Not all aspects of higher education are inherently flexible. Accrediting bodies place stringent demands on certain departments; proposals for new or modified majors require a rationale, an assessment plan, and supporting documents—including syllabi for courses that may not yet exist; college-wide programs, such as NWCore, may require a faculty vote before changes can be made; student schedules are full to the brim as they balance extracurriculars, jobs, and relationships, while packing more courses into fewer semesters. Finding ways to make college more malleable at the curricular level can enable us to respond more quickly to changing demands in our departments (e.g., declining enrollment), our disciplines (e.g., the latest research), and the world outside our walls (e.g., new careers and concentrations).
Adding flexibility at the level of majors, general education, or departmental structures is not impossible, but it requires heavy lifting. Not everything, however, is fundamentally cumbersome. Minors and certificates represent untapped potential here. When Texas A&M’s College of Engineering was exploring a new program in cybersecurity, they considered their options and eventually decided to create a minor. Given how fast the field of cybersecurity changes, the minor offered the greatest flexibility for keeping up with the field itself. Minors are lithe, easily modified, and they are not governed by accrediting bodies.
Interdisciplinary certificates are also increasing in popularity, and since the certification is granted internally by the institution, freedom and flexibility are hallmarks. For example, KU features a Global Awareness Program, in which students combine traditional coursework, international experiences, and extracurricular activities into either a certificate or a certificate “with distinction.” Completion of the certificate can be included on student transcripts.
Ideas from Other Institutions
Some common certification areas include:
- Global Engagement (WVU, Iowa, SD State, Penn State)
- Non-Profit Management (Iowa, K State)
- Social Justice/Human Rights (Kentucky, Duke, Webster U)
- Environmental Sustainability (Illinois, Penn State, Purdue)
- Leadership (KU, IA State, Iowa)
- Professional Writing (Iowa, Arizona, Webster U, K State)
- Medical Humanities (Purdue, Illinois)
Offered online, certification programs can also provide opportunities for graduates to continue their education and professional development.
The world is changing quickly, and a static curriculum will not meet the demands of the future. NWC could do more to create and leverage malleable programs that can adapt quickly to meet those demands.
Part of the Strategic Plan
Goal 1 – Advance the quality and reputation of the academic program.
- Brooks, Katherine. “Planning Multiple Careers to Survive the Poor Economy.” Psychology Today.
- Patel, Vimal. “Avoid a Quagmire When Revamping Your Curriculum: Describe your vision, build trust, and frankly discuss faculty’s fears, leaders advise.” Academic Overhauls(Chronicle of Higher Ed, 2018).
- Meister, Jeanne. “The Future of Work: Death of the Single Skill Set In The Age Of Automation.” Forbes.