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Guys and Dolls

Morningside College students strike a pose from a scene from the play "Guys and Dolls" during rehearsal at the Klinger-Neal Theatre in 2013. Morningside, starting this year, will phase out several academic programs with low student numbers, including theatre majors and minors.

SIOUX CITY | Big changes are at hand at Morningside College, with plans to eliminate some degree programs and add some new initiatives.

Morningside's governing body this fall also will consider changing the school's name from a college to a university.

In a recent letter to alumni, President John Reynders detailed plans to phase out majors or minors in subject areas, including music, theater, physics and philosophy.

The programs, all of which have few students, were targeted for elimination following an extensive evaluation of all 135 academic programs by a special task force, college officials said. The reductions are projected to save $1 million per year by cutting 12 faculty positions.  At the same time, a dozen administrative positions will be cut to save an additional $1.5 million, amid some other efficiencies. Most of the eliminated posts are open, as a result of resignations or retirements, and will not be filled.

Some faculty positions will be retained temporarily to allow existing students to complete their degrees. Students have until Oct. 13 to exercise that option. Morningside College Provost William Deeds said his office will then develop "teach-out plans" for each program.

"With regard to the academic programs that are being phased out, any currently enrolled students, including our new first year students, who have just started at Morningside, can elect and will be able to complete any of these programs," Deeds told the Journal Thursday. "How long it will take to finish the teach-out will be a function of the number of students electing the programs and other factors. Some teach-outs will take until spring 2021, but others may be able to be concluded earlier than that."

The list of programs being phased out includes major degrees in Animation and Video Game Development, Applied American Studies, Dance Management, Engineering Physics, Engineering Science, Music Performance, Philosophy, Physics, Physics Teaching, Public History, Theatre and Theatre Management. Some minors in those fields also will be dropped.

Deeds noted that some feedback from alumni included specific questions about the music and theater programs.

"In phasing out the single degree program in Music Performance, we are not eliminating the major in music or in music education," Deeds said. "Our students can continue to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Music or a Bachelor of Music Education degree.  Also, we will continue to have choral and instrumental music concerts, as well as performances in musical theatre on campus.  We think that such performances greatly enrich campus life."

Some of the savings from eliminating programs will be plowed into new initiatives, Reynders said, such a new tracks in Agricultural Education, graduate-level coursework, a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and investigating the possibility of adding a cyber security track in computer science and a data analytics program.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the college also will add an associate vice president for institutional marketing, hire a head cheer coach, increase the pool of faculty funds for faculty development and generate a plan to distribute a portion of those funds based on merit and "reimagine" the roles of Career Services and Alumni Relations.

Reynders said all the changes must acknowledge how best to serve students in a changing world.

"When we started the strategic prioritization project about a year ago, I told faculty and staff that the process was about redirecting the college's resources - not just to adapt to change, but to get out in front of change. That's exactly what the actions I have shared with you are designed to do," Reynders wrote. "Fortunately, we are able to make these changes from a position of financial strength, not weakness. We are able to invest so that Morningside College can continue to evolve and thrive in the years ahead."

In October, Reynders said he will present to the Board of Trustees a proposal to form a task force that is charged with studying a change in the name to Morningside University, effective in 2019, timed for the 125th anniversary of Morningside's founding. The president said the name change "is intended to better reflect what Morningside College has become and will be in the future."

Some other private colleges in Siouxland have transitioned from a college to a university in recent years, including Morningside's crosstown rival, Briar Cliff University, and Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.


County and education reporter

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