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


Aligned with recommendations nineteen and twenty of Miami's strategic plan known as MiamiRISE, the Academic Program Evaluation, Improvement and Prioritization (APEIP) project aims to improve the quality of programs, and direct resources to further enhance student success, and ensure that we leverage our resources efficiently and effectively. This process which began in 2020 has entailed:

  1. Collecting and analyzing extensive data relating to student and 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.
  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. Each plan has a 3 or 4-year timeline for meeting goals and metrics, and departments will continue to submit progress reports until the goals and metrics have been reached.

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 the University Senate, the Chair of the Fiscal Priorities and Budget Planning Committee, University Registrar staff, students, and ex-officio members (associate dean from each division, Associate Provost):

  • Stacey Lowery Bretz, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry and 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 and 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 and Science
  • Tim Cameron, Associate Dean, College of Engineering and Computing
  • Barnali Gupta, Associate Dean, Farmer School of Business
  • Carolyn Haynes, Senior Associate Provost
  • Carol Jones, Senior Associate University Registrar, Office of University Registrar
  • Sherrill Sellers, Associate Dean, College of Education, Health, and Society
  • Liza Skryzhevska, College of Liberal Arts and Applied Science and Regional Campuses
  • 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.
  2. Made recommendations relating to appropriate University policies. 

Draft guidelines were reviewed, revised, and approved by the Provost and Academic Deans, and they were vetted by members of the University Senate. The committee used feedback to finalize the guidelines.

In consultation with their deans, departments developed curricular action plans to improve program quality and revised faculty workload policies to advance equity and efficiency. Deans and the Office of the Provost offered input on plans and will offer feedback on annual progress reports.  

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 searches, 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 provide academic program benchmarking, market opportunity scans, and market analysis for appropriate programs.

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 an individual or small group 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, and Society
  • Amit Shukla, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Susan Spellman, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and 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 the 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 an 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. 
Spring 2022 Office of the Provost offered input on plans and workload policies and facilitated optional workshops for chairs on improving curricular action plans and policies.
Summer 2022 Departments submitted the first annual progress report; feedback was provided by the Office of the Provost.
Summer 2023 and 2024 Departments continue to submit annual progress reports and receive feedback from the Office of the Provost.