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SUU planning to upgrade programs

Hearings on tap, and findings will go to board

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CEDAR CITY — A growing central Utah population and changing student needs are driving introspection and possible program upgrades at Southern Utah University.

"Review is a healthy process. It's important to update, upgrade and plan for the future," said SUU President Steven D. Bennion of a process that has been going on for about a year. The results of this initial study, along with possible recommendations and priorities, were recently released by the university.

Through September and October, hearings will be held to present the findings to the university community, the community at large and others interested in potential changes at SUU, he said. When recommendations are finally adopted, they will be presented to the SUU Board of Trustees, then the state Board of Regents, who must approve any program changes.

The internal evaluation included reviews of colleges and departments, 130 academic majors, minors and service sources.

"Each program was carefully evaluated against a set of criteria," said Provost Ray Reutzel. "We looked at market demand, data on majors and graduates and the future direction of the university."

The study is likely to lead to realignment of some programs, including possible discontinuation of some courses. The regents likely will be asked to approve some new master's degrees for SUU.

The "overall goal is to strengthen the university as it moves forward into the 21st century," said Reutzel.

Growing state emphasis on applied technology education is reflected in a recommendation that SUU create a School of Applied Science and Technology. The program would bring together applied technology programs now scattered among several disciplines, Bennion said. The enhanced program would help to buoy applied technology opportunities in the southwest region, which has traditionally been underserved, he said.

Also recommended is beefing up selected programs in all five colleges and schools. At least one master's program will be requested in each of the SUU colleges over the next few years. Recommended are master's degrees in psychology, communications and sciences. The existing master's in education also would be expanded, with more emphasis on educational specialties, the report says.

The report suggests that programs in anthropology, philosophy, information systems, geography, early childhood education, elementary education, dietetics, biology, and engineering be added or strengthened where they presently exist.

Providing more opportunity for postgraduate students is consistent with the fairly recent upgrading of Dixie College, Bennion said. Master's degree recommendations have taken into consideration the bachelor's degrees being offered at the St. George school, as well as SUU.

"We're making an effort to be complementary regarding what's offered," he said.

Bennion hopes the SUU engineering program, which provides a "generalist" background that prepares engineers for small businesses, may get some support from Gov. Mike Leavitt's engineering initiative. The Cedar City program does not compete with the more focused engineering programs at University of Utah, Utah State University or Brigham Young University, he said, but provides a degree that fits into the market in the SUU area.

The campus planners have tried to be sensitive to current faculty, said Reutzel. "Through this process we have remained committed to making the recommended changes without jeopardizing faculty jobs. . . . I believe we have done that."

Students also have been considered. No program will be phased out in a way that would disrupt the educational plans of those currently enrolled.

The recommendations will be presented to the SUU Board of Trustees next spring as a preliminary step to placing them before the regents.

Bennion said he hopes the suggestions that advance that far could be implemented as early as the spring of 2002.


E-MAIL: tvanleer@desnews.com