YSU Shifting Focus in Programs, Faculty

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – About 13 Youngstown State University faculty will be offered voluntary separation and a retirement program in the Dana School of Music, studio arts and geography while the university looks to boost its faculty ranks in STEM and health and human services.

The bachelor of arts in music, bachelor of music in composition, master of music in composition and master of music in jazz studies at Dana, arts education and geography will be eliminated after this academic year. Those programs see low enrollment and low graduation rates.

On the other hand, the university is investing in faculty in other disciplines with high enrollment and graduation rates in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services.

Jennifer Pintar, vice provost, said Dana includes 20 faculty members, and in 2021 and 2022, there were only 21 graduates. The four Dana majors being eliminated have had fewer than 12 graduates over the past five years.

“This past year, we had 23 graduates from the undergrad program and eight graduates from the graduate” program, she said. “It’s not an anomaly. We’re going between 21 and 31. We have way more faculty in those programs than we can really be accountable to ourselves, to the state and to our students.”

Studio arts is another major with a large number of faculty and few graduates, Pintar said.

“What we’re looking to do is really bolster the graphic and interactive design program and take a hard look at how we can do the same thing, restructuring the curriculum, and do a reorganization,” she said. “We can’t sustain the number of faculty we have in that program, so there will be some faculty loss within studio arts.”

Other Programs

Interdisciplinary studio arts is being revamped, but the digital media photography program hasn’t seen high numbers. Art education also is being cut because of low enrollment and graduation rates.

Geography includes four faculty, and one student graduated last year with a geography degree. YSU has never had more than six students graduate with a geography degree each of the past four years.

Geography had 11 students for the fall 2023 semester.

“When you take a look at nursing, we had 814 students in the nursing program,” Pintar said. “We have 155 students graduating every semester, and you only have 22 faculty.”

YSU will keep some geography faculty but not the major. That reduces the upper division courses while the lower division courses, which teacher education students often take, are maintained. Meteorology, which is online and popular with students, also will be maintained.

There are 12 biology faculty, for example, with more than 400 majors. And in exercise science, the university recently hired a third faculty working with 340 majors.

“They’re having 60, 70 majors in a semester,” Pintar said. “We can’t continue to do that and not look at the Dana School of Music with 20 faculty and between 21 and 31 graduates.”

The majors aren’t highly populated, and many students aren’t retained.

“We’re not going to continue to have programs where there are a lot of students, but not a lot of students graduate,” Pintar said. “You know what that means. These students are leaving college, or they’re going to another program and they’re spending more money.”

If they’re leaving college without a degree, YSU has done them a disservice, she said.

“We’re taking a look at our programs and getting rid of the ones where we don’t have a lot of students and don’t have a lot of graduates,” Pintar said.

Music performance graduate and undergraduate programs aren’t being cut. They’re among 12 programs with low enrollment and low numbers of graduates that the university will work with faculty and administrators to improve the curriculum.

“We do not have a lot of graduates in these programs over the years,” Pintar said of music performance. “Something different has to be done. If we continue to do the same thing expecting different results, that’s not going to happen.”

Dana Reorganization

After the four Dana majors are eliminated this year, the school will be reorganized.

Joseph Carucci, director of the Dana School of Music and University Theatre, said that by retaining the music performance degree, the school will maintain its essence and brand.

“Will there be changes? Yes,” he said. “Although we’re disappointed to lose our music composition and jazz studies degrees, there are a lot of opportunities still to compose, to hear your music performed and to play jazz music at the Dana School.”

The school is retaining its bachelor of music education, its online music education and its audio music production degree.

“These [and music performance] are really the substantial degrees in Dana that stand for who we are. Will we look different? Yes. But I think we will retain the strength of Dana.”

Pintar said improvements must be made to low enrollment programs to make them distinctive and make students want to come to YSU.

The state is looking at low enrolled, duplicative programs, and if YSU doesn’t do something, the state will tell the university what to do, the vice provost said.

“There are some ideas that are floating around about how to make the program distinctive,” she said. “The decisions that are made based on that are going to determine what expertise we need to hold onto and what expertise, when you have 20 faculty and 21 to 31 graduates, what faculty we’re going to have to let go of.”

Pintar said it’s not a comfortable time, and YSU understands that it impacts some faculty members’ livelihoods.

“This isn’t easy for anybody involved, but we have to be good stewards of the state. We have to be good stewards of the institution, and we have to be good stewards of our students,” she said.

Reviewing Programs

The review has been in process for more than three years, Pintar said.

During summer 2020, university administrators sat down with the Academic Program Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative.

“We have sat down with faculty, with the chairs, with the deans,” Pintar said. “We’ve gone over scorecards and dashboards.”

Those meetings involved various departments and an external evaluation company, Gray Associates, to review data including figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unlike some other fields where faculty can be moved from one subject area to another, the expertise of faculty in music performance is in their instrument. They can’t be moved from that instrument to another.

The reorganization details are being discussed with faculty, but an example is potentially reducing the credits in a music performance bachelor’s degree and making room for a minor or a certificate.

“By doing that, we’ve then added additional skills that will greatly benefit those graduates as they live their lives as professional musicians,” Carucci said. “That reduction in credits adds some value and strength to our curriculum.”

Innovating Programs

Phyllis Paul, dean of the YSU Cliffe College of Creative Arts, said Carucci and the faculty have been working to innovate their programs.

“I can’t say I’m any less disappointed than Joe [Carucci],” she said. “I’m disappointed. It’s never easy to lose a program, but the provost’s office has given us an opportunity to even further innovate those degrees they’ve already been working to do. So not only will you have a distinctiveness, but the innovation to come out of this will play into that distinctiveness.”

All of the community initiatives at Dana will remain intact, including the YSU Youth Orchestra, YSU Marching Band, the summer camp and professional development for public school music educators.

Paul said music education is Dana’s largest program.

“We are open for our business,” Paul said. Students “will be getting a comprehensive program, an innovative program of study. They’ll still be getting the robust performance opportunities they’ve had. Dana will continue to be a central part of this area’s arts and cultural community.”

STEM in Demand

YSU is hiring full-time, tenure-track faculty and lecturer positions – however, at the STEM College and Bitonte. There are positions for 16 faculty members.

Wim F.A. Steelant, STEM College dean, said demand is high for any STEM degree.

There’s a workforce shortage in engineering technology, engineering, computer science, information technology and data analytics, he said. 

“Our students, at this point, pretty much have a job landed before they even graduate or walk off the stage with their diploma,” Steelant said. 

He said he’s been working with faculty over the past eight years to align curriculum with market demand.

“In 2022, we had 23 graduate students in the master’s in computer science and information systems,” Steelant said. 

That’s pretty low and difficult to sustain for a master’s degree program, he said.

“Two years later, we have an enrollment of close to 400 students just in that one program,” the STEM dean said. 

YSU doesn’t have enough faculty in computer science. The undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science and IT are more than 700 majors. There are seven faculty. 

About 150 new students are expected in those majors for the spring semester.

“I predict another 400 coming into the program coming in August,” Steelant said. “I cannot do it with seven faculty.”

Health Care

It’s a similar situation at Bitonte.

“Health care is everywhere, and we are a massively growing college,” said Sara Michaliszyn, Bitonte associate dean. 

Respiratory care and nursing are among those growing areas. YSU offers an associate’s degree in nursing through a doctorate in nursing.

About 815 students are enrolled in nursing with about 20 faculty.

“We are hiring some faculty, but not enough,” Michaliszyn said. 

Twenty sounds like a lot, but those 815 students are in five different programs and different tracks within those programs, she said. 

Programs within Bitonte, including nursing, involve more than lectures. 

By accreditation requirements, some courses involve work in hospitals. For patient safety, faculty aren’t allowed to have more than eight students with them, the associate dean said. That requires more faculty.

There’s also a nationwide shortage of nursing faculty. When the university doesn’t have enough full-time faculty, it relies on part-time instructors. But those part-time people have full-time jobs, and there’s high turnover.

“That creates pedagogical issues,” Michaliszyn said. “That creates curriculum drift where we’re handing them the syllabi – and the curriculum that was previously taught in the course, it starts to be drifting away from what is supposed to be taught. That is not good for accreditation for any of our health care programs.”

Respiratory care has about 90 students, including online. There are two faculty with three different curricula: a bachelor’s; an online completer, for people who already have an associate’s degree; and a master’s degree.

“Our program is really starting to get a lot of pickup because we have a simulated respiratory care lab now,” Michaliszyn said. “We’re one of the first in the United States that is able to do this online …”

The college is looking to grow that, but there’s fear when you only have two faculty that they won’t be able to teach both undergraduate and graduate courses

Dec. 7, 2024: YSU Dana School Isn’t Closing but Some Majors Are Ending, University Says

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