Minutes of

The Academic & Student Affairs Committee

Of the Montana Board of Regents

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

Regent Lynn Hamilton, the chair of the Academic & Student Affairs Committee, called the meeting to order shortly after 9:15 a.m.  The Committee temporarily adjourned, at 11:15 a.m., to participate in two other activities associated with the Regents’ agenda and to sit in on the discussion of the allocation model at the Budget Committee meeting.  It reconvened at 3:00 p.m. to continue its business.  The meeting was held in Room 330 in the University Center on the campus of The University of Montana-Missoula.

 

The following Board of Regent members were present at the meeting: Lynn Hamilton, chair; Richard Roehm, Mike Foster and Kala French.

 

Regent Hamilton welcomed everyone to the meeting, and asked the participants to introduce themselves.  She also asked if there were any additions to the agenda, which had been distributed to Regent committee members, chief academic officers and student affairs officers prior to the meeting.  Since no additional agenda items were proposed, the agenda was accepted.

 

Operating Rules for the Committee.

 

Regent Hamilton asked the group to discuss some possible operating rules for the Committee.  The committee members agreed to the following procedures:

1)       the committee members will forego the use of formal titles and just call each other by their first names;

2)       Regent Hamilton, the chair of the Committee, will serve as the “point person” for the group, especially when communicating with other committees of the Board of Regents or the full Board itself;

3)       Regents with cross-membership on other Board committees will assist with that communication process, by sharing information on the activities of their group at meetings of the Academic & Student Affairs Committee;

4)       Roger Barber, the deputy commissioner for academic and student affairs, will staff the Committee and serve as the principal “point person” for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education;

5)       for the record, the following people have been asked to staff the other Board committees: Rod Sundsted, Budget Committee: Kathy Crego, Staff & Compensation Committee; and the soon-to-be-hired associate commissioner for workforce development and communications, Workforce Development Committee.

6)   Roger will prepare the official minutes for the Committee, with the help of Regent Hamilton.  Those minutes will be shared with the Regent members of the Committee, the academic officers and the student affairs officers, and will be in draft form until they are officially approved by the Academic & Student Affairs Committee at the next meeting of the Board of Regents.

7)       The two-meeting approval process for Level II academic proposals will continue.  The chief academic officers will continue to review new Level II programs at the first meeting.  The proposals will then move to the action agenda of the Academic & Student Affairs Committee, at the second meeting, where the new program will be discussed and a recommendation will be prepared by the Committee.  At that same meeting, the new program proposal will move to the action agenda of the full Board of Regents, with the Committee’s recommendation.

 

Level I Memorandum.

 

Roger briefly discussed the Level I memorandum with the Committee.  That memorandum ordinarily does not require any formal action on the part of the Committee, but Roger did want the members to know that he had “stretched the rules” a bit in approving four (4) academic program changes from Montana State University-Billings.  That campus currently offers several options in its business administration degree program, Roger said.  It asked him, under the Level I approval process, to authorize four (4) new minors in the option areas of management information systems, accounting, finance and marketing.  Ordinarily he can only approve minors in degree programs, Roger explained, which in the case of MSU-Billings, would be a minor in business administration.  But he decided to also approve the new minors in the option areas, since the coursework is already in place for the options and the new minors would open up career opportunities for non-business majors on the Billings campus.

 

Roger said he would ask for a modification of the Level I approval process, at a future Regents’ meeting, to include this scenario and others that have come up in recent months.

 

An Update on Some Ongoing Projects.

 

Roger spent several minutes updating the Committee on projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the Academic & Student Affairs Committee.  That update included the following important information:

 

1)       The LPN Common Curriculum Project.  The Board of Regents endorsed this project last spring.  At the time that decision was made, the Board also asked Roger to find a facilitator to help with the project, using any contacts that might exist with personnel at the Montana State Board of Nursing.  Those efforts failed, Roger said, primarily because the nursing board has endured significant staff changes in the last few months and any help it could provide in identifying a facilitator was modest.  Roger said he tried to find someone on his own, but his efforts were also unsuccessful.

 

As a consequence, Roger said, he decided to undertake the project himself, and the directors of LPN nursing programs in the Montana University System have readily agreed to participate.  The first meeting of the group is set for November 30, in Helena; and Roger said he expects to develop a work plan for the project at that meeting.  He promised to keep the Committee informed on the progress of the group.

 

2)       The Quality Project.  Roger has been working with Jim Rimpau, the director of planning and analysis at Montana State University-Bozeman, to determine the status of the benchmark measures that were approved as part of the Quality Project.  Bill Muse, the director of planning, budgeting and analysis at The University of Montana-Missoula, has also been consulted.  Some of the benchmarks are already collected by the Commissioner’s office or the individual campuses, as part of other projects like the Accountability Report, Roger said.  Some of the benchmarks will be a real challenge, either because that data is not currently collected by the campuses or because the smaller campuses don’t have the staff or fiscal resources to assemble the information on their own, Roger noted.  Some of the benchmarks will also require additional work, to clearly define the information that needs to be collected, Roger said.  Jim has also been trying to identify comparative information for each of the benchmarks, so the Montana University System can evaluate how it is doing in the context of other systems, Roger explained.  That won’t be easy, Roger said, because no national or peer data exists for some of the benchmarks.  Historical or longitudinal information will have to serve as the comparative measure for those benchmarks, Roger said.

 

3)       The Transfer G.P.A. Project.  Several registrar and admissions folks from throughout the Montana University System have volunteered to help with this project, Roger said.  Because of the press of school work, the Shared Leadership project and several other projects that have already been launched by the Board of Regents, Roger and Regent French decided to postpone any formal action on this project until after fall semester 2004, Roger said.  Since Regent French will be moving to Helena, temporarily, for spring semester, Roger said, they expect to give this effort more attention after the first of the year.

 

4)       The Honorary Degree Policy.  Ron Sexton, the chancellor of Montana State University-Billings, asked the Board of Regents to consider a change in the policy to permit other campuses in the System to award this credential, Roger reminded the group.  Roger has been working with George Dennison, the president of The University of Montana-Missoula, and Geoff Gamble, the president of Montana State University-Bozeman, on some possible amendments.  A revised policy will almost certainly be ready by the January meeting of the Board, and will probably be on the action agenda  of this Committee, Roger said.

 

5)       The Transfer Audit.  All of the Regents received a draft copy of the transfer audit, for their feedback, Roger said.  A so-called “exit interview” will be held with the staff of the Legislative Auditor’s office on Monday, Roger said, and the final report should be issued sometime in December after the Commissioner’s office has prepared the formal response to the audit recommendations.  Based on what he knows, at this point, Roger said, most of the audit recommendations and responses will ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Academic & Student Affairs Committee for initial discussion and possible action on the part of the Montana Board of Regents.

 

Academic Program Planning.

 

At the Board of Regents’ retreat in late October, George Dennison suggested that the Board undertake a more systematic academic program planning process for the Montana University System.  President Dennison discussed his idea with the Academic & Student Affairs Committee, and his important points were as follows:

--    the process should begin with a careful assessment of the workforce needs in Montana over the next five (5) years;

--    that needs assessment can be undertaken by the institutional research personnel at The University of Montana-Missoula and Montana State University-Bozeman, under the collaborative leadership of Bill Muse and Jim Rimpau at those two institutions;

--    once the workforce needs are determined, the Montana University System should decide which institution has the expertise and resources to deliver the necessary worker education and training;

--    the workforce training needs, and the programs that have been developed to respond to those needs, should be reviewed every two years to make sure the program is responsive and relevant;

--    the workforce development committee of the Board of Regents should also be involved in this project, particularly in the design of the needs assessment and the identification of informational sources outside the Montana University System.

 

In the discussion that followed President Dennison’s presentation, the following important points were made:

--    Regent Foster reminded the group that state-wide business groups, like the Montana Contractors Association and the Montana Hospital Association, would be important sources of information for the needs assessment;

--    other group members suggested State government agencies and the workforce investment boards as important resources in this effort;  Regent Hamilton  said that Arlene Parisot in the Commissioner’s office would be an important participant in the development of this project, because of her contacts with those entities;

--    several members of the group urged the two biggest campuses to develop a process, in both the information-gathering and program-development stages, that includes input and participation from the smaller campuses in the Montana University System and the tribal colleges;

--    Regent Roehm strongly supported the idea, and said that he had called for an academic master planning process several years ago; Regent Roehm also said that the idea underscores his suggestion that the Board of Regents hire an institutional research person so the Board has its own information as it makes the hard decisions associated with management of the Montana University System;

--    David Dooley, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Montana State University-Bozeman, reminded the group that the needs assessment should look beyond Montana’s borders to identify worker skills that might be needed in the future; some of those future educational and training needs haven’t reached Montana yet, Dave said;

--    David also asked if the needs assessment is supposed to focus on economic development or worker training; if it is the latter, David said, it would not identify all of the educational programs that might be needed in Montana, especially baccalaureate offerings.  In response to David’s question, the Committee members asked that David and Lois Muir, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at The University of Montana-Missoula, also be included in the needs assessment process.

 

The Committee asked President Dennison, President Gamble, and their institutional research staffs to develop a proposal, for the January 2005 meeting, that would describe the needs assessment from a process perspective.  That proposal should include the sources of information that would be used to collect the necessary data on workforce educational and training needs.  The Committee also decided that it would be nice to see some of the actual needs assessment data at the March 2005 meeting.

 

The “Single Admissions File” Project.

 

Regent French reported on the “single admissions file” project that was endorsed by the Board of Regents at its retreat in October.  A “working document” has been assembled for the project, by Regent French and Roger, and a copy is attached to these minutes.  The following ideas will guide the project, at least at this point:

--    a student will work with one institution in the Montana University System to assemble a complete admissions file;

--    that file will then follow the student around the MUS system, much like medical records, if that student decides to transfer to another institution, take coursework from several institutions in one semester, and any other scenario where a student seeks admission to more than one unit of the Montana University System;

--    the $30 admissions fee will only be assessed by the institution that prepares the file; an additional transfer fee of only a few dollars may be proposed to ship a copy of the completed file to other institutions.

 

Roger has assembled a group of volunteers, from the admissions programs across the Montana University System, to help with the project.  That group includes representatives from two-year, four-year and community college campuses.  Additional people may be added to that work group, as the details of the project are developed and new issues surface, Roger said.   Henrietta Mann, special assistant to President Geoff Gamble at Montana State University-Bozeman, asked that the work group also keep tribal colleges in mind as it works out the details on this “single admissions file” process.

 

The Committee set a tentative deadline of March 2005 for recommendations on this project.

 

A Brief Discussion on a “Integrated Data Base.”

Arlene Parisot, the director of workforce development and two-year education in the Commissioner’s office, gave a brief overview of a data base project that she has been working on for a couple of years.  The project began as a collaborative effort with the Department of Labor in Montana.  Because of that work, Arlene began to understand the value of integrated data systems throughout the education and workforce arenas; but perhaps more importantly, she came into contact with Jay Pfeiffer from Florida, who has created one of the most effective and comprehensive integrated data systems in the United States.  Under Jay’s direction, the Florida system was also developed. . .and continues to be sustained. . .at a relatively low cost to the state.

 

Arlene brought Jay to Montana in early fall to talk to a variety of people from the Montana University System, the K-12 educational system, the Montana Department of Labor, the workforce development sector, and even a handful of employers.  He will return to Montana in mid-January to talk to the Board of Education about the possibilities for an integrated educational data system as part of the P-20 effort.

 

And a Brief Discussion of the MAS/Faculty Transfer Project.

 

Regent French briefly described the “transfer project” that was initiated at the Board of Regents’ retreat in October.  The Board decided to explore the possibility of common or coordinated transfer areas in the Montana University System, and it decided to begin with general education coursework and some of the courses described in the Regents’ general education core.  The Board asked the Montana Associated Students organization and the faculty governance leadership group to take on that project, Regent French said, and both groups are having their first meeting tomorrow, Thursday, November 18, during the lunch breaks at the Regents’ meeting.  Regent French told the Committee that she would keep it updated on the progress of the discussions between student and faculty leaders.

 

A Possible New Meeting Schedule for the Board of Regents.

 

Two staff members in the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education have proposed a possible new meeting schedule for the Board of Regents.  The proposal includes:

--    regular and traditional Regent meetings in March, May, September and November;

--    two joint meetings, in January and July, with the Board of Public Education, as mandated by Montana law; the annual Board retreat would be held in conjunction with the July meeting;

--    brief, modified Regent meetings in January and July, in case the Board has important business that cannot wait for the next regularly-scheduled meeting.

 

Support and feedback on the proposal has been positive, but the Academic & Student Affairs Committee was asked to consider its impact on the work it has to do.  The following concerns were raised about the proposal:

·         What impact would it have on the current academic program approval process?  Could an approval process be developed, particularly with Level II proposals, that would not delay the current, relatively efficient process for reviewing and authorizing new academic programs in the Montana University System?

·         Could Regent meetings be structured to avoid overlap with the newly-created committees?  With four new committees, all of the Regents have been appointed to two of them and that could cause conflict problems as the committees try to meet to conduct their work.  That overlapping meeting schedule also causes problems for some MUS staff members and students who have to be in two places at once.

·         Will a schedule with fewer meetings have an impact on the academic program planning process discussed earlier in the minutes?

·         What impact would the proposed schedule have on the recently-approved,  joint review process for nursing programs that involves both the Montana Board of Regents and the Montana State Board of Nursing?

 

Since most of these concerns will affect the “academic side of the house,” the Chief Academic Officers were asked to review the proposal and come back with a recommendation for the Committee at the January 2005 meeting.

 

Some Possible Future Issues for the Committee.

 

Roger told the meeting participants that the Chief Academic Officers have been discussing a couple of issues that may ultimately require future action on the part of the Academic & Student Affairs Committee.  He wanted to introduce the ideas, so the Regent members of the Committee would know they were in the development process.  If the Regents thought they were a bad idea, Roger said, they could also give the academic officers that feedback now and those folks could move on to other projects.

 

The ideas included the following:

a)       revision of the program approval form.  The academic officers are particularly frustrated with the cover or summary page that accompanies Level II requests, Roger said.  Most of the information is “pie in the sky,” and the campuses find themselves filling the narrative with glittering generalities, Roger noted.  Several of the Regents agreed with Roger’s description of the cover page, and they urged the academic officers to come up with a new form for the Committee’s review.

b)       approval of certificate programs.  Roger asked the Committee if they thought the Board of Regents should continue to approve certificate programs.  The majority of state boards do not review and approve certificate programs, Roger said.  Instead, they leave it to the individual campuses, Roger explained, or the Boards have developed relatively modest oversight procedures for themselves.  The committee members, again, asked the academic officers to discuss the issue and come to them with a recommendation for their consideration.

c)       revision of the program review policy.  All of the campuses are required to undertake internal program review as part of their institutional accreditation expectations, Roger said.  Periodic program review by the Board of Regents duplicates those efforts, Roger explained, and it also creates significant angst and disruption on the campuses because it is completed in one year, impacts multiple programs, and often focuses on programs that almost certainly will not be eliminated or modified because they go to the very heart of the institution’s mission.  Roger asked the Committee if it would consider a policy that leaves the principal responsibility for program review to the campuses themselves, with Board intervention only in the most serious instances where the campus appears to have made the wrong decision about a program and its continued importance to the institution.  The Committee members urged the academic officers to develop a policy for their consideration at a future meeting.

 

Action Items.

 

1)       Greg Kegel, dean of the School of Technical Sciences at Montana State University-Northern, presented that institution’s proposal to offer a certificate in welding.  After a brief discussion, the committee members voted unanimously to recommend approval of the new certificate to the full Board of Regents.

 

2)       The certificate in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution, proposed by The University of Montana-Missoula, was also on the action agenda of the Committee.  The Committee discussed the certificate extensively, and much of the conversation involved Don Allen, the executive director of the Western Environmental Trade Association (WETA).  Mr. Allen said that his group had significant concerns about the proposed certificate, including the following:

--    the first his 24-member organization had heard about the certificate was in an e-mail on September 21 from Matt McKinney, director of the Public Policy Research Institute at The University of Montana-Missoula; WETA had not been consulted about the proposed program before that date, and by then, the program was well along in its development;

--    his organization is primarily concerned about the involvement of the environmental studies program at The University of Montana-Missoula  in the certificate coursework;  the environmental studies program does not have a balanced perspective,  when it comes to natural resource issues in the State, Mr. Allen said, and he is concerned that that same imbalance will carry over to the students who earn this credential;

--    Mr. Allen asked the Committee to back up a bit to insure that appropriate people from the natural resources sector of Montana’s economy are consulted about the proposed certificate.

 

In response to Mr. Allen’s comments, Matt McKinney and other spokespersons from  The University of Montana-Missoula said that the coursework in the certificate was interdisciplinary in nature, and would not come just from the environmental studies program; individuals from business and industry had been consulted during the curriculum planning process; and it was anticipated that graduates would be provided with skills and training that would help many groups, including environmentalists and corporate interests, resolve their differences without resorting to litigation.

 

Regent Roehm moved to recommend approval of the certificate program to the full board.  The motion resulted in a tie vote of 2 – 2.  Because the committee structure is a recent change for the Board of Regents, and because the operating rules for the committees are still being worked out, the Committee members and the staff supporting the committee were uncertain as to the effect of the tie vote.  I.E., did the proposal die in Committee because of the tie vote? or could the proposal move to the full Board without a recommendation from the Committee?

 

Regent Foster made a motion to delay Committee action on the certificate program until the January 2005 meeting.  Before the vote was taken, Regent Hamilton said she would like to make the following comments for the record:

--    the item had already been carried over from the September 2004 meeting of the Board to collect more input from interested parties;

--    when asked if The University of Montana-Missoula had received more input since September, Mike McKinney said individuals had been contacted, but little comment was received;

--    the concerns expressed at this Committee meeting about the certificate had more to do with the environmental studies program at The University of Montana-Missoula than with the certificate; she suggested that those concerned parties should take time to review the certificate proposal itself.

 

The Committee voted 3 –1 to delay consideration of the proposal until the January 2005 meeting.

 

A Review of the Meeting.

 

Regent Hamilton asked the group to give her some feedback on the Committee meeting, since this was the first meeting of the group.  The following suggestions were made:

1)       several student affairs officers asked if the Committee meeting could be divided into segments, based on the business of the Committee.  Most of this first meeting was devoted to academic issues, those folks pointed out, and as a consequence, the meeting was not a good use of their valuable time.  Regent Hamilton said she would work with Roger to develop an agenda that was divided into student affairs issues, academic affairs issues, and subjects of mutual concern to both groups.

2)       some group members also asked if it was possible to have the Committee meet at a different time than the Budget Committee of the Board of Regents, since some people, especially from the smaller campuses, wear several hats and have an interest in the agenda of both groups.  Regent Hamilton said she would carry that suggestion forward to the full Board.

3)       Regent Foster also suggested that the Academic & Student Affairs Committee use its meeting time to gather feedback and perspective from the Montana Associated Students organization.

 

Public Comment and Other Business.

 

Regent Hamilton asked if any members of the public wished to address the Committee.  No one did.  She also asked if any member of the group had additional business for the Committee.  No one did.

 

The Committee adjourned at 5:15 p.m.