2007 Reaffirmation Teams
4.2 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution maintains a curriculum that is directly related and appropriate to the purpose and goals of the institution and the diplomas, certificates or degrees awarded.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) maintains and regularly reviews its curricular offerings to ensure that the curricula relate directly to the university mission and to the goals and commitments that derive from that document . Because the university intentionally fosters cross-disciplinary degree programs, many curricula reflect the transdisciplinary future the faculty and students face. As discussed in the response to Principle 2.7.2 [U208], the program faculty review the contents of their curricula to ensure that the academic degree and certificate programs present students an appropriate, timely, and coherent program of study. Both the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and The University of Texas System (UT System) provide a rigorous approval process and a cyclical review process that ensure academic programs and their underlying curricular offerings meet the standards for higher education in the state of Texas as discussed in the response to Principle 22.214.171.124 [U320].
Sections 70.01 and 70.03 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) establish The University of Texas at Dallas as a state-supported general academic institution of higher education and authorize the granting of degree programs at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels. Further, the legislation  requires that any department, school, or degree program be approved by the THECB. In presenting any proposal for a new degree program or for a substantive change in an existing program, faculty members develop the proposal that is reviewed by the school faculty before review by the Council for Undergraduate Education  or the Council on Graduate Education . Once a proposal has passed these initial reviews, the proposal then undergoes review by the Committee on Educational Policy . The Academic Senate then reviews the proposal before it leaves the campus for external review by UT System and the THECB.
The documentation required to support a program proposal includes a list of the courses, with course descriptions, that will form the foundation of the program. Series 40307 of UT System Board of Regents’ Rules and Regulations  addresses UT System requirements for academic program approval and clearly indicates that a program proposal must appropriately address the higher education goals and mission of the state of Texas, UT System, and the institution; additionally, the regulation requires that the program “should be of excellent quality” and “exceed minimum standards” of the THECB. As a result, any program proposal going forward must show the linkage between the curriculum and the institutional mission and goals.
Chapter 5, Subchapter C, Section 5.45 of the THECB Rules  requires that the proposed baccalaureate or master’s level curriculum be “up-to-date and consistent with current educational theory” and that “professional programs and those resulting in licensure must be designed to meet the standards of appropriate regulatory bodies.” The same subchapter requires doctoral programs to have “a carefully planned and systematic program of study and a degree plan which is clear, comprehensive, and generally uniform but which permits sufficient flexibility to meet the legitimate professional interests and special needs of doctoral-level degree candidates. There should be a logical sequence of stages by which degree requirements shall be fulfilled. The plan should require both specialization and breadth of education, with rules for the distribution of study to achieve both, including interdisciplinary programs if indicated. The plan should include a research dissertation or equivalent requirements to be judged by the doctoral faculty on the basis of quality rather than length .” As such, THECB requires the curriculum under consideration be relevant, current, and needed within the community or region; proposals for doctoral programs require an evaluative visit by external peers to ensure further the quality of the program.
The Substantive Degree Program Proposal  submitted in 2005 for the materials science and engineering M.S. and Ph.D. program provides an excellent example of the proposal format and content. The executive summary (pages 2-3) details the need for the program in the region and the teaching and research areas the program will address (page 3). Page 5 of the proposal includes the educational objectives of the program. Item II-C (page 6) outlines the basic curriculum of the program and includes the required research element for doctoral students (page 8) and for master’s degree students (page 9). The curriculum, with course descriptions, differentiates core and advanced courses as well as specialized courses. The sequence of courses represents an increasing level of difficulty based on pre-requisites and, to a limited degree, actual course number (additional information about how the length of this new program is appropriate to the content is available in the response to Principle 4.4 [U404]). At UT Dallas, generally 5000- and 6000-level courses form the backbone of many master’s-level programs, and 7000- and 8000-level courses represent more advanced course work, including independent research. The response to Principle 3.6.1 [U341] contains additional information regarding progression in the graduate curriculum.
The Substantive Degree Program Proposal  submitted in 2004 for the bachelor of science in finance also illustrates many of the same principles as the program proposal in materials science and engineering; however, as appropriate for an undergraduate degree designed to train students for a career in business, this baccalaureate proposal demonstrates student outcomes more closely related to advanced education and to career advancement. Within the Executive Summary, the proposal notes that “Projections by the U.S. Department of Labor forecast the creation of more than 687,000 new jobs in the financial services sector between 2000 and 2010, a growth rate of nine percent. This projection may be conservative given changes in work force composition that are not reflected in the Department of Labor outlook. A recent article by Philipp Harper appearing on MSNBC’s MoneyCentral website, ‘Will your job move to India,’ notes that experts project that millions of U.S. jobs will be exported to India. However, these experts project that financial services will be a source of domestic employment growth. These trends are apparent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area .” The finance program’s connection to the 2004 university mission statement is clearly addressed on page 16 of the proposal: “The Mission Statement of The University of Texas at Dallas states that the strategic intent of the university is ‘To enhance the productivity of business and government with strategically designed, responsively executed programs of research, service, and education.’ As part of the strategic plan to accomplish this objective, the university intends to ‘Emphasize education and research in science and technology and in leadership and management…’ and to ‘Enhance programmatic quality and institutional balance while adhering to rigorous quality standards.’ The proposed B.S. in finance degree contributes to the mission of the university by enhancing the quality of the degree programs available to students interested in finance-related careers .”
Once a new academic program receives approval, it undergoes continuous evaluation through annual program review at the departmental level and through the formal academic program review process that requires all programs to be reviewed on a periodic cycle  (as also described in the responses to Principles 2.7.2 [U208] and 126.96.36.199 [U320]). The annual review occurs as a part of the ongoing assessment program in which faculty list program objectives and goals, measurement strategies and results, and plans for continuous improvement in UT Dallas’ web-based assessment tool, AT6. The 2006-07 annual review for the M.S. in materials science and engineering provides evidence that the program connects its objectives back to general education outcomes and institutional priorities. It also provides a summary of program strengths and weaknesses. Because the program has only recently begun, student outcomes do not yet exist; however, program outcomes do exist based on faculty productivity .
The assessment report for the B.S. in finance for the same period provides an example of how a serious program assessment can demonstrate a unit’s commitment to its program and curriculum. With 43 separate objectives or outcomes, this assessment reveals a focused approach to the program review, with specific elements measured across not only the entire program but also within individual courses . The cyclical academic program review with external evaluators goes beyond this effort and provides a broader view of the program. As an example, the section addressing the undergraduate program within the academic program review for physics provides a status report on the general nature of the undergraduate program and clearly delineates problems existing within the current program . The self-study provides the basis for review by the external reviewers and demonstrates the program faculty’s willingness to examine its own performance and curriculum development. For those programs receiving accreditation from professional organizations, such as the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET), the self-study and accreditation review may serve as a replacement for the academic program review. Additional information about professional accreditation is available in the response to Principle 188.8.131.52 [U320].
One overriding principle crosses the various academic programs, and thus curricula, at UT Dallas. The university builds its mission and vision upon an interdisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) model, and many of the curricular requirements within each program cross many disciplinary lines beyond the general education requirements. The strategic plan, “Creating the Future ,” outlines specific goals that require a high level of commitment to the curriculum and the academic programming UT Dallas offers its students and, thus, a direct and appropriate relationship between the programs, their curricula, and the institutional goals. Specifically, the plan states that UT Dallas aspires to be “a first-rank public research university with focused centers of excellence, prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing, technology-driven global society,” “a global force in innovative, transdisciplinary research and education in emerging areas of technology, science, and learning,” and “a ground-breaking leader in both framing and answering the questions faced by business, policy makers, healthcare, and the public.” To achieve these goals, the faculty and administration must continue to assess its curriculum and academic programs and certificate programs not only within AT6, but also by using curriculum mapping as is being developed in the QEP [U216] and in traditional faculty discussions.