On February 9, the local campus committee (LCC) released a report outlining its assessment of academic programs on the Saint John campus. While the report is still a working document and has been released to the campus community for feedback.
In a statement, Dr. Robert MacKinnon, UNB Vice President- Saint John said that “In the fall of 2014, President Eddy Campbell asked the Saint John and Fredericton Senates to create local campus committees to identify the academic strengths of their respective campuses, consult with others, and provide recommendations.”
Dr. MacKinnon continued, “This report is now being submitted to the Academic Planning & Resources Committee at UNB Saint John for consideration and the community has been invited to provide feedback. This is the first step in the review and approval process.”
“The best universities continually review themselves with an eye to how they can be strengthened. That’s exactly what we are doing.” Dr. Robert MacKinnon
According to Shelley Rinehart, co-chair of the LCC, they were tasked with collecting data to inform the budget process. “ What’s really going well, what has opportunity to grow, and where do we need to look to re-evaluate. And so that’s what we did.” Said Rinehart.
The committee chose to look at a number of factors to help determine the program’s position. Rinehart continued, “We have to look at our environment, so what do we have access to in our environment, what are we good at, and where do those two things go together.”
According to Rinehart, after evaluating what’s core to a university, she stated that UNB has “a good, solid foundation in liberal arts, but there’s a huge opportunity there because when we look at where all our interdisciplinary studies come from, they usually originate there because there’s so much opportunity. But the issue with that kind of program is that it needs to have an owner.”
Many programs have problems pointed out in the report, such as Gender Studies, which is sensitive to changes in faculty, which often leaves the program without direction or stability. “That program falls into jeopardy”, stated Rinehart.
Rinehart believes next steps will come from the presidential level, saying, “there will be another probably bi-campus committee that will look at the reports that come out and perhaps make some recommendations about next steps.”
“Our mandate was only to do that exercise, and that would inform things like budget, so it’s gone to academic planning and resources who now have their opportunity to respond to it and give feedback.”
One of the main goals is to connect the campus together. “The sum of the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts individually,” Shelley stated, “so if you’ve got that connection then if you come in as a student then it’s much easier for you to create your program or get that breath of knowledge that you might not be able to get somewhere else”.
Some of the major comments and concerns of the LCC outside of the program evaluations, which can be viewed here, included recruitment methods, inequities (funding and staffing), program duplication (in particular between the Fredericton and Saint John campuses and), monitoring resource allocation—where the funding goes, including staffing—and interdisciplinary studies.
The LCC’s main takeaway from their meetings for the Saint John campus appears to be the goal of “One University – Two Campuses”, with unique programs and course offerings for each campus.
The report suggests that Saint John’s focus should include Coastal Studies, Health Sciences, Business/Management Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies, and would also offer Experiential learning opportunities including the ability to create customized degrees through Interdisciplinary Studies.
What will happen to this undertaking and whether any meaningful forward steps will taken remains unseen as feedback is collected. The Fredericton Campus has not yet released its report.