive Doctoral, Arts and Sciences/Professions—Balanced, High Research University.” We do not anticipate a change to this designation.
Q: What can students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors do to give input on the planning process?
Through the planning process, each dean with responsibility for a college, program or curriculum that is the subject of curricular review is establishing a College Review Committee to consider the proposal and make a recommendation for or against it. Those who wish to give input are advised to do so through the appropriate College Review Committee and, as noted above, are encouraged to present specific, constructive and quantifiable rationale that address why the program should or should not be closed or reorganized.
Disclosure (and why I care): My roots at UNR are deep. I received my bachelors in journalism in 1995. In 2001 I obtained my masters in counseling and educational psychology. I am currently a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership. I was a director of marketing communications at the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources and the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station until 2006, I still assist the Experiment Station on projects about once a year and I am currently on a short-term, research-assistant contract at the Experiment Station hired to assist with the development of the Great Basin Environmental Program. I am also a founding member of the Friends and Alumni of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources. The interview with University Provost Marc Johnson and my opinions about this situation are mine. While certain faculty, who did not want to be publicly named, were invaluable in providing data and context for both the interview, these pieces were initiated by me alone and were enacted in consultation and review by the other volunteers at This Is Reno.