Ohio Wesleyan to cut 18 majors

Ohio Wesleyan University will no longer be offering 18 of the current majors, and several others will be consolidated under new programs.
In the spring of 2019, OWU began to reevaluate the majors and programs they offered, rethinking the future of the university and the direction it is growing in terms of academic needs.
While many schools across the country have been making similar decisions due to the pandemic, the changes announced by OWU were in discussion long before, made in the interest of the future of the institution.
“These recommendations were developed through a rigorous process led by faculty and involving faculty from every area of the institution,” provost Dr. Karlyn Crowley said via an email interview. “OWU has a long-established commitment to the shared-governance process so we believe it is vital that faculty lead these efforts to redesign OWU’s academic structure.”
According to Crowley, quantitative data of each academic program was reviewed along criteria set by the Academic Policy Committee (APC) at OWU.
“APC then evaluated each department in relation to mission, cost-effectiveness, quality, and marketability,” Crowley said.
Evaluation of these majors came with consideration of the total number of majors OWU offers. Heading into the 2020 academic year, OWU listed 90 majors available for students to declare; three times the number of majors typically offered by many similar small residential liberal arts schools.
According to Crowley, the major points in making these decisions revolved around how to ensure the number of majors being offered aligned with the institution’s goals of quality opportunities for education.
“[Small liberal arts colleges] hold a special place in American higher education because students know that they grow exponentially, think critically, serve our society, and become global citizens,” Crowley said. “Our singular goal is to create the most student-centered, innovative educational experience possible. We live and breathe this mission.”
Journalism was one of the 18 majors cut. Over the years, the program has lost interest among students, graduating only three each class in the last few academic years with a major in journalism. The communications program that began three years ago will incorporate journalism into its curriculum and provide for the growing changes to the student interest and also the way journalism has changed in society.
“Every generation has to balance this dedication to the old and to the new,” said Zackariah Long, acting chair of the Journalism and Communications department. “Journalism now has to be cross-trained. You really have to have a diverse array of preparation nowadays as journalism is changing so rapidly so I do think in the long run communication will be a good umbrella program for students who are interested in getting into journalism because it’s a little broader.”
While the journalism major is planned to be cut, students are still able to pursue degrees in a major that has been cut.
“As long as students declare a major by the end of this semester then they are entitled to that catalog so the institution says we will deliver that major for you,” Long said.
The focus on opportunities and individual student needs that aided in the decision to make these changes continues with helping students navigating these changes.
According to 2020 Hayes graduate Nicole Klabus, who is planning on majoring in Zoology and Pre-Veterinary Medicine, this focus is what stood out to her in choosing OWU.
“They give everyone good opportunities to have hands-on experience and they have really good connections all over for internships and anything else that would help get into vet school,” Klabus said.
While Klabus’s plans in her classes and major declaration have not been disrupted, zoology is one of the majors planning to be consolidated under various departments.
“By combining smaller programs, we are promoting faculty teamwork across programs, mentoring and collaboration in advising, coordination of classes to improve the student experience, and student learning at the boundaries between academic disciplines,” Crowley said. “These are essential elements of a liberal arts education in 2020, and they have long been strengths of OWU.”
Just as the consolidation of several majors leaves class opportunities available in that major, many of the courses under majors that have been cut will remain as opportunities for students to take, whether on a longer rotation of offerings or not.
“These judgment calls are always so difficult because you never want to see anything go away but we can still continue to offer courses that would be interesting to students who might want to pursue journalism as a career,” Long said. “And they can still write for The Transcript.”
OWU’s The Transcript is one of the longest standing independent student newspapers in the country. Its favorable history at OWU is something that the elimination of the journalism major had to face.
However, the elimination of the journalism major did not eliminate the student paper. Students interested in journalism are still encouraged to be involved with The Transcript as it’s being reframed to serve the variety of interests under mass communication with multimedia content and longer feature works.
“The students have been working together to reimagine what The Transcript should look like, what we want to carry on, new things we’d like to add,” Long said. “It’s going to be a little different but I think it will be different in some exciting ways.”
Although the changes presented by OWU had to include the end of several majors, the changes have also opened an exciting look at the future sustainability and focus of the school.
“Even though those are always difficult conversations, they do have a way of reminding you what’s most important and motivate you to want to preserve and build on those things,” Long said.
According to Long, the process taken to arrive at these decisions has included faculty consideration from the beginning and has been conducted ethically. There has been an agreed understanding across the OWU community of the goal of these changes.
“The reduction of the size of the faculty and administration and the accompanying reduction in fixed costs give Ohio Wesleyan agility to move forward in a time that will continue to challenge small liberal arts universities,” Crowley said. “We now are well positioned to meet these challenges and to ensure that the noble mission of OWU flourishes in the years to come.”