Chancellor Black talks Program Prioritization

The University of Minnesota Duluth issues grades to thousands of students each semester, but rarely does the institution grade itself. The time has come to do just that in the form of Program Prioritization, a process in which every program, service and department will complete self-evaluations. The purpose of Program Prioritization is to help guide decisions to keep UMD relevant and sustainable while maintaining the high quality of education that our students expect and deserve.

Worldwide, higher education has changed, and UMD needs to evolve rather than be left behind. Demographics are shifting. Industries and workforce needs are constantly changing. At the same time, the funding model for public education has shifted dramatically.

As Chancellor of UMD, I feel it’s our obligation to be responsible stewards of students’, donors’ and taxpayers’ money, as we provide an exemplary education to our students.

There are many things we do well at UMD, but we can always improve. Most likely, there are things that we should stop doing as we add new programs and activities that best meet the needs of our students. Program Prioritization is simply one tool to guide us.

We are asking ourselves questions such as:

How does a program or service align with UMD’s strategic plan goals? What kind of internal and external demand exists for the program or service? How does the quality of a program or service compare to peer institutions? The matrices for both academic programs and administrative and service units can be found online at

The thought of going through the exercise has naturally prompted some concern and uncertainty within the UMD campus community. Contrary to misinformation that has circulated, Program Prioritization is not a top-down process. It’s quite the opposite. It’s inclusive, grassroots problem solving. Many voices will be heard. In addition, this Program Prioritization is not only focused on cutting budgets. This process will also help us determine which programs need additional resources. We will continue to invest in new programs or fortify programs in areas of particular strength, or where we have a unique niche, or where student demand is great.

We face budget challenges and have to stop spending more money than we are taking in at UMD. In addition, last fiscal year, UMD reduced administrative costs, a shift of over $1 million from administrative and support functions to faculty positions. UMD will continue to look for ways to improve the efficiency of support services. Program Prioritization is a tool to guide sound decision making versus arbitrarily implementing across-the-board percentage cuts.

The status quo cannot be maintained. To best meet the needs of our students, we must evolve, enhance, and improve. I encourage the campus community to get involved and to withhold judgment on the process. Working together, we can and will find collaborative, creative solutions that position UMD students for increased success for decades to come.

Chancellor Lendley Black

Talking nerdy: Saturday morning cartoons

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