Rutgers takes careful steps to ensure newly added classes meet academic excellence
The more than 100 majors offered at Rutgers did not appear overnight. Some of the newer academic programs have been in the making longer than a traditional undergraduate program.
As new businesses and industries rise, college students develop different needs than those of the past. To keep up and also guarantee academic quality, the University has a lengthy “New Program Approval Process,” (OIRAP).
“It was literally a five-year process through the Rutgers undergraduate and graduate faculty,” said Mike Finkelstein, director of the Global Sports Business M.S. Program, about the process of moving from an idea to a functioning program.
The global sports business graduate program began classes in the Fall 2016 semester, Finkelstein said.
The process started by going through Rutgers undergraduate and graduate channels, meeting with deans and faculty in various committees, he said. Following that was an external review from a separated peer. Once approved the proposed program was then sent to the Board of Governors before finally facing approval from the state.
“The program approval process is designed to encourage collegial discussion at all levels of the University,” according to document.
The procedures serve to provide a rational method of development, consideration and approval that weighs topics like academic quality, relevance, need and resources necessary for a particular program, according to the document.
In hopes of making decisions in a “collegial fashion,” academic programs generally start from specific faculty or departments, before moving up the pipeline.
Finkelstein said the genesis of his graduate program was that himself and his colleagues all moved from professional business settings prior to teaching. As a result, the director focused on creating an "experiential" and "applied" program, where students stray more from traditional, empirical book learning and focus on experiences in the field.
“And in that vein our goal is to produce graduates who are immediately able to add value to the area that they are particularly interested in in the sports business world,” he said.
Similarly, Michael Adas, former director of the Masters program in Global and Comparative History and a professor in the Department of History, said his program initially focused on high school teachers already in the workforce who needed extra education to teach classes like Advanced Placement Global History.
Adas explained that the idea was first discussed approximately five years ago.
Since then, the program has gone through the approval process and currently provides courses set up to accommodate both Ph.D. and M.A. students, he said.
“I think the first year we had 10 or 12 (students), and that was out of 30 or 40 applicants,” Adas said.
Following faculty- and department-level discussion, where those in the discipline can see what programs are worthwhile, a campus review takes place. A “Program Announcement” is used to provide outlines for development and needs, according to the process.
Relevant faculty groups then review the program, and a related dean works with campus figures to initiate any other necessary reviews. If successful, the Program Announcement is then presented to the provost or executive vice president for Academic Affairs.
“In general, the key concerns to be addressed by any proposal for a new program are academic quality, relevance and need, and adequacy and commitment of all resources necessary to support the program,” according to the process.
Up next, barring approval, is review by an external consultant.
The consultant will review written documentation, visit the site and submit a written report to OIRAP. In determining the consultant, OIRAP contacts professionals in the field to curate a list of finalists and decide, according to the document.
The next step is a trip to the Rutgers Board of Governors. There, the Educational Planning and Policy Committee of the board makes a recommendation to the full board for review, according to the process.
If successful still, the last obstacle a program proposal faces is reviewed by the New Jersey President’s Council and the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education.
Finkelstein said that while the process is extensive, some of that is because committees might only meet on a quarterly basis. There is time from meeting to meeting that is just spent preparing documentation for the next meeting.
In the state’s review, the President’s Council receives the Program Announcement and determines whether there are any problems. If there are no problems regarding its mission, excessive cost or program duplication, then it can be implemented.
If problems are found, they can either be resolved within the council or referred to the Commission on Higher Education. The commission has authority regarding concerns over cost, duplication or exceeding an institution’s mission. Unless it specifically disapproves of a program in the following 60-day referral period, the new program will be approved.
Being an interdisciplinary area of study was a contributing factor in the success of the global sports business program, Finkelstein said.
He explained that the graduate track includes many topics in the realm of “Arts and Sciences,” like economics and communications with sports journalism and media, among others.
“So the business of sport literally touches all of our lives in ways that we may or may not actually perceive,” he said. “And combined … add up to well over $600 billion dollars a year — arguably making the business of sports the fifth or sixth biggest industry in the world."