Evaluating, Improving, and Prioritizing Miami's Academic Program Portfolio


Using a shared governance approach, Miami has completed on a comprehensive evaluation of its academic programs in 2020-2021. The goal of the Academic Program Evaluation, Improvement & Prioritization (APEIP) project was to improve the quality of programs, direct resources to further enhance student success, and ensure that we leverage our resources efficiently and effectively. This process has entailed:

(1) collecting and analyzing extensive data relating to student & employer demand, finances, and staffing for each of Miami’s degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels;

(2) establishing guidelines for departments and divisions to use in interpreting the data and developing action plans that respond to data findings;

(3) creating, vetting and approving departmental action plans; and (

4) assessing the overall impact and progress made in implementing the departmental action plans.

All departments have submitted action plans and are now in the process of implementing them.

Aligned with recommendations nineteen and twenty of Miami’s strategic plan, known as MiamiRISE, the purpose of the APEIP Initiative is to ensure that Miami offers an optimal portfolio of academic degree programs that will serve our students, ensure the financial success and longevity of the University, and leverage our human and financial resources wisely.

Steering Committee

This initiative was designed by a steering committee of faculty elected from among the members of University Senate, the Chair of the Fiscal Priorities & Budget Planning Committee, Registrar staff, students, and ex-officio members (associate dean from each division, Associate Provost):

Stacey Lowery Bretz, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry (chair)

Debbie Coleman, Assistant Clinical Lecturer, Department of Marketing

Jennifer Green, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychology

Tom Poetter, Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Leadership

Susan Spellman, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities & Creative Arts

Harvey Thurmer, Associate Professor, Department of Music

Edith Lui, Student Representative, Associated Student Government

Anil Upreti, Student Representative, Graduate Student Government

Renee Baernstein, Senior Associate Dean, College of Arts & Science

Tim Cameron, Associate Dean, College of Engineering & Computing

Barnali Gupta, Associate Dean, Farmer School of Business

Carolyn Haynes, Associate Provost

Carol Jones, Senior Associate University Registrar, Office of University Registrar

Sherrill Sellers, Associate Dean, College of Education, Health & Society

Liza Skryzhevska, College of Liberal Arts & Applied Science and Regional Campuses

Rose Marie Ward, Interim Dean, Graduate School

John Weigand, Associate Dean, College of Creative Arts

Process and Evaluation

The Steering Committee

(1) developed the initial guidelines for divisions and departments to follow in crafting and implementing departmental curricular plans that focus upon improving both the quality of our programs and efficiency in delivering them; and

(2) made recommendations relating to appropriate University policies. Department Chairs and Deans will monitor the overall progress of the initiative and provide annual reports to document measurable, tangible progress, including the development of new programs, retooling of existing programs, elimination of under-performing programs, courses and sections, and adjustments made to course scheduling and faculty workload plans.

The guidelines address the responsibilities of both Departments and Divisions, including assumptions that frame the process, suggested criteria for data analysis, a process to review and approve of program plans, including program ratings and action steps. The Committee also identified example strategies for departments to use in improving efficiency and student success. Draft guidelines were reviewed, revised, and approved by the Provost and Academic Deans.

Department Chairs and Deans are monitoring the overall progress of the initiative and developing and reviewing annual reports to document measurable, tangible progress, Department action plans including the creation of new programs, retooling of existing programs, and elimination of underperforming programs, courses, and section. Adjustments to scheduling and faculty workload policies will also be monitored. 

Resources and Support for the Project

External Consulting Services: Miami contracted two major consulting services, both of whom have deep expertise in providing curricular data: Gray Associates and the Education Advisory Board (EAB). Gray Associates’ Program Evaluation System offers an integrated data system and process designed to help higher education institutions evaluate their program portfolios and make curricular decisions. Gray works with Miami leaders to define markets that correctly align with the areas from which they draw students. Gray’s data includes actual student inquiries, Google search, IPEDs completions and custom scoring for each academic program. Gray also designed and facilitated a program portfolio evaluation workshop (held in November 2019) that enabled Miami curricular leaders to understand and interpret the data to help to inform decisions about the curriculum and resources.

In addition to providing data on each existing academic program, another outcome of the Gray workshop was to identify possible opportunities for high-demand majors/degrees not currently offered at Miami.

Using these possible program ideas as well as input from our own academic departments, Miami also utilizes EAB's research services to focus on a select number of potential programs. They provide a comprehensive and data-driven report which analyzes the viability of each proposed program. Reports may include data relating to academic program benchmarking, market opportunity scan, and market analysis.

Additional Miami Data: The Gray and EAB data are supplemented by in-house data provided by the Oracle Business Intelligence tool relating to staffing efficiencies and instructional costs, as well as Civitas Learning data relating to student success in courses and programs. Departments will also utilize data that they have gathered for academic program review and other purposes.

Internal Consulting Team: In 2020-2021, a team of Miami faculty was formed and trained to assist chairs with interpreting and triangulating data from these multiple sources and to provide support and consultations to individual or small groups of chairs. The team members are:

Stacey Lowery Bretz, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry (chair)

Terri Barr, Professor, Department of Marketing

Jennifer Green, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychology

Julia Guichard, Professor and Chair, Department of Theatre

Sherrill Sellers, Associate Dean, College of Education, Health & Society

Amit Shukla, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering

Susan Spellman, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities & Creative Arts

These consultants functioned as a “critical friend” and asked questions to unpack (perhaps unexamined) assumptions about courses, programs, and faculty. They were also available to work with chairs to develop communication strategies with their department faculty, attend department meetings to hear faculty concerns, answer questions, and lend support to department chairs as they message challenging data and facilitate frank conversations.

Timeline of Key Steps​
Date Agenda
September 2019 Identify consulting services to provide relevant data on all academic programs.
October 2019 Define markets that correctly align with the areas from which the University draws students. These custom market definitions ensure that the data provided specifically represent the areas served by Miami.
November - December 2019 Work with external consulting services to gather market and employer data. Work with internal stakeholders and tools to gather financial and staffing data.
November 2019 Form Steering Committee to guide the process
November 2019 Hold Program Portfolio Evaluation Workshop, facilitated by Gray Associates
November 2019 and ongoing Leverage external consulting services (EAB) to conduct feasibility studies on potentially promising new academic programs
November 2019 – February 2020 Develop first draft of guidelines for academic divisions and guidelines for academic departments
April 2020 – December 2020 In consultation with deans and internal consultants and using the data provided, departments create curricular plans.
Spring 2021 Plans are evaluated by deans. Deans ask for revisions as appropriate. Final versions are submitted to the Provost for approval.
Spring 2021 and annually thereafter Chairs and Deans monitor progress and develop annual report to share with the community and Board of Trustees.
Summer 2021 Office of the Provost conducts broad-based analyses of departmental workload policies and action plans and shares general findings with the Provost and Deans.
Fall 2021 Office of the Provost and Deans, in consultation with Chairs, develop a template for annual reports as well as a procedure and timeline for review of annual reports.