Episode 93 - Innovation in Higher Education: Lessons Learned - The SUU Three Year Degree Program

President Scott L Wyatt and Steve Meredith talk with SUU’s Faculty Senate President Bill Heyborne about the Three Year Degree program. They discuss the initial concept, the ripple effect it had on campus - specifically among faculty members - and how authentic communication and using the brilliant minds available made the program setup a success.

Full Transcript

Steve Meredith: Hi again everyone, and welcome to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. I'm your host, Steve Meredith, and I'm joined in-studio today at a COVID friendly distance by President Wyatt. Scott, how are you?

Scott Wyatt: Terrific, thanks. I can see you out there.

Meredith: Yeah.

Wyatt: But I probably ought to get my eyes checked.

Meredith: We've both got our glasses and we're trying to find the sweet spot in the bifocals. [Both laugh]

Wyatt: Now, the bifocals, I don't need them.

Meredith: Oh, don't you?

Wyatt: You're far enough away that…

Meredith: OK. It's all over the top?

Wyatt: It's all over the top. [Both laugh]

Meredith: One of these days we're going to stop making a joke about how old we are, but by that time we'll be retired and then you won't have to listen to them anymore.

Wyatt: We'll keep making this joke as long as you remain older than me. [Laughs]

Meredith: Yeah, that's right. We will. [Both laugh] Well, President, this is a continuing run of podcasts that we've been doing about innovation. I think the title we've settled on is Innovation in Higher Education: Lessons Learned. And the idea is that we want to go back and visit some of the things that we've done previous podcasts about when they were brand new ideas that either we had and were implementing here on campus or others have had that we have talked about, and to visit with the people that were intimately involved with those things to discuss what happened, how it has succeeded, how hopefully it's made our student experience better or learning outcomes better or whatever the original innovation was supposed to do. But also, we've invited our guests to talk about things that either expectedly or unexpectedly were challenges. Things they might have done differently or they might have asked that we do differently. So, with that in mind, why don't you introduce our guest?

Wyatt: Yeah, it's a pleasure to introduce Dr. Bill Heyborne, one of our biology faculty members and also this year serving as the Faculty Senate President. Welcome to the show, Bill.

Dr. Bill Heyborne: Great, thanks. It's a pleasure to be here.

Wyatt: Biology is one of the most interesting subjects.

Heyborne: The most interesting, President. [All laugh]

Wyatt: Yeah, that's right. Well, without it we wouldn't be thinking about any of the other subjects. So…

Heyborne: That is true.

Wyatt: So, you've a point there.

Heyborne: That is true.

Wyatt: Well, let's talk…before we really jump into it though, why don't you…you're from a very large metropolitan area.

Heyborne: [Laughs] Yeah, population 3,500 or something when I grew up.

Wyatt: Yeah. Why don't you just introduce a little bit about your background?

Heyborne: Yeah, I'm actually a native of Cedar City. This is where I was born, this is where my dad grew up and my grandmother still lives just a few blocks from where we're seated today.

Wyatt: You have a grandmother that is still living?

Heyborne: I have a grandmother that's still alive, yeah. She's getting up there in years but…

Wyatt: Wow.

Heyborne: She's still with us.

Meredith: She must be tough.

Heyborne: Oh, Steve, she is super tough. [All laugh]

Meredith: Small town wives…

Heyborne: Born of this southern Utah pioneer stock, yeah, she is tough.

Wyatt: Well, that really makes a point of how much younger you are than me, because my youngest grandparent would be 121 this year. [Laughs]

Heyborne: Oh wow, wow.

Wyatt: If she was alive.

Heyborne: Well, my grandmother was a young mom. She was orphaned at a very young age and married early. So, she started really early. Times were different back then, so…

Wyatt: Kind of a frontier story.

Heyborne: Yeah, yeah. So, I think she was 40…no, she was 38 the year I was born. So…

Meredith: Wow.

Heyborne: Yeah. So, she was a young grandma too.

Meredith: Young grandma.

Heyborne: So, anyway, my dad grew up here in Cedar City and he was going to school here at what was then SUSC when I was born. But then they shortly moved to Kanab, which is where my mom grew up. So yeah, that's the metropolitan area you speak of.

Meredith: Are you a Kanab Cowboy?

Heyborne: A Kanab Cowboy.

Meredith: Alright.

Heyborne: And yeah. So, grew up in Kanab and graduated from Kanab High School and through a…I originally started my education at Utah State and through a whole series of changes in my life, I ended up transferring to SUU. And it was the greatest thing I ever did in terms of my undergraduate education. Had a really great experience here, was mentored by some real illustrious members of the SUU faculty—Jim Bowns and some of these folks who spent whole careers here at Southern Utah University—and got a degree here in biology. And didn't really know what I wanted to do but was convinced by Dean Winward, another member of the faculty who is still here, actually, to go on to graduate school. So, whenever I get frustrated with my career, I call up Dean and say, "This is all your fault." [All laugh] But I went elsewhere for graduate degrees and took another teaching job in another state and worked for a few years and then a job came open here at SUU and I didn't think I would ever return here, just didn't seem like it was going to be in the cards, but I came back here in 2011 and so, I'm in my 10th year here at SUU and it's been a real pleasure to be back on this campus that I know and love and be on the other side of the learning equation. While I enjoyed being a student here, it's even more fun being a faculty member.

Wyatt: Well, and you've actually…

Meredith: Especially during test week. [Laughs]

Heyborne: Especially during test week Steve, yeah.

Wyatt: Well, and as we talk about innovation, and we're going to talk about one particular innovation, but if I digress slightly for just a second, you've really actually done a lot of innovative stuff here.

Heyborne: Yeah, a fair amount.

Wyatt: In terms of the work that you've done with science education work with K-12 and you've got the most popular—at least for observers—the most popular club on campus.

Heyborne: We always have nearly a hundred members in that club so, yeah.

Wyatt: The Animal Ambassadors.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: So, if you go to a homecoming parade, not this year, but a normal homecoming parade, there's a bunch of students walking with every imaginable kind of animal…

Heyborne: Live critters.

Wyatt: That you don't see normally.

Heyborne: Yeah. We spent several hours over at East Elementary this morning talking to third graders about animal classification. So…

Wyatt: What did you take to show them?

Heyborne: We took a great big toad and a snake and a turtle and a lizard and this little South American rodent called a degu. So, we had a good time.

Meredith: I bet they loved that.

Heyborne: Oh my gosh, they go crazy. Unfortunately, because of COVID, normally we let the kids have some hands on and whatever and we can't do that now and it broke my heart watching these kids want to engage and we just…we couldn't do it. But it was still fun.

Wyatt: You know, if you get the right rodent, you can't find a cuter animal anywhere.

Heyborne: Right? We have a couple of chinchillas that we use for our outreach work and they don't get any cuter, President.

Wyatt: I know. They're just…they're amazing.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: Actually, my daughter, my youngest daughter has a rat and it's an adorable little pet. It doesn't have yellow eyes, but…I'm not a rat pet guy, but she's really having a great time with this rat.

Heyborne: Yeah. It's grown on you, huh?

Meredith: We're doing our part over here at the Bradshaw House. I regularly set the mouse traps here. [All laugh] That's kind of a problem with the mid-century houses. The mice have found it.

Heyborne: So, maybe I just need to bring a couple of my snake friends and turn them loose in here.

Meredith: I think that would be a good idea, actually.

Wyatt: Yeah, or you need a cat.

Meredith: Yeah, we need a barn cat for sure.

Wyatt: Well, let's talk about one of our recent innovations on campus, and that's the 3-Year bachelor's degree. So, this is the…this program is brand new. It kind of launched one year ago, but the first real impact would have been this past summer, because that's when we had the very first summer set of offerings. And Steve, you helped a lot with this program.

Meredith: I did.

Wyatt: And Bill, on your side from the Faculty Senate.

Meredith: President, why don't you talk about…because we in Cabinet had talked about it for a while, and it was always a question of whether or not we could get any sort of funding from the Legislature, is that right?

Wyatt: Yeah. So, if I describe the program in just a couple of sentences, it is: imagine a four year bachelor's degree, take the two last semesters away and insert them between the first and second year summer and the second and third year summer so that you can graduate in three years. But you've still done the same number of semesters, so it's the same basic work. And we had forwarded a proposal to the Legislature to fund this and it was all a pipe dream until…it's an interesting budget cycle for us because we get funding from the Legislature at the latter part of March that comes to us on the first day in July. So, if they fund a program or anything else, we have a very short leash or a very short amount of time from funding to when we're supposed to be spending. It would be nice if the funding all happened in November or something and we had six or seven months, but we have a very, very short timeframe. So, that's kind of that part. So, let's see. Where do we jump into this?

Meredith: Well, we got the Legislative funding, right?

Wyatt: We got the Legislative funding.

Meredith: In the 2019 session.

Wyatt: In fact, the request was for 2.8 million dollars and the money was almost exclusively for salaries for faculty to teach in the summer. And then, we were shocked on the last day of the session that not only did they fund us 2.8 million, but they funded us 3.8 million. And it was one of those unique moments in my life when I got a phone call from the Legislature saying, "Could you spend another million on this program? We really like it."

Meredith: And you initially said, "Nah." [All laugh]

Wyatt: Well, yeah. Yeah…I remember, as I look back on that, I remember thinking, "I've never experienced this before, but I do think I know the right answer."

Meredith: The correct answer is, "Uh-huh."

Wyatt: "Yeah, I think so." So, then we…if I do a really quick fast race, we ended up getting almost all of our programs worked into the three-year path, including every four and five star job, which means that the state has identified them as being high pay, high demand jobs. So, every one of those was worked into the program. But let's kind of back up and talk about some of the processes, what went well, what didn't go well. Where should we start?

Meredith: Wherever you say.

Wyatt: Umm…calendar.

Meredith: Yeah, that…actually, James Sage from our staff was sort of the one that was running that part of it. I was on the faculty and curriculum side of things, but James was running the…I'm trying to remember, was it 17 iterations or something? We had an enormous number.

Heyborne: The one that we just adopted, yeah, was 18-point-something.

Meredith: Yeah, people don't realize, I think, how important the academic calendar is to everything that the university does. There are things that we are bound by federal and state statute to do, there are things we are bound by our accreditors to do in terms of the number of days of instruction. And there's just this enormous thing that we never think about because it just usually runs in the background. But trying to change the academic calendar is…it's difficult.

Wyatt: It's far more complicated than it appears. And I think it's nice to start with calendar because I think that's a good example of a place where it could have gone better. And what I mean by that is the person who runs our calendar is James Sage, Dr. Sage, and I asked him to create some proposals of calendars. And, Bill, I think that the best way I could have done that would have been to say to the Faculty Senate, since they're the ones that are teaching, to say, "Why don't you make some proposals for the calendar?"

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: Instead of me making proposals.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: Why don't you talk about that?

Heyborne: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. After you approached me about participating in this podcast, I started thinking about the things that have gone well, the things that haven't gone so well, and as I thought about the things that haven't gone so well from the faculty perspective, I then started thinking, "Well, what is it that these things all have in common? Why did they not go so well?" And the place where I've landed is: faculty are creatures of habit. And I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all.

Meredith: Right, right.

Heyborne: Faculty are just creatures of habit, right? We have spent our lives in the academy, our adult lives in the academy, and for the most part, people have been drawn to this profession probably because they were successful navigating this world as undergraduates and were enamored with the culture and the lifestyle and the calendar, I mean, that's part of it, right? And so, whenever new things sort of come along that knock up against the status quo, that's a little scary to faculty because they are such creatures of habit. And I think both the 3-Year Degree and the little ancillary pieces, including the calendar and other things that I'm sure we'll get to, these are all things which change the status quo to some degree. And that's scary for faculty and it takes them some time to sort of think through it. Because that's how we're trained, right? We're trained to be critical thinkers and examine and criticize and find weaknesses in things. So, I think people have largely climbed on board, but it takes time, right? [All laugh] Which is different than the world that administrators frequently live in where…

Meredith: We don't have time.

Heyborne: You don't have time, yeah. And so, "Boom, boom, boom, let's make some change." Whereas faculty, they want to hear about the change, then they want to set up a committee to talk about the change, and then evaluate it for a few weeks and then get back together…and again, I'm not being derogatory here, I'm just…

Wyatt: No, no this is the culture that we're in.

Heyborne; This is the culture, right. And so, I think the calendar is a great example of that, right? So, James does exactly what you had asked him to do and puts together these proposals and then faculty just sort of have them brought to them and they're looking at these and they're thinking, "This changes everything." Right? And they didn't really have time to think about and digest the implications for those changes.

Wyatt: So, I'm going to do a little defense for you.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: You're describing faculty, but what you're really describing is people.

Heyborne: Yeah, truth.

Wyatt: If I go home and say to my wife, "Let's do this tonight," that's always the wrong thing to say, because it takes her a little while to process it, actually.

Heyborne: Right, right.

Wyatt: So, if I want to suggest something, I've found that the best way to do it is to say, "Hey, what do you think about this?" And then I let it sit for a day and then I come back the next day and will follow up on it.

Heyborne: Right, right.

Wyatt: And that's because she is a super organized, planning kind of personality. And that's awesome because it's really productive.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: And I think that's kind of similar to the faculty's view of the world.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: So, "Here's a thought. Think about it and then let's get back together."

Heyborne: Yeah, and I think…so, I think the initial approach was maybe wrong. Or short-sighted in terms of, "Hey James, make these calendars and share them with the faculty." And so, then the faculty are seeing them and they're thinking, "Oh my gosh, this means I have to change in this multitude of ways." Which is scary, right? In the end, though, I think we got to an OK place because I think everyone that was involved in that effort recognized, "This isn't going to work." Right? "If we're going to want faculty to buy in here in terms of dramatic changes to the academic calendar, we've got to get faculty together and let them talk through this." And so, that's what we ultimately ended up doing.

Wyatt: Yeah. And this is what impressed me and what I learned from this experience, and is that all I had to do was say to you and your committee in the Faculty Senate, "Whatever you want to do is fine." So, I was worried that with the short time and all of that, we needed to get this thing rolling fast. But you guys got a calendar put together as fast or faster than we had done without you and ours was a proposal to see what your reaction was. But you all recognized the timeframes, everything that needed to be done, and I was surprised to get a really good calendar back so fast. And so, what I learned was, is that those who care the most about something have to be in at the beginning, not reviewing proposals.

Heyborne: Agreed.

Wyatt: And had it not been this innovation…this innovation resulted in increased pay for faculty, so there was a personal incentive that motivated it. If there wasn't anything like that, then this whole thing might have just failed without bringing everybody in on the front end.

Heyborne: Oh yeah, yeah. Agreed, agreed. Yeah, I think that's a critical piece. And you've got to build in some time—it doesn't have to be a lot of time—but some time to allow those who are most impacted to think through it, talk through it, express concerns. Even if we can't satisfy all of those concerns, allowing people to voice them and be heard is critically important in this process.

Wyatt: Yeah. So, the calendar was a big issue and we got the calendar all…the proposal that came back from the Faculty Senate was an outstanding calendar and it works great. We made one little tweak.

Heyborne: Yeah, we had to tweak it a little bit.

Wyatt: But, as our Provost says, "There is nothing in higher education that is permanent." [All laugh]

Heyborne: True that.

Meredith: Yep.

Heyborne: True that.

Wyatt: So, the calendar works. So, the calendar works in such a way that students can take a full semester in the spring, a full semester in the summer, a full semester in the fall and there's a few weeks between each semester. I think the shortest one might be actually two.

Heyborne: Two weeks, mhmm.

Wyatt: And the longest one is I think four.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: That gives enough time for everybody to have a little bit of downtime. But when I say, "Everybody has a little bit of downtime," that's not accurate. It gives time for some that have been working hard to have a little downtime. And then there's others during those two to four week gaps that really have to ramp it up to get grades finished…

Meredith: Right.

Wyatt: And in and all of those things.

Heyborne: Yeah. It allows enough time to get the work done.

Wyatt: And the downtime for students, they had to have a small break. As does everybody.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: So, that was one of the issues. Another one was when I think of things that could have gone much better, I didn't anticipate this because I didn't know at the time. But we made some kind of an analogy—I did—to, "This is similar to what is done at BYU-Idaho."

Heyborne: [Laughs] I'm glad you brought this up so I didn't have to.

Wyatt: Yeah.

Meredith: You wish you'd never said that, don't you?

Wyatt: Well, yeah. I think there's a variety of things that that did. But one of them is, what we discovered is that while, as far as we understand, BYU-Idaho had gone to a calendar like this, they did things very different than we did. But everybody immediately drew all of the assumptions from BYU-Idaho as applying here.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: If they didn't apply immediately, they would eventually apply.

Meredith: And certainly, the most negative assumptions were discussed widely.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: And among the students, what that meant was, "Oh, you're going to assign me to come in the summer, in the fall, and I don't want to do that."

Meredith: Right.

Wyatt: And for the faculty, one of the assumptions was, "They said it was optional, but it really wasn't."

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: That's what happened at BYU-I. Yeah, they kind of forced the faculty in that.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: They said it was optional, and it was, and if you chose not to take the option then your salary got reduced.

Meredith: Yep.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: So, it really wasn't an optional thing. Anyway, those were the two things that come to my mind. What's your…?

Heyborne: Yeah, I was going to bring up the exact same concerns. I think the idea of a 3-Year Degree, when faculty were able to sit back and think about what this really meant for our student and the ability to complete a degree a year sooner and get out into the workforce, no one is opposed to that, right? I mean, faculty like that idea. They like the idea of facilitating completion more rapidly and yet not cutting anything out of the curriculum or anything because it's still a full eight semester. But yeah, those logistics of, "What does this mean for me as an individual faculty member? When am I going to have to be in the classroom? What does this mean for my scholarship and service and other areas of my contract?" All of those things were kind of up in the air and there was a lot of unsettled folks trying to understand what that was going to mean for them. And just as you've already indicated, it was articulated very clearly from the get-go, "Hey, this is going to be an optional thing for faculty. You can choose to participate in the summer semester or you can choose not to." And still, as has already been pointed out, faculty were sort of saying, "Yeah, sure." [All laugh] And some folks are still saying that a little bit because the…I don't want to say mandate, but the expectation is that the majority of our majors do have a three-year option. And so, if you're a faculty member who teaches a very specialized sort of course and there's no one else to teach that particular course, then…

Wyatt: The fear is, "Someday, I'm going to be forced to do this in the summer."

Heyborne: Yeah. Yeah, and so that fear still persists on campus.

Wyatt: This actually poses a really difficult challenge, the 3-Year Degree. Because what it means is that a student who chooses to go fall/spring, fall/spring, fall/spring, fall/spring can graduate in four years. But a student who chooses to go fall/spring/summer can graduate in three. And that means that all of these special courses have to be taught in such a way that you can complete it going summers and complete it not going summers.

Heyborne: Correct.

Wyatt: And that's not so hard in some majors, and it's really difficult in others.

Heyborne: Yeah. Yep, absolutely. And I think there, one of the other sort of fears in all of this is the language has been, "Hey, OK, you teach this specialized course, if you don't want to teach it then we'll find an adjunct or somebody who could potentially cover that course." But faculty are sort of territorial and if that's "your course," "your baby," right?

Wyatt: Mhmm. That's right.

Heyborne: Then it's sort of scary to think about somebody else kind of moving in on your territory and taking that over. And so, even though there is this other option, this other workaround, it still feels to a faculty member like they're going to have to teach summer at some point. So…

Meredith: Now, to be fair, we helped cushion that blow by tripling the salary in the summer. [All laugh]

Heyborne: Yes.

Meredith: I just want to point that out.

Heyborne: And that's a huge cushion, to borrow your language.

Meredith: And I don't mean to be facetious at all.

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: But we're helping people feel better…

Heyborne: Absolutely.

Meredith: About being trapped into that by helping with finances.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: Steve, you raise a good next issue on this 3-Year bachelor's degree thing, and that is the compensation. Because here's an area where I think I had assumptions on what would be good for compensation, but ultimately what we did was, we just said to the Faculty Senate, "Tell us what you want to do."

Meredith: Right. I think…I thought this was, and I don't say this because I was involved, actually Daniel Bishoff was probably the primary driver on this because of his role in the budget world, but I felt like we did that the way that we've been discussing having wished that we had done it with the calendar and other things. We immediately, recognizing that this would be a very difficult issue, that we asked right off the bat for input from Faculty Senate and they came to us with a recommendation and ours was different—lower—than theirs, and I think we kind of met in the middle at a fair pay rate.

Wyatt: Yeah.

Meredith: And we don't want to get into a great big budget discussion here, but regional universities in small towns don't compete salary-wise with a Research 1 university and major population center.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Meredith: And we know that some of our faculty were having to take summer jobs and do, you know, drive truck or work somewhere.

Wyatt: Go paint houses.

Meredith: Yeah, paint houses. We had at least a half a dozen faculty come to us and say, "This is changing my life for the better."

Heyborne: Mhmm, mhmm.

Meredith: But it was a…yeah. Any time you're talking about compensation, it's kind of a ticklish issue. Did you feel like that was handled fairly and well?

Heyborne: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I think you could go anywhere on campus and query any faculty member and say, "Hey, how do you think this was handled?" And I think they would all agree that it was handled very well. Yeah.

Meredith: And to a certain extent, they voted with their feet here. We ended up…initially—I think I'm the resident capitalist on the cabinet—I would point out that I thought we would have more than we would be able to handle eventually.

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: Because people would start to add up the numbers and go, "Oh, yeah, this would be dumb for me not to do this." And ultimately, that's what happened.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Meredith: We ended up with far more faculty enthusiasm and interest than we could actually fund.

Wyatt: Talk to us about the faculty side and how you discussed this, because I think there are some really neat points here to be made. But why don't you lead us out?

Heyborne: Yeah. So, I think early on in the discussions, faculty recognized, "Hey, this is going to have to be worth our time." And interestingly, one of the pieces that came up really early on was not just, "This needs to be beneficial for the full-time, tenure track folks, but what about our non-tenure track colleagues? What about our adjunct colleagues?" Because some of the discussions were, "Well, should there be differential pay rates? Whether you're part-time or whatever," and very clearly, the theme emerged, "No. Everybody should get the same rate." And I think that just speaks volumes about our faculty and the way that they care about one another and kind of look out for one another. And so, unfortunately, higher ed hasn't been kind to adjuncts, but this is a place where I think we've evened the playing field a little bit and we've provided a space for them to make a little more money.

Wyatt: Well, and I think there's a point here because what we did was, is we said to you and your committee that, "We have "X" amount of money, so how would you propose that we spend it?" And to say, "We want you to increase the salary of the adjuncts," who weren't participating in any of the committee work because they don't…

Heyborne: Right.

Wyatt: To say that, "We want you to apply this to them" was a decision to reduce the amount of money available for the full-time faculty.

Meredith: That's right.


Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: And the compensation was designed to motivate faculty to do this.

Heyborne: Correct.

Wyatt: But you didn't need the extra compensation to motivate the adjuncts, they were already doing it.

Heyborne: Mhmm, mhmm.

Wyatt: So, I thought that was one of the bright spots.

Meredith: It really was.

Heyborne: I would agree.

Meredith: Yeah, that decision by Faculty Senate was great and we were supportive of it from the very beginning.

Wyatt: There's more to this, and that is that there was quite a bit of discussion about, "We don't just want the maximum compensation, we want a quality program and we want a lot of students involved." And so, ultimately, there was a decision to save some of the money that could have been spent on compensation and spend it on certain student work.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: So that we would have a higher probability in the first years of having good, solid classes.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: With lots of students. And that was another example to me, I thought, of a pretty selfless sort of thing for the faculty.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: What strikes me, Bill, is that on the issues that were the most important to the faculty that the more administration walked away and said, "You tell us what you would like to propose," the better the solutions came, you know? It's true. The people that were the most directly impacted came out with great solutions. Both on calendar, on compensation, on getting help for students so that they would have more here in the classrooms.

Heyborne: That's a great point, President. I think in higher ed, we frequently forget that we have campuses full of brilliant people. [All laugh] Creative, problem-solving thinkers and I think administrators sometimes get so excited about a particular project or problem or whatever, they neglect to involve these people that are brilliant thinkers but also critical stakeholders. I don't know if any of your podcasts are going to be about the innovation group that we've kind of had rolling for the last year or so, but this kind of advisory body for you, problem-solving body for you that's comprised of faculty volunteers from around campus. "Hey, here's this problem, let's think about some creative solutions." And I think both the calendar and the salary are great examples of this. "Hey, here's our problem, here are our constraints, help us figure this out." And people came together to do that.

Wyatt: What are some of the other challenges? Can you think of another challenge?

Heyborne: Related to salary/calendar? Or the bigger…

Wyatt: The whole thing.

Heyborne: The whole thing.

Wyatt: Anything in the whole…I think one of the other issues here is, or was, "How do we ensure that the experience that's happening in the summer is equal to the experience in the fall or the spring?" And it was especially challenging coming out of our old model, where our old model was this very abbreviated, truncated summer semester of just a few weeks where everything had to be kind of hurried and rushed and there wasn't really this time for students to think and process and whatever. And so, I think it was a bit of a change for faculty in terms of how to think about summer semester, right? I mean, I don't know why it was such a challenge because we should have just been thinking about, "OK, let's replicate the experience that we're giving students during our normal semesters."

Meredith: Mhmm.

Heyborne: But that's not how everybody approached this initially. It was, "This is still summer semester," and "What does that mean?" And so, I think, again, it was just a place where we needed to readjust our thinking and have time to sit back and think through what this really meant and not get caught up in the labels that we put on things. "Yeah, this is a summer semester but it's very unlike the summer quarter" or whatever we called it, "Of years gone by."

Meredith: Well, and that's one of those places where being a creature of habit, as you suggested faculty are, is not in our best interest. We get used to certain calendar things…

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: And when you have to completely rethink, that takes a few minutes to say, "OK, so erase, erase, erase, erase. It's not going to be like it was in the past."

Heyborne: Exactly.

Meredith: And that's a challenge. It is.

Heyborne: Exactly. Yeah, and it just took some time and I think we're going to get better at that as we—I know we will, we'll master this as we move forward—but that was a challenge and one that we had to think through pretty carefully.

Wyatt: Another piece of this was, is that the departments and colleges all had to kind of come together and create these degree maps.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: For summer and for…you know, for the three-year and the four-year, to include or not include summer. And then one of the other things that was kind of an interesting piece of this was, is that because the calendar changed, the number of teaching days changed a little bit.

Heyborne: Mhmm.

Wyatt: And on top of that, we had a change in the degree map so that…it used to be that you could graduate from any program in four years, but now we're going to do it so that you can graduate in three years including summers. So, those were two jobs that had to be done and only could be done by faculty working on it. And I think, Steve…

Meredith: Yeah, we went from…

Wyatt: One of the interesting pieces of this was, is that we normally just say, "It's your job so get it done."

Meredith: Right.

Wyatt: But on this occasion, we worked out some compensation for everybody to do that work over the summer.

Meredith: Yeah, the calendar part going from 16 weeks to 15 weeks, we were able to offer some compensation for people because we knew it's a challenge to say to everybody, "You've got these five courses or however many you're teaching and you've got to shrink them by a week."

Heyborne: Yep.

Meredith: And that's…that's not without challenge, it's not without the need for really strategic thought about how you're going to get done in a shorter number of days what you used to take that longer time to do.

Heyborne: Right, right.

Meredith: And so, we thought it was entirely appropriate and right that faculty should be paid for that effort. And they were during the summer of 2019.

Heyborne: And it was very much appreciated, because it necessitated changing the online learning management system and what you presented there, in many cases it necessitated changing assignments because we are…we were losing some instructional days, so maybe some of the things you had been doing in the face-to-face environment needed to be moved to a more online environment. It required some creativity, and so that compensation was very justified and very appreciated.

Meredith: I actually thought it was maybe the best part of this whole part. I don't mean best in the way we handled it, I just mean I think it's a great idea for a university to just say periodically, "You know what, we're going to pay faculty this summer to redo their courses. Because as good as they are and as tight as they might be, everything can get better. The world may have changed, the method of delivery might have changed a little bit, the interactivity that you can…the experiential learning part of it. Whatever you think you could improve, let's pay you a little bit in the summer. And even though that was kind of an unintended consequence of this, I don't think everybody was expecting to get a little bit of extra money to rethink their courses, I think that's actually a great idea. I think a university would be well served to just every once in a while, go through and say, "Let's pay you for some summer time to rethink what you're doing."

Heyborne: Yeah. I totally agree with that.

Meredith: Yeah.

Heyborne: And it ties right into the situation where we are right now with COVID…

Meredith: Absolutely.

Heyborne: And the move that we had to make online, it was a "do or die" sort of scenario. [All laugh]

Meredith: That's right.

Heyborne: Maybe I shouldn't use that language, right? Where we're talking about a global pandemic. [All laugh]

Meredith: That's right.

Wyatt: You are the biologist. Life science.


Heyborne: It's one of those…

Meredith: But you're exactly right.

Heyborne: It's one of those things, right? Where we were forced into a situation where we had to make change.

Meredith: Right.

Heyborne: And I think it's been for the better.

Meredith: For sure.

Wyatt: Let's talk about that for just a second, because what's interesting is that when we were doing the 3-Year bachelor's degree, we had the ability to find some cash to compensate some for the extra work. When we moved into the pandemic and distant and remote learning, we didn't.

Meredith: We actually lost money.

Wyatt: Yeah. We had a significant budget cut from the state, we were worried about enrollments, we were refunding students for their housing costs and all that kind of stuff. And it seems to me that most people are willing to step up and put in the extra time, but it's easier to do—when there's no more money to do it—but it's easier if you feel like you're generally respected and that, when it's possible, you do get extra compensation, and so when it's not possible, it's, "Well, I get it. We're OK." Anyway, I want to know, Bill, what your thought is on that.

Heyborne: Oh, I totally agree.

Wyatt: It's capital.

Heyborne: Yes.

Meredith: Yeah.

Heyborne: I was going to say the exact same thing. You purchased some social capital with faculty because of those previous interactions. And so, yeah, when COVID came up then there was some good will and folks were more willing to pitch in. And, God forbid we have a pandemic every couple of years, but…

Meredith: I'm knocking on the desk.

Heyborne: Right? But that will work a time or two. [Laughs]

Wyatt: We're in a different environment because universities, public agencies, they don't…if you work for the Parks Service and the number of people that show up at the park doubles, you don't get a bonus for that.

Heyborne: Mhmm, mhmm.

Meredith: Right.

Wyatt: and the same thing is true with higher ed. You know, enrollments are up and that means everybody gets a bonus. That happens in the private sector, so everybody is all in on growth. But in a university setting, it's not always the case that everybody is in on growth.

Meredith: Because it just gives them more work and no additional pay.

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: Right.

Wyatt: Yeah.

Meredith: Yeah, I totally agree. I was going to say, I made the joke earlier about being a capitalist…I mean that in that very "small c" way. What you're doing is you are recognizing people and compensating them for their skill and talents and not expecting them to do something outside of their contractual obligation for free.

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: And that, very often we are not able to do that, as we were not able with COVID, but on those rare occasions when we are able to do it, we should. We should pay faculty, we should pay staff for extra work that we ask them to do.

Heyborne: Yeah, everybody wants to feel appreciated and valued…

Meredith: Respected, absolutely.

Heyborne: And respected.

Wyatt: Yeah, it's actually more…it seems like the recognition of respect for your time and your expertise and not taking advantage. It seems like it's more the communication that you're valued than it is about anything else.

Meredith: Yeah, because this is not…

Heyborne: Yeah. Yeah, I would agree.

Meredith: It's not life-changing money, really.

Wyatt: No.

Heyborne: No.

Meredith: It's respect money.

Heyborne: Yeah, yeah.

Meredith: I agree.

Heyborne: And let's sit on that communication piece for just a minute. You know, we talked about this a little bit at the beginning of the podcast, but I don't think we can overstate the value of frequent, authentic communication whenever you're trying to enact change in…especially in a culture that is so entrenched as higher education, right? And I think that there have been a multitude of examples over the last few years of really innovative things that have happened on our campus, and because the communication was late, faculty were really feeling left out and disregarded to some degree, and that has created some bad feelings and frankly, some distrust of administration, right? They sometimes approach me and say, "Well, what else is up their sleeve? What else do we not know about that's going to drop on us?" And in a time of tremendous innovation coupled with a global pandemic that has necessitated a lot of very rapid change, they're feeling tired. They're exhausted, frankly. Physically, emotionally, and so there's always this sense that something else is coming and that worries them. So, I'd just throw that out there as a caution that you can't overstate the value of good and frequent communication.

Wyatt: yeah. Early communication.

Heyborne: Early. Early, yeah.

Wyatt: When I was thinking about this and looking back at a whole series of things, Steve and Bill, I actually think I'm going to have this all figured out about the time I die. [All laugh]

Meredith: Yeah, you'll be good at this job by the time you're 65 or 66.

Wyatt: It's going to be such a waste to take…finally get everything learned and then I'm going to be popping prescriptions looking at the sunset, reading the comics.

Meredith: On the day before you die, you are going to walk up to the "C" on the mountain five times on that day.

Heyborne: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Meredith: That's all I've got to say. You're never going to be sitting on the front porch unless…

Wyatt: Well, I…

Meredith: You're just not that guy.

Wyatt: What I like about this discussion that we're having is that it's…this is what we should be doing at universities. This is exactly what we should be doing is having positive discussions about how to do things better and lessons learned and what are the mistakes. And sometimes it's hard to do that because we're all a little sensitive about stuff.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: But if we suggest that this is a place where people can come to learn, then we need to be a place where people come to learn. And that doesn't just mean students, that means everybody.

Heyborne: Yeah. Yep.

Wyatt: We're all on this thing. And I remember—I've told this story more than once, probably more than ten times—but at my last school, I asked a faculty member to do a lifetime sculpture of the founders of the school, two people. Life and…one and a quarter times. He was so excited to do it and he did a great job; it was his first ever one and a quarter lifetime bronze…

Meredith: Life size you mean?

Wyatt: One and a quarter life size bronze. And then after a while, he…because of that, he was able to get more jobs and he's done a whole bunch of them since then, but he told me a while ago, he said, "You know, I really wonder about the fact that this sculpture is on my own campus, it's the worst one I've done, it was the first one I did and it's the one that I have to look at all the time." And then he followed that up immediately with, "But that's perfect because every time I see it, I'm reminded about how much I've learned. And thank goodness that my first one isn't as good as my last one, because that would mean that I haven't been getting better." So, we should look at little mistakes or side steps or whatever positively because they show us what we're learning. That's the point of life, it's the point of university life. It's what Ph.D.'s do best. Learn, study.

Heyborne: Mhmm, mhmm.

Wyatt: What else have we learned from this? What would…while you're thinking, I'll make one small comment about the success of the program. All of our four and five star jobs are in. In fact, I don't remember the number, Steve, you might.

Meredith: I don't off the top of my head, I'm sorry.

Wyatt: It's like ¾ of all of the students could finish their degree in three years.

Meredith: Yeah. It's higher than that, I think it's about 82%.

Wyatt: Yeah. That has been accomplished. The first summer, which was this last one, our enrollments for summer were trending more than 100% up. It was really amazing.

Meredith: Yeah, before COVID hit, we…

Wyatt: Yeah, when COVID hit then it dropped, but we were still up.

Meredith: 30-something percent, I think.

Wyatt: But I think all of that…

Meredith: And that was delivered entirely remotely or online. I mean, we…I was shocked at the fact that we had as little melt in enrollment as we did to be honest.

Heyborne: Yeah, yeah.

Wyatt: For the first summer, with very limited publicity, very limited publicity, for the first summer for us to see summer enrollments more than double until COVID hit, I think foretells that this is going to be a popular program once everybody understands it and learns about it and prepares for it. Three or four years, it...I expect that we'll see that summer school will be almost as big as spring school. It'll never be quite as big because people generally graduate in spring. Any other thoughts, Bill or Steve?

Heyborne: You know, one other challenge that I was just thinking about that we still haven't solved entirely is just departmental instructional budgets and we're still not to the place where we need to be, because the assumption sort of was, "Hey look, we're going to still be serving the same number of students, they're just going to be assembled in a slightly different way." And so, we didn't do much to instructional budgets. We just assumed that we'd take a little bit from fall and spring because enrollments there might be down a little bit and move those to summer and whatever. But that's not what happened, and especially with the enrollment growth that we've seen here at SUU, we just saw new students come into these programs. And I think that going forward, that problem is just going to be compounded. And so, I think some place we're still falling short but we need to pay attention to is those instructional budgets and what does that mean for summer? How do we ensure that we've got the supplies and tools and resources that we need to, again, ensure that those students get the same sort of experience during the summer semester that they would during spring or fall.

Wyatt: Yeah. In the best case scenario in terms of leveling enrollments over the three semesters, the first four or five years is going to be busier.

Heyborne: Right.

Wyatt: Because you've still got everybody that came for fall and everybody that came for spring and then they'll stay for summer and then everybody…it takes three or four years for the group to start moving through quicker.

Heyborne: Yeah. Yeah.

Wyatt: One of the things that I am hopeful, but it won't be, again, for three or four years, is that we see a much more leveling of impact in the community and the campus so that the parking lots are used…if students are here one less fall, that means that there will be less crowding in the parking lots in fall and those kinds of things. But that's yet to be seen. I think we've decided that if half the students take advantage of the summer program, it will be a massive success. And it's pretty close to that this summer, actually.

Meredith: The good news about growth, and there's bad news too about growth, but the good news about growth is—and this is where we would look as a Cabinet for input from Faculty Senate—is that there is, in fact, additional tuition to be collected and so forth and it makes great sense to me that those additional funds, portions of them based on requests would go directly to departmental operating budgets. It makes perfect sense. Daniel and I—I mentioned Daniel Bishoff who was my partner in this process—we'd actually gone through and tried to figure out…we had an entire cadaver budget for summer for your area.

Heyborne: Mhmm, mhmm.

Meredith: For your area.

Heyborne: Yeah, it's an expensive thing.

Meredith; It is. And we tried to go through and see where the impact would be to departmental budgets for full summer operation. And when COVID came, it kind of wiped all that out.

Heyborne: Right.

Meredith: So, I'm hoping that as we head towards now summer of 2021, that we actually keep really great track of where those needs are. Because I think there will be enough funding there to help level that playing field so that the experience is very similar for summer students as it is to fall and spring students.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: Well, we could talk about all of the advantages of the program and all of that, but I don't think that we have enough time on this show.

Meredith: Yeah.

Wyatt: But it's been really enjoyable for me to talk about the lessons learned.

Meredith: And Bill's a brilliant guy. It's always great to have a guest on that's brilliant.

Heyborne: Thank you.

Wyatt: Well, you think brilliant. You haven't seen his brilliance. If you walk through the desert and randomly say, "What's that?" And he can answer correctly every time, that's when it becomes evident.

Meredith: That's pretty awesome.

Wyatt: Bill, I saw the weirdest bug. I need to figure out what it was.

Heyborne: Did you take a picture?

Wyatt: Yes.

Heyborne: OK. Let's take a look.

Wyatt: It's weird.

Heyborne: OK. As soon as we get offline, we'll do that.

Wyatt: If we could show it to our listening audience, then it would be something.

Heyborne: Yeah.

Wyatt: Not possible on a podcast.

Meredith: You've been listening to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. We've had as our guest in-studio today Bill Heyborne. He is our Faculty Senate President and a professor of biology here at SUU and master of all desert bugs, apparently. Bill, thanks for joining us.

Heyborne: Thanks, Steve. It's been a pleasure.

Meredith: And thanks to you, our listeners, for tuning in, we'll be back with another podcast soon. Bye bye.