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"Howard has played a unique role in the definition and building of our nation."

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New Commission to Conduct Aggressive Academic Program Review
By Grace Virtue, Ph.D., executive communications manager/senior writer, Office of University Communications

In a bid to secure and expand Howard University’s distinguished legacy, President Sidney A. Ribeau, Ph.D., has launched an aggressive program review under the auspices of the President’s Commission on Academic Renewal (PCAR), a select body comprised mostly of faculty, but that also includes staff members, other stakeholders and nationally recognized external academic leaders. President Ribeau selected Alvin Thornton, Ph.D., to chair the commission.

Convened in fall 2009, the work of the commission will culminate in spring 2010 when a full report and recommendations on the status of each of the University’s academic programs will be submitted to the president.

Thornton says he is honored to serve as chair of the commission “given the historic role that the commission will play in the history of the evolution of our University.”

“Howard has played a unique role in the definition and building of our nation, especially as it relates to the democratization of the public space, human rights, expanded concepts of humanity, pluralism and diversity in higher education,” he says. “At each stage of the development of our nation and the African-American community, Howard renewed and restructured itself to address at the highest level of excellence and quality the changing needs of our nation and underrepresented communities. Contemporary opportunities and challenges require that Howard review its academic programs and organizational structures to ensure that once again it is able to carry out its mission and remain competitive in the higher education community.”

Thornton explains that the process is designed in a way that will draw on the collective wisdom of the campus community through ongoing communication and substantive engagement before making final recommendations to the president. This is being facilitated through regular meetings by members of the commission, an interactive Web site, periodic reports, meetings with academic departments and schools and colleges and town hall meetings.

The kind of comprehensive review being carried out by PCAR is necessary in any organization that is focused on growth and on meeting the needs of those whom it serves, says President Ribeau. He notes, however, that as a result of changes in the world system, and greater comparison in higher education, Howard is undertaking this effort with an eye to particular challenges and opportunities implicit in the University’s charter—to educate African Americans for leadership and service in America and in the world.

“Operating on the premise that the United States and the world need Howard more than ever, we are using this opportunity to review what we do and how we do it so we can better address areas of critical societal and human needs and so that we can continue to educate a new generation of leaders,” Ribeau said.

Factors driving the review include the need to respond strategically to increased competition for African-American faculty, staff and students; the need to ensure that the University’s academic programs are of the highest quality; that facilities are cutting edge; and that the institution is making the very best use of all its resources.

Based on PCAR’s charter, the renewal process is designed to: identify, develop and support programs of excellence and distinction; align resource allocation with priorities; enhance operational performance and enhance the Howard University brand. Program review, meanwhile, is guided by broad parameters including relevance to the University’s mission, academic quality, research value, levels of enrollment and program sustainability.

Note: Periodic updates on the PCAR process will appear in future issues of the
Capstone
.


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