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									“Modernizing Academies – Community Colleges
           and Universities (MCUs)
 with Preservation of Past Prospicience and a
      Foundation for Future Foresight”




             Joseph Martin Stevenson
              Distinguished Scholar
             Jackson State University
                  “Time is a threefold present: the present as we experience it;
                the past as a present memory; the future as present expectation”
            from DAEDALUS (1967) in “Toward Year 2000: A Work in Progress”

                       “Modernizing Academies with Preservation of Past
                 Prospicience and a Foundation for Future Foresight at HBCUs:
                                   A Prototype for Progress”

                                             Abstract

         The purpose of this commentary is to provide recommendations to modern-thinking
colleges and universities (MCU), in the historically black (HBCU) and minority-serving sectors
(MSI), relative to academic reorganization for future positioning in a desultory and aberrant
marketplace. The recommendations are based on actual, in progress and anticipated developments
at Jackson State University, a research-intensive, urban institution in central Mississippi.

Two Dimensions for History and Future

        This commentary entitled, “Modernizing the Academies with Preservation of Past
Prospicience and a Foundation for Future Foresight,” describes a prototype for academic planning
and review processes and represents the culmination of extensive discourse, deliberation and
debate, and reorganization at Jackson State University (JSU), which could be applied for other
modern colleges and universities (MCUs). The term “prospicience,” meaning “the act of looking
forward” recognizes the historical vision of those who need to contribute to building a foundation
for an institution of higher learning. Thus, this two-dimensional commentary promulgates a
preservation of that past prospicience, while also focusing on a new foundational foresight for the
future. By building on the past and forecasting the future, MCUs can enter a new era of
modernization in urban and metropolitan venues of higher education. This is especially relevant to
HBCUs with the historical depth and breadth and societal that has propelled their sustainability
today in an ever-increasing competitive academic market.

Optimum Learning for Students

        To distinguish themselves from other institutions of higher learning, an MCU should
develop its “niche” in a marketplace that promotes the unique educational experience only they can
offer. Establishing this niche entails determining what the MCU does well and channeling
resources to support and develop those programs. This commentary poses a profound challenge
for MCUs: How could–or should–an urban based, research-focused, comprehensive institution of
higher learning be organized to facilitate the “optimum” learning experience for today and
tomorrow’s students? To re-conceptualize a more student-centered, cost effective, and academically
sound organization, MCUs, based on collective input and involvement, should produce conceptual
frameworks that advance the academic infrastructure, through the strategic transformations from
schools to colleges (for example), toward academy-wide modernization. These new structures
should augment transdisciplinary performance, productivity, and progress of faculty in teaching,


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research, and service. This should be done in conjunction with the development of an institution-
wide research agenda for intellectual discovery and academic discourse. With regard to teaching
students research constructs, MCUs might consider focusing lower applied and action research at
the division level, and basic and pure research at the upper division and graduate levels.

Positioning the Academy in the Marketplace

        Reducing the operational scale at MCUs by cutting costs should be considered during the
important process of positioning the academy within the MCU; however, cost was not the only
consideration for recommended changes. Rather, costs should be examined in terms of how to
more efficiently allocate or redirect scarce resources, within the context stewardship, without
jeopardizing quality or productivity. New transdisciplinary college structures should reach the
potential to provide greater cost efficiency as well as provide more opportunities to attract external
resources and extramural support. By marketing all reorganized programs in a more strategic and
sophisticated manner, the “new academies” should reach their full potential with increased
performance and enhanced productivity over time. Moreover, the reorganization could help to
position the new modern academies to uncover new consumer clientele, retain the current
consumer clientele, and identify new methods and means to locate new revenue streams, and
maintain the institution’s historical credibility in metropolitan and urban municipalities
throughout the world.

Horizontal Blending for Discipline

         The new “college” structures should also facilitate enhanced marketability and
collaborative research, teaching, and service based on collective human capital and the
complementary, yet interdependent, arrangements of the disciplines within the new modern
academy. MCUs should consider new program structures, possible program consolidations,
program transfers, strengthening and enhancement where there is realistic and foreseeable potential
for increased productivity, vitality, and performance. Among the recommended changes in this
regard is the transition from traditional schools to new college structures that realign institutional
resources to promote market responsiveness, “horizontal blending of disciplines,” and alternative,
cross-disciplinary relationships. Other administrative realignments are suggested to promote
enhanced accountability, improved performance, and maintained quality assurance. When and
where academic program or unit mergers and consolidations are considered, MCUs should
primarily examine the following: fundamental centrality (academic) to the mission; foundational
essentiality (financial) to the mission; operational streamlining within the infrastructure; reduction
of duplicated services; reduction in administrative costs; refinement in service and programmatic
deliveries, interdependence and integration of academic offerings for optimum learning; and focus
on unwavering sustainability.

Rightsizing Academic Programs and Services

        Based on an analysis of standards, benchmarks, and the campus-wide academic program
review as well as the criteria required by best practices, academic programs and services should be
grouped in the following designated categories: high productivity; average productivity; low
productivity; service support productivity; and emerging academic programs. The office of chief
academic officers should develop categories to denote the status of instructional programs with low


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productivity. Those categories include: academic monitoring and special review; financial
monitoring; programmatic phase-out; programmatic phase-in; programmatic suspension; gradual
resource support; and immediate resource support. A fundamental part of this academic
reorganization or rightsizing should be the infusion of modernization initiatives within the
academy to maintain competitiveness, quality, and marketability of programs, services and other
deliverables. These initiatives should include academic enhancements and improvements in
mathematics education, English education, the Honors College, Lifelong Learning, the Graduate
School, University College, faculty compensation and work load, experiential/service learning,
action research across the curriculum, on-line synergies, library resource development, partnerships
with community colleges and other research institutions, foreign language development,
technology-assisted instruction, global education and awareness, the infusion of urbanization, and
other systemic issues related to student life. Designed to modernize the learning community, a
planned strategy should be presented in an attempt to programmatically position the university as
higher education experiences profound, proliferating, and unprecedented transformation in an
increasingly troubling economy.

Faculty Input, Involvement and Engagement

         At JSU, the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs (OPAA) appoints “decision-
making units” (DMUs) to augment shared governance and actively engage faculty in workgroup
activity that implicates their professorial development and growth. The DMU follows a rubric for
deliberation that considers mission centrality, budget constraints and limitations, policy adherence,
parallel practices (research-intensive institutions), peer practices (historically Black institutions),
accreditation standards, legal and ethical standards, and connections for strategic planning. The
OPAA at JSU also utilizes the modern practice of knowledge management systems and solutions,
as well as “action research,” for diagnostic and data-driven decision-making. MCUs should also
consider modifications, based on recommendations from faculty-driven DMUs, to current
academic policies, procedures, processes, and practices with regard to faculty workload and
productivity, as well as equity that mandates compliance; compression and conversion efforts with
faculty salaries; establishment of guidelines and procedures for granting and documenting released
time for research; compliance with the official academic program inventory pursuant to state
college board authorization; review of the institution’s catalog offerings that may result in the
deletion of courses or programs; and, the refinement of data analysis concerning students, staff, and
faculty. Based on the aggregated wisdom of many who have contributed to this process, it is
believed that these conceptual frameworks for reorganization can help to ensure continuous
educational improvement, attract substantially more external and extramural support, elevate
academic prestige and advance institutional status in the higher education enterprise. Low–
producing degree programs and services must be addressed at the MCU. Separate programs could
be combined into one-degree program with concentrations in the specific disciplines. This action
could eliminate or separate degree programs without limiting career options for MCU
constituents, clients, and consumers. Likewise, the MCU could propose combining degree
programs with concentrations in the discipline. Similar action with undergraduate degrees will
create one concentration in the various disciplines. Several programs might be terminated or phased
out by these actions; however, all low producing programs should be placed on academic
monitoring pending successful implementation of a productivity improvement plan. Resources
should also be provided to implement improvement of graduate programs in particular, where
justified, as it relates to research.


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Conceptual Frameworks of Colleges and Divisions

         MCUs should continue the development of innovative, market-responsive academic
programs. College-based mechanisms should be conceptualized to facilitate research development
and scholarship for external resource support. Other new program proposals should be discussed
by academic unit heads. The most significant administrative changes might be a new, planned
strategy resulting in “degree granting” mergers and consolidations that encompass the following,
like what was done at JSU: the College of Business; the College of Education and Human
Development; the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology; the College of Liberal Arts;
the College of Public Service; and the College of Lifelong Learning. Each newly constructed
College will appoint/assign a Faculty Research Fellow to facilitate scholarly research and related-
resource development. There is also the new designation and development of “non-degree
granting” divisions: the Division of Undergraduate Studies; the Division of Graduate Studies; the
Division of International Studies, and the Division of Library and Information Resources.

Future Action Plans for Progress and Prosperity

         Following the approval of the strategy plan with the new conceptual frameworks, MCU
leaders should be required to submit a multi-year action plan that incorporates the major elements
and infrastructural support over time–from immediate, to gradual, to long term. A faculty resource
plan, to bring salaries to appropriate market levels, should drive and support the new
reorganization. These decentralized plans must employ measurable and achievable metrics that
are framed around the following: sustained academic quality; cognitive challenges and strategic
opportunities; realistic expectations and practical developments in the budget; market preparation
to meet consumer needs; modernization of faculty; and the identification of student-centered
academic programming for “local-regional” responsiveness, “national” recognition, and
“international” prominence.




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