February 2011
Board Approves Academic Renewal Plan, Two Residence Halls
By Kerry-Ann Hamilton, Media Relations Manager, Office of University Communications

The board’s approval of the plan represents a major milestone for the University. (Ceasar)

The Howard University Board of Trustees, led by Chairman A. Barry Rand, unanimously approved an academic renewal plan and the construction of two residence halls. The plans will continue the University's mission of enriching student learning opportunities, strengthening graduate and professional programs as well as advancing research initiatives.

"This represents an important milestone in the history of the University and culminates extraordinary collaborative work by the University's faculty, students, staff and alumni," Rand said.

President Sidney A. Ribeau, Ph.D., presented his recommendations during a meeting of the full board last month after an inclusive process that engaged and sought input from every segment of the University and academic community. "We no longer have to be everything to everyone. We have identified specific areas of emphasis and we plan to be leaders in those areas."
"Universities must periodically review and assess themselves to respond to developments in higher education and the changing needs of our nation and the world," Ribeau said. "At Howard, we are doing just that. We must maintain the highest standards of academic and administrative excellence."

The plan approved by the board achieves six major goals:

  • Revises the model for the delivery of undergraduate education and increases interdisciplinary academic programming;
  • Strengthens the University's commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), health sciences disciplines and research;
  • Advances Africana and Diaspora Studies to make Howard the leading University in the field;
  • Enhances humanities, communications, urban education, business, performing and visual arts academic programs and interdisciplinary studies;
  • Increases the University's commitment to internationalism and global studies;
  • Streamlines and focuses graduate and professional offerings and encourages increased research.

Among the current 171 degree programs offered, 71 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs were recommended for restructuring or closure--22 undergraduate, 11 graduate and 38 graduate professional programs. Students enrolled in modified or closed programs will be able to complete their degrees, and program tenured faculty will not lose their positions.

"Historically, Howard had to offer a comprehensive range of programs to meet the demand of students of color who were unable to attend other universities," Ribeau said. "We no longer have to be everything to everyone. We have identified specific areas of emphasis and we plan to be leaders in those areas."

The academic renewal initiative includes the restructuring of the core undergraduate curriculum and the creation of a single  freshman experience for all entering students, regardless of their school or division. Existing STEM programs will be improved to increase cutting-edge learning opportunities to prepare graduates for careers in such rapidly growing fields as nanotechnology. The board also approved the president's recommendations to retain bachelor's degrees in African Studies and Philosophy.

In addition, the board approved the construction of two new residence halls along the Fourth Street corridor creating a new undergraduate residential village on the east side of the University's main campus. The sites include the old Bethune Hall as well as Fourth and Bryant Streets, currently Bethune Annex parking lot. The residential complexes combined will provide housing for more than 1,300 students.

The academic renewal process began in 2008 after the board charged Ribeau to  renew the academic enterprise. In fall 2009, Ribeau established the Presidential Commission on Academic Renewal as part of the process, and Howard began a faculty-led comprehensive review of all its academic offerings. In fall 2010, the commission submitted its final report to the president recommending a series of University-wide enhancements and program-specific mergers, transformations, additions and eliminations. Ribeau then presented his recommendations for review and comment from the University community. This review process continued for an additional three months, and faculty and other stakeholders offered alternative proposals that were included in the final plan approved by the board.

(Justin D. Knight)

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