Strategies for Making Your Case
Develop a Unifying Vision and Goals for Your Department
- Resist departmental rifting. One of the reasons the University of Connecticut cited in dissolving the Geology Department in 2004 was the "divisiveness and interpersonal conflict within the department between those who support[ed] a broader interdisciplinary approach to geosciences and those favoring a more traditional approach" (Showstack, 2004).
- See examples of geoscience department mission/vision statements and learning goals/outcomes statements.
Do a Good Job With Program Reviews
- Take program reviews seriously; your administrators do. In particular, have a plan for addressing any identified problems. University of Connecticut officials cited the inability to respond to issues in the most recent program review as one of their reasons for eliminating the Geology Department in 2004.
Arm Yourself With Data
- Make a habit of collecting and organizing the data you will need for program assessment, annual reports, and more. Besides giving you a head start on those predictable tasks, data will help you to justify your existence (if it ever comes into question).
Be Ready to Justify Your Existence
Explain the value of geoscience education whenever the opportunity arises. In addition, demonstrate and publicize your department's value early and often: keep a list of bragging points that administrators will care about. For example:
Know the accomplishments of your faculty and staff
- What accolades have they won?
Know the accomplishments of your alumni
- Where are they employed? What accolades have they won?
Compare your program to those at peer institutions, and to other physical sciences on your own campus
Possible points of comparison:
- Student credit hours produced (in raw numbers and per FTE)
- Cost per credit hour
- Revenue generated by teaching (in raw numbers and per FTE)
- Research revenue generated (in raw numbers and per FTE)
Know how your programs contribute to your campus, your state, and your region
- Do your faculty research or teach about environmental issues in your area?
- Are there companies in your area that regularly hire your alumni?
- Know how many interdisciplinary collaborations your department has with other departments, on and off campus, in terms of both research and teaching.
When it comes to tight budgets, be proactive
- Look for ways to save money, raise external funds, and be more efficient with the money you do spend. Tell your administration what you're doing, get good results, and show them the results. "Talk about how you could improve with no additional resources. (Deans like the sound of that)" (Feiss, 1996 ).
Know Your Supporters
Your Alumni and Employers of Your Alumni
- Who knows the value of a degree from your department better than your alumni or their employers? Work with your alumni. Keep track of where they are and what they are doing with their geoscience degrees, whether they are still in geoscience or not. Keep a file of supporting letters from these constituents on hand.
- For some perspective on the strengths and uses of a degree in geosciences, see our collection of employee and employer interviews.
Valued Colleagues on Campus
- Every collaborative relationship you build is a relationship that would suffer if your department were eliminated.
- When you participate in local or regional community events, you are helping to build a base of support.
- The American Geosciences Institute
- The National Association of Geoscience Teachers
- The AGU Heads and Chairs program organizes a workshop each year in association with the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. The 2009 Heads and Chairs Workshop includes sessions on making a case for your department and on dealing with budgets and budget cuts.
- Feiss, 1996 , The Survival of Academic Geology Programs, GSA Today v.6, n. 1, p. 16-17.
Dr. Feiss argues that geologists can no longer expect to focus only on "real science" and leave all the political and administrative unpleasantness to other departments.
- Rossbacher and Rhodes, 2004 , The Department You Save May Be Your Own: Part 2, Geotimes May, 2004.
This article lays out specific actions that departments (and particularly heads and chairs of departments) can and should take to help secure their future.
- Showstack, R., 2004, University of Connecticut Geology Department Faces Dissolution, Eos, 85(11), p.160. (Link to article on AGU website. AGU membership required.)