The Department of Meteorology (now Atmospheric Sciences) at the University of Utah faced reductions in state funding in 2008 that reduced support for nontenured instructors at the same time that the faculty were becoming increasingly successful obtaining federally supported research grants. A faculty retreat and subsequent discussions led to substantive curriculum changes to modernize the curriculum, enhance course offerings for undergraduate and graduate students, and improve the overall efficiency of the academic program. Maintaining discipline standards and existing teaching loads were important constraints on these changes. Key features of the curriculum revisions for undergraduate majors included eliminating a very rigid course progression; shifting the emphasis from required courses to elective courses; offering many courses only every other year; and relying on half-semester short courses to survey subject areas rather than focusing in depth on fewer ones. The curriculum changes were evaluated through surveys and individual and focus group discussions of students and faculty. While the feedback suggests that the changes overall were beneficial, the transitional period during which the changes were implemented was difficult for faculty and students alike. Faculty members have opportunities now to adjust courses based on their experiences gained teaching these courses in their new format. The feedback from students and faculty suggests that building improved relationships and interactions among co-enrolled undergraduate and graduate students is the greatest need in order to improve the classroom learning environment.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/eugene_cordero/9/