TO: All Employees
FR: Karen Moranski, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Academic Affairs is undertaking an Academic Master Plan, which will guide decision-making and resource allocation for Academic Affairs at Sonoma State for the next 5 to 10 years.
What is an Academic Master Plan?
An Academic Master Plan (AMP) is a visioning and decision-making process that is based on the University’s mission, strategic priorities, and core values, and it communicates how the academic enterprise will endeavor to meet the changing needs of our students. Our AMP will be informed by the academic identity of Sonoma State as a public liberal arts and sciences university, and it creates a framework for aligning our resources with the academic mission. One of the key facets of our process is that it will allow the campus to provide feedback on a plan for the future. The majority of the AMP work will take place between Spring 2023 and Fall 2024.
Why is having an Academic Master Plan important for Sonoma State University?
Sonoma State has never engaged in a formal Academic Master Planning process. As universities like ours across California and the United States grapple with changing enrollment patterns, SSU needs to articulate how our curriculum and services support our liberal arts and sciences identity. We also need to ensure our programs meet the workforce needs of California by blending our liberal arts and sciences education with an expansion of experiential learning, leadership cultivation, and impact in the community. Our AMP process will facilitate change that is positive and hopeful: it provides an opportunity to rethink, realign, and revitalize so we can move academics forward on our campus, planning new structures that increase student, faculty, and staff success, and planning curricular work and new majors that will enhance enrollment.
How does the Academic Master Plan relate to the budget reductions in Academic Affairs?
Combining budget reduction with visioning and planning, though complex, is essential. Academic Affairs must reduce its budget by $9,700,000 over the next two years to address the campus structural deficit. The Academic Master Plan is designed to provide a consultative process for budget realignment and future growth.
The Provost’s Office has developed a plan to meet the $5,700,000 reduction for 2023-24 that leverages the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), permanent cuts to instruction, and administrative reorganization based on what makes sense for the division.
The Academic Master Plan process will inform our efforts to meet the reduction target of $4,000,000 in 2024-25. Thus, the AMP process is designed to conclude by Spring 2024. Some of the ideas will be implemented as early as Spring 2023. We will make reductions in three areas: administrative and academic reorganization; strategic course scheduling, space utilization, and technology; and current and new program evaluation.
Structural reorganization will start with the Division of Academic Affairs, which will make changes that reduce administrative expenses once we determine the impacts of the VSIP in early Spring 2023. Over the next year, reorganization will also affect academic departments. We need to reduce administrative costs by combining programs, departments, and possibly schools. We also need to reduce workload and assigned time overall. Such changes will likely create anxiety, but reorganization also allows an opportunity to think about how we move from a model of competition for FTES to a model of cooperation and innovation that strengthens our academic units. It also allows faculty and programs the opportunity to envision an innovative and interdisciplinary future for their students and courses in ways that have not been perceived as possible at SSU until now.
Strategic Course Scheduling, Space Utilization, and Technology
We need to ensure that scheduling facilitates retention and on-time graduation. We have to maximize tenure-track teaching loads (for all but our most junior faculty) and explore how we maximize course fill rates without compromising our commitment to smaller class sizes and a high-touch university experience.
The AMP process will also prompt us to address space utilization and technology. More efficient scheduling of courses maximizes utilization of learning spaces. Locating instruction in as few buildings as necessary will allow for services, maintenance, and technology to be utilized more effectively. This will translate to lower upkeep costs for the campus, particularly in Facilities Management and IT. It may also have a marginal impact on campus utilities.
Current and New Academic Program Evaluation
We must examine the sustainability and health of our academic programs including the mix of programs we offer at a public liberal arts university that is committed to professional education, increasing access, meeting workforce demand, and more intentional career preparation. To avoid further personnel reductions, we will look in other directions, such as reorganizing; ending impaction; adopting a sustainable plan for supervision courses; examining program health through qualitative and quantitative metrics; using spaces and technology efficiently; designing shared services to better serve students, staff, and faculty; and developing a plan that supports graduate education, new undergraduate majors, online education, and credit and non-credit bearing credential and certificate programs.
What is the AMP Process?
To accomplish the Academic Master Plan, we have created three structures: an Executive Committee to provide materials and guide the process, a Steering Committee to integrate information and draft the plan, and several working groups to consider options, look at data, and provide recommendations. Most faculty, staff and student membership will be elected, with some appointments for administrators and staff who can provide support. Working groups will be co-chaired by a faculty member and administrator, who are appointed by the Provost and the AMP Executive Committee. The faculty representatives will be elected through School elections. The student representatives will be elected by Associated Students. The staff representatives will be elected by the Staff Council. Other group members may be appointed based on their expertise with the topics, and to ensure a diversity of viewpoints are being represented in each working group. You can find out more details about the AMP process here.
Community consultation and communication will be frequent and iterative and will include a regularly-updated website (will be live by November 15), open forums, chair chats, periodic email updates via a listserv, an anonymous Google feedback form, and visits to existing campus groups (e.g. Staff Council, Associated Students, chairs’ meetings, school meetings, etc.). If you have any questions about this process, please do not hesitate to reach out to any members of the Executive Committee, Steering Committee, or working groups, or you can email AMP@sonoma.edu.
An Academic Master Plan will be an opportunity to re-envision our academic future at Sonoma State University. I look forward to working together to create a stronger and more collaborative Academic Affairs division.