Changes to program policy proposed in fora

By Megan Kelly
Staff Writer

The Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) held a series of fora in room 230 of the Social Sciences Building on Tuesday, April 26, to discuss recently proposed changes to the College’s Program Approval Policy, Graduate Certificate Programs, the Undergraduate Internship Policy and the Change of Major Policy.

The fora, which were lead by CAP Chair Mike Marino, began with a short discussion on the Program Approval Policy. The revisions to this policy were mainly to make the process more efficient and amend the policy to match the requirements set by the state of New Jersey.

The only real issue with CAP’s Preliminary Recommendation on Program Approval Policy that was brought up was with the wording of “Step 1” of the proposed policy, which reads: “In all cases, the initiating entity should identify the academic unit that will house the program, which will then be responsible for developing the proposal.”

Mathematics Professor Cynthia Curtis worried that the phrase “the initiating entity” sounds coercive — something that is supposed to be corrected in the new policy.

In the next forum, those in attendance had no comment on the proposed changes to the approval process for Graduate Certificate Programs.

According to CAP’s Preliminary Graduate Certificate Programs document, CAP received a charge from the Steering Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 3, that quoted a memo from Assistant Provost Jennifer Palmgren. In the memo, she brought up that the former policy stated the approval process for proposals for both a graduate certificate and a degree program are the same. It was suggested by Palmgren that CAP should distinguish between the approval processes for each, as the state requirements for the two are different.

The forum about the proposed changes to the College’s Undergraduate Internship Policy began next. In CAP’s Preliminary Undergraduate Internships Policy document, CAP proposes to change the minimum required GPA from 2.5 to 2.0 and to include that a minimum of three course units from the College must be completed prior to the internship. In the same document, CAP also suggests lowering the minimum number of required on-the-job hours from 50 to 45. In addition, CAP argues that all internships should include specific learning goals and objectives, as well as that a representative of the department pertaining to the student’s major should make contact with the on-site supervisor to establish those learning goals. CAP representatives also encourage students and their faculty sponsors to provide feedback on the internship quality at the end of the semester.

Curtis began the discussion by voicing a concern that the new policy suggested all of the student’s required courses have to be completed before they can participate in an internship, but that is not necessarily true.

“I think we should change ‘after theory education’ to ‘after some theory education has been completed…’ It really is not an end-of-education experience,” Curtis said. “I think we would not want to imply that (the students) had to finish all of their coursework (before getting an internship).”

Biology Associate Professor Amanda Norvell suggested that the policy should also include institutions as part of the list of places where students can carry out internships, since many biology students, for example, complete their internships at institutions. Norvell then addressed that the policy doesn’t mention syllabi, as internships are technically courses.

Director of the Career Staff Debra Kelly said that the syllabi could include what is expected from students in a professional setting, since an internship is often a student’s first experience in an office.

“I think we should have something… preparing the expectations of students that are leaving our institution (and) what some of those expectations should be, like, just professionally what they should be doing,” Kelly said. “That could a part of the syllabus or blending learning.”

Curtis then brought up her concern that the policy requires an intensive written assignment. The policy states that a “substantial written assignment (or portfolio) requiring research and/or creative work should be required,” but Curtis is concerned that mathematics is not something that students learn at an internship and that a research paper wouldn’t be about mathematics.

Norvell suggested that the policy should state that different course levels should require different assignments at the end of the internships.

It was then brought up by Marketing and Interdisciplinary Business Chair and Business Professor John McCarty that many companies require students to obtain credit for their internships because they are not being paid. McCarty said that he gives students 0.25 units when he can.

“I just don’t feel right being a part of that scam that the companies are doing,” he said. This opened up a discussion about considering the level of the internship and the course units being given to determine the final assignment, whether it’s an intensive written assignment or a reflective paper.

McCarty pointed out that students can receive up to three units for internships, which is about 10 percent of the required units to get a degree.

“Three seems like a lot for a 32-unit degree,” he said.

The group moved onto the last forum of discussion: the Change of Major policy. In CAP’s Preliminary Recommendation on Change of Major Policy document, CAP recommends to combine the Change of Major Request and the Change of Major policies to include that all change of major requests must be received by Admissions no later than May 15 each year.

In this document, CAP also suggests that a performance standard be established in a maximum of three foundation courses for entry into a new major and to state that programs may require an audition, portfolio, essay or interview, but no more than three performance standards can be required of a student. It is also recommended that all programs are required to publish these entrance requirements and standards. The College also acknowledges its responsibility to expedite the change of major requests for students, but that some departments have certain space and enrollment requirements.

According to Curtis, the new policy implies that a student must complete five requirements, including up to three foundation courses, when a student must only complete three requirements that could potentially be foundation courses. She suggested that the very last sentence be changed to inform students that they could possibly force themselves into taking more than the minimum required credits for a degree by starting a new program after already being enrolled at the College.

The forum then addressed the fact that when students change their majors, it can significantly lengthen the time they spend at the College, as some majors’ foundation courses require prerequisites. Students could spend a year taking these prerequisites and then find that they didn’t perform well enough to enter that major.

“We talked about that a lot and wondered how firm we should be on limiting those things,” School of Arts and Communications Assistant Dean James Day said. “Right now, we know that there are problems with students having too long to go through a process only to find that there is still no guarantee.”