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onCampus--Ohio State's faculty/staff news

Vol. 38, No. 18

By: Jeff McCallister

Doctoral program reviews

Grad School’s assessments in deans’ hands

Twelve of Ohio State’s doctoral programs are now recognized as the best at the university after the completion of the far-reaching Doctoral Program Assessment led by Pat Osmer, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School.

“A review like this is unprece-dented at an institution of our size and stature,” Osmer said. “It was thorough and rigorous and was taken very seriously because high-quality doctoral programs are a key to the overall strength of the university. Strengthening these programs is the primary reason for the assessment.”

Osmer’s assessments made use of data compiled by the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, reports submitted by each of the colleges and a review of those reports by a 13-member assessment committee.

The doctoral programs were assigned one of six classifications. The 12 rated as “high quality” stand out in terms of their planning, focus and potential to enhance the standing of the university. Seventeen more earned a “strong” label — close to “high quality,” but each needs to address issues of program focus or structure.

“It’s a highlight of the report that about a third of our programs can be held up as models showing what it takes to be successful,” Osmer said. “They range from very small to very large programs and come from throughout the university, from arts and sciences colleges to health sciences to the professional colleges.

“What they have in common is that they are forward-looking, responsive to new opportunities and show exceptional commitment to their students.”

Sixteen programs were categorized “good,” and 11 could not be assessed because they’re either too new or in a state of transition.

That leaves 29 that have been told they must reassess or restructure for a wide variety of reasons, and five that have significant problems and are candidates for disinvestment or elimination.

“I am proud that Ohio State has taken the lead in defining the measures of excellence for doctoral education,” Provost Joe Alutto said.

“This institution is enormously indebted to the doctoral program assessment committee whose energy and good will produced such an insightful overview of doctoral education at Ohio State,” he said. “Their findings will guide our decisions about how to strengthen OSU’s doctoral programs to enable all programs to attract the very best students and faculty.”

College deans are currently reviewing the findings and will prepare a response by May 15. Once the reports have been reconciled, each college will develop an action plan for its doctoral programs as an integral part of the strategic plans that are due to the provost by Sept. 1.

Deans will then be expected to make annual progress reports, and the entire process will be repeated every four or five years.

Beyond simply ranking the programs, Osmer said the assessment process was also important because it identified several universitywide issues — both challenges and opportunities — that likely would not have been uncovered otherwise.

The most critical of these, Osmer said, are organization and administration issues in the biological and life sciences, which are distributed among 12 colleges and schools. It’s the lack of organization suitable for today’s educational and research needs that landed several of the programs on the “restructure or reassess” list.

“We have enormous potential to be a world leader in these fields, which include some of the most important scientific and health challenges of the 21st century,” Osmer said.

“We need to optimize the organization to allow faculty and their students to work to their full potential.”

A similar challenge can be found in the environmental and earth sciences, which boast some world-renowned faculty but where the individual efforts are widely distributed among eight different colleges across campus.

The assessment also concluded that stipends are too low in many programs and that some programs put too much teaching or research burden on doctoral students, making it difficult to make timely progress toward their degrees.

While the teaching issues will have to be addressed at the college level, the Graduate School will put its money where its mouth is.

Students from programs that are classified as “high quality” or “strong” who are awarded Graduate School fellowships will receive a $3,000 increase in their stipend each year for four years, at a cost of between $2 million and $3 million.

The full report is available on the Office of Academic Affairs Web site at oaa.osu.edu/index.php.

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