SUNY Plattsburgh Academic Plan for 2006-2010

Division of Academic Affairs

I. Overview

The first Academic Plan was created to cover the period of January 2003 - July 2006. That Academic Plan was written at a point when the College had had minimum program creation or significant revision in majors for several years and was facing a declining applicant pool and a general weakening of its competitive position within SUNY. The main concern of that Academic Plan was the creation of new academic programs that would assist the College in its efforts to become more competitive.

As of June 2006, many of the programs envisioned in that Academic Plan have been created, including a major in environmental studies, a new major in expeditionary studies, and nine combined BA/MST programs in adolescence education. In addition, there have been significant revisions of other programs, including the transformation of a number of study options into independent degree programs, and programs established at SUNY Plattsburgh at Queensbury, that allow students who have an associates degree (or junior status) to take in Queensbury most of the additional courses they need for a bachelor's degree in any of four subject areas. These changes, coupled with renewed marketing and branding efforts and a more deliberate use of financial aid, have led to a significant increase in applications to the College. Appendix A of this report contains a listing of the key points of the original academic plan and a status report on progress made by summer 2006.

II. Summary of the College's Current Status

The summary of the College's current status is divided into the following sections:

A. Market - The College's market has been and will continue to be primarily "traditional college-age" students from New York State in the eastern part of the state from Long Island through NYC, the Hudson Valley and the North Country. In addition, the College will remain attractive to out-of-state students primarily from the northeastern United States. The College intends to continue to attract about 5% of its undergraduate student body from international students. The College's percentage of out-of-state and international students combined will continue to total about 10% of the undergraduate student body. The College serves primarily an undergraduate market and it will continue to do so. Graduate programs will remain at the master's and certificate level, with new programs added to only well-defined niches for which there is a demand and which the college can sustain within its limited resources.

B. Programs and Services to Serve This Market - The College will continue to offer a wide range of liberal arts and professional programs at the undergraduate level and select graduate programs in various professional areas. The College's strengths tend to be in both the liberal arts and sciences and in selected professional areas such as business, teacher education, clinical areas such as communication disorders and sciences, hospitality, restaurant, and tourism management, and other programs requiring a professional preparation of students in combination with substantial liberal arts education. The College does not have significant strengths in the area of technology or engineering, nor is it likely that such fields will be developed on this campus.

C. The College's Image - SUNY Plattsburgh has a reputation among its alumni and the community as an institution that takes students of promise and educates them to be successful professionals able to compete with college graduates from all other institutions. Indeed, the College prides itself on this image. While the College will be more selective, it does not intend to close its doors to students whose academic record may not adequately reflect their true professional potential. For such students who have the desire to gain an education that will allow them to move towards future career and personal success, SUNY Plattsburgh will remain an institution to serve their needs.

III. Summary of Key Initiatives

This Academic Plan will focus on a limited number of new academic programs as well as steps to strengthen our currently existing majors, including graduate programs:

  1. Creating selected new academic programs in areas where there seems to be a clear demand such as:
    • Creative Writing (transformation of option to major)
    • Fitness and Wellness Leadership
    • Information Management and Information Technology
    • M.S. in Natural Science
    • Programs to support new PARC aviation initiatives
    • Collaborative programs with other institutions in the U.S. , North America, and abroad
    • Possible new programs at Plattsburgh's Extension Center at ACC
    • Possible programs in health care administration
  2. Stressing the following elements in all of our majors:
    1. Student/faculty academic research and experiential learning, including internships
    2. Professional ethics relevant to disciplines or majors
    3. Writing and information and technology literacy. Students should be able to use the most current research tools and should be able to express the results of their research in clear and coherent prose. This will probably entail a review of our current Writing Across the Curriculum requirements.
    4. Critical thinking

IV. New Academic Programs

In the next few years, we will be carefully exploring selected new programs which would be of academic merit and attractive to potential students. A new program in global supply chain management has already been approved by SUNY Systems Administration and SED. In addition, we will be hiring faculty to allow for staffing a program in fitness and wellness leadership, and a new faculty member will be hired in English for a creative writing major. A letter of intent has been submitted to SUNY to establish an M.S. in Natural Science, and an external review and the full program proposal will be sent in 2007. With the announcement of a planned aviation maintenance center in Plattsburgh, the College will explore whether aviation-related programs would be appropriate for this institution in light of our mission and overall academic strengths. Certainly, certificate programs and general management programs to assist the center in its workforce development can be provided by the College. The College will work closely with BOCES and Clinton Community College, who are the primary educational partners for the center. In addition, the College will be exploring appropriate developments in the area of information management and information technology.

We will also be exploring new collaborative programs with other institutions in the U.S. , Canada, Mexico, and overseas. These programs will extend opportunities for our students to earn degrees we cannot offer alone, to broaden their educational experience through study at other institutions, and/or to enrich their cross-cultural experience through contacts with new students from diverse backgrounds spending short periods of time at Plattsburgh. Plans are already underway to offer an undergraduate certificate program with Meadowmount Conservatory, and we are now concluding an articulation agreement between Plattsburgh's MALS leadership concentration and Concordia's MBA program. We are also concluding a joint degree program in Global Supply Chain Management with the University of Monterrey in Mexico and intend to reach a similar agreement with Zhejiang Wanli University in China. Contacts with universities in China and Turkey may lead to other articulation or joint program development, expansion of our ESL Bridge program, or enrichment of our international student body. Domestically, we will continue to explore the possibility of establishing a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant program with another institution. We will also explore whether additional programs would be justified at our Extension Center at Adirondack Community College. We have also added a new career option for students by our becoming an affiliate of the University of Vermont's Army ROTC program.

For several years, the College has been committed to carefully reviewing existing programs to see if some might be eliminated as we add programs. The reality is that we have been very slow to close or eliminate programs. However, programs with low enrollment or with serious issues of academic quality as identified through program review or other assessments need to be constantly reviewed and where appropriate, these programs should be eliminated. One compounding factor is that sometimes programs with low enrollment, such as some in the physical and natural sciences, are critical to the mission of the College or areas that have been identified, both statewide and nationally, as areas where there is a need for an increasingly competent workforce. In such cases, closing the program may make immediate economic sense but could be a serious long-term error for the College in terms of future needs, both of the region and of the nation as a whole.

V. Skills Needed in All Majors

In its 2002 report, Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College , the Association of American Colleges and Universities identified the following intellectual and practical skills as critical to the success of college graduates in the 21st century:

  • Communicating in diverse settings and groups, using written, oral, and visual means, and in more than one language
  • Understanding and employing both quantitative and qualitative analysis to describe and solve problems
  • Interpreting, evaluating, and using information discerningly from a variety of sources
  • Integrating knowledge of various types and understanding complex systems
  • Resolving difficult issues creatively by employing multiple systems and tools
  • Deriving meaning from experience, as well as gathering information from observation
  • Transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into judgment and action
  • Demonstrating intellectual agility and managing change
  • Working well in teams, including those of diverse composition, and building consensus

In addition, Greater Expectations also calls for mastery of subject matter within a focused area of study and the development of personal responsibility and civic values. Very similar expectations are enunciated by a wide variety of professional and regional accrediting organizations, including the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges. This list of skills stresses the need for graduates to be proactive, flexible, and oriented at solving problems, with strong communication skills and a mature sense of ethical responsibility to their chosen profession and to society as a whole. Interestingly, almost all of these organizations stress the seamless nature of undergraduate education, where general education and the major reinforce each other in developing these skills and attributes in students. Over the last ten years, much of the focus in SUNY institutions has been on general education, while common expectations for all majors or for the entirety of undergraduate education have received less attention.

As the Deans' Cabinet reviewed our current programs, there were four elements noted in the "Summary of Key Initiatives" at the beginning of this document that we feel need to be stressed in all of our majors: student/faculty research and experiential learning, development of professional ethics, writing and information technology literacy, and critical thinking.

As for the first of these, student-faculty research and experiential learning, including internships, the Deans' Cabinet recognizes that the College already has a significant reputation for fostering student/faculty academic research, which has been demonstrated by several of our student-faculty research teams winning significant national awards. We would like to transform an experience that seems to be heavily situated in certain departments and with the best students in those departments into a more common experience throughout the College. Departments where student/faculty academic research and experiential learning have not been common, such as departments in the humanities, will be encouraged to explore developing programs in these areas for students. All departments will be encouraged to explore the possibility of internships for as many students in the program as possible and to seek out new and creative ways of finding meaningful, educational internships for students.

In an age of corporate scandals and revelations of widespread ethical lapses, both in the private and public sectors, the need for inculcating professional ethics in our students has become even more pressing. Students need to learn not just to "do the right thing," but to understand what the right thing means in terms of their particular discipline, be they anthropologists studying other societies, accountants keeping records for large corporations, lawyers who are responsible for assisting firms to follow the law, or teachers who have a responsibility to encourage students to develop respect for one another. In all of these areas, there are specific ethical issues confronting professions and disciplines that can best be taught in the major. It is our belief that all of our majors need to address the key ethical dilemmas within the discipline and to teach students ways to cope with these ethical dilemmas as they join the professions.

As for writing and information technology literacy, there is concern shared among many faculty that too many of our students graduate lacking an ability to communicate effectively in a professional environment. While we have not carried out systematic assessment of students' writing ability as juniors and seniors, general education assessment of students' written communication skills (2003-04) showed that 15-35% of students performed less well than we would like at the end of their English composition course, especially in the more complex skills of researching a topic, developing an argument, and organizing supporting details. Their inability to communicate effectively in writing will severely hamper their professional development. Moreover, in an age where the internet and other resources have made vast quantities of data and information available, students need to be able to navigate through this sea of information and to gain usable knowledge they can apply to their work environments. Two rounds of general education assessment of students' skills in information management (2003 and 2005) show that improvement is needed for 10-55% of our juniors and seniors, especially in locating, evaluating, and synthesizing information.

While the College is proud of its current Composition program and Writing Across the Curriculum requirement, there is a perception among the deans that a freshman requirement and then a required intensive writing course somewhere in the student's major is simply not adequate exposure to the requirements and possibilities of advanced professional writing. We would like to see the current Composition program and Writing Across the Curriculum requirement reviewed with the possibility of adding at least one intermediate writing experience to our current array of writing requirements. We realize that this enhancement of writing may entail increased expenses, but we believe this enhancement could be worth the investment.

Finally, while students need to have mastery of key factual data within a discipline, equally important is their ability to think critically - to use the knowledge that they have gained in order to create new knowledge, to look at problems and analyze them in a fashion that will allow them to create original perspectives on problems and on possible solutions within their disciplines. To some degree, all of our majors currently encourage this level of critical thinking, but concerns are increasingly expressed that American college graduates do not have the critical thinking levels necessary for success in an increasingly demanding professional world. The three rounds of general education assessment of critical thinking that the college has conducted (1999, 2003, 2005) show that 40-70% of our juniors and seniors (depending on outcome, year, and assessment instrument) perform less well than we would like. Improvement appears to be called for especially in evaluation of evidence, evaluation of strengths of argument, and drawing and justifying implications of an argument. While there seems to be considerable debate among faculty about the 'transferability' of critical thinking ability from one discipline or domain to another, clearly, students must be able to apply these skills within their discipline.

For these four areas (experiential learning, professional ethics, writing and information management, and critical thinking), the Deans' Cabinet, in conjunction with faculty governance groups, plans to launch the Academic Plan 2006-2010 by conducting a survey of current practice within departments. This will create a baseline as we begin to explore ways of enhancing all four of these areas of enrichment within the majors.

VI. Benchmarks to Evaluate Plan's Success

The criteria by which the College will judge whether it is successful in meeting its promise to students include several factors. Among the most critical are the College's desirability in the markets it wishes to serve, which is judged by the number of applicants and the quality of applicants. We also need to review student success in meeting the stated outcomes of our General Education program and the level of activity in departments in implementing this plan's initiatives for majors. The success of our graduates is to be judged not only by their graduation rates and employment status one year after graduation, but in addition we hope to see developed a more accurate barometer of the success of our alumni relative to that of graduates from other institutions. We do not intend the success to be merely in monetary terms, but also in more intangible outcomes, such as a sense of professional accomplishment, personal self-fulfillment, and level of contribution to society.

As a result of the key initiatives outlined in this Academic Plan, SUNY Plattsburgh aims to significantly improve its selectivity. The College's official selectivity goals for the period 2006-2010, included in the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SUNY Systems Administration, are as follows:

Table 3 from MOU
Distribution of First-Time, Full-Time Regular Admit Students by Selectivity Group

Selectivity Group Fall 2004 (Actual) Fall 2005 (Actual) Fall 2006 (Planned) Fall 2007 (Planned) Fall 2008 (Planned) Fall 2009 (Planned) Fall 2010 (Planned)
Group 1 10.4% 11.0% 12.0% 12.0% 14.0% 14.0% 15.0%
Group 2 25.7% 29.0% 28.0% 29.0% 30.0% 31.0% 32.0%
Group 3 52.4% 52.0% 51.0% 51.0% 50.0% 49.0% 48.0%
Group 4 11.3% 8.0% 9.0% 8.0% 6.0% 6.0% 5.0%
Group 5 0.3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Not Classifiable 3.0% 3.0% 3.0% 3.0% 3.0% 3.0% 3.0%
Special Admits
(EOP or Other Risk)
15.3% 13.0% 13.0% 13.0% 13.0% 13.0% 13.0%

Overall, the College intends to maintain its current size and become more selective, particularly by holding the freshmen class to a target of 975. The College will continue to expand its upper-division bachelor's completion program at Adirondack Community College and will be making a decision whether an increase, after the year 2010, in the number of students at that site would be warranted. The current long-term (2011) goal for the total number of students in our four new undergraduate programs at Adirondack Community College is 40 to 50 students per program. The College's methods for increasing its selectivity will continue along the same three-fold current path: 1) selected new academic programs; 2) targeted use of financial aid; and 3) continuation of our current marketing and branding efforts.

As the College improves its selectivity, it also intends to restore its graduation levels to percentages achieved earlier in this decade and earlier (1997 entering class-58.8% and 1998 entering class-55.7%). This percentage has been declining recently with six-year graduation data from the entering classes of 1999 (52.8%) and 2000 (51%). With improved selectivity and increasing emphasis on retention through our First-Year Program, we believe we can obtain our MOU target of 58% by 2010 or no later than 2012.

The Deans' Cabinet is also now in the process of developing benchmarks for assessing the success of our General Education program in meeting its intended student outcomes. While more analysis is necessary, the Cabinet's initial position is that a minimum of 80 percent of our undergraduate students should be meeting or exceeding the standards set for each of these outcomes. In certain areas, considerable progress will be necessary for the college to achieve these benchmarks.

In addition, during the period of this academic plan, the Cabinet has set the following benchmarks for departments to provide curricular or co-curricular experiences in place in the major for the four areas discussed previously in this report:

  1. Student/faculty academic research and experiential learning - 80 percent of students in 100% of departments.
  2. Professional ethics relevant to discipline or majors - 100 percent of departments.
  3. Writing and informational and technology literacy - 100 percent of departments.
  4. Critical thinking - 100% of departments.

The focus during this academic plan will be on ensuring that departments have these experiences or inputs in the plan. In the academic plan for 2011 and beyond the Cabinet intends to focus on whether these experiences lead to a level of student outcomes that the College finds acceptable. To some degree, departments are already reporting on student outcomes in these areas in their annual assessment reports, but the Cabinet intends to focus more deliberately on these four areas as a part of annual departmental assessment reporting.

In terms of alumni success, the most recent alumni survey present a positive view of alumni success, with alumni expressing satisfaction with their careers and crediting the college with significantly contributing to the development of critical academic and social skills and competencies. However, we do not have reliable comparative data from similar institutions to obtain adequate benchmarks for comparative purposes. Such a project, we believe, would need to be SUNY-wide. In 1999 SUNY conducted an Alumni Outcomes Survey of 59 SUNY institutions that produced comparative data for these institutions for the graduating classes of 1991 and 1994. It would be useful for us if SUNY initiated a comparable project for more recent graduates. The Provost will raise this issue with SUNY System Administration.

Rev. 5/23/07

Contact Information

For more information about Academic Planning at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

James Liszka, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Office: Kehoe 802
Phone: (518) 564-5402

Lizabeth J. Woodard
Office: Kehoe 805
Phone: (518) 564-5402
Fax: (518) 564-4415