Exploring Different Models: A Consortia Approach

Following the initial report of the Board of Trustees Chatham College for Women (CCW) Study Group in the summer of 2013, the Board impaneled an Undergraduate Steering Committee, consisting of Chatham faculty and administrators and a Faculty Reading Group consisting of all tenured faculty and chairs in CCW.

Answering the charge by the Board of Trustees that we explore different measures to expand undergraduate education and to grow enrollment, these two groups each met six times and held combined meetings twice since October 2013.

We studied the three models of consortia in MA, MN and CA, to which Smith, Mount Holyoke, St, Catherine, and Scripps belong. We explored the idea of creating an internal consortium that would allow us to provide undergraduate education to a broader range of students across CCW, College of Continuing Education & Professional Studies (CCPS), and Falk School of Sustainability (FSS), while still honoring and preserving CCW.

Note: CCW does have some men in the classroom because of the PCHE (Pittsburgh Council of Higher Education) collaboration among other Pittsburgh schools. This also allows CCW students to take classes at other Pittsburgh institutions.

Such internal consortium would allow us to maximize faculty expertise and capacity among the three colleges. We imagined introducing co-educational undergraduate education in CCPS that would serve mostly transfer and adult learners. This would require re-articulation of the identity of CCW as a women’s college because CCPS’s co-educational population would be spread in CCW classes.

We repeatedly asked ourselves: How do we preserve the identity of CCW despite male presence? The current college identity is expressed in the curriculum and co-curricular activities. Maintaining CCW as a women’s college would require us to continue the co-curriculum for women only. We brainstormed: What if we introduced co-education at the upper division, thus continuing the all women environment during their first year? What if we preserved the STEM classes for women while opening up all other classes to women and men? Why would men come when they were barred from residential and co-curricular life?

We eventually recognized the following limitations of the internal consortium model:

  1. In the case of the successful consortia in MA, MN, and CA, each partner has its faculty, a distinct undergraduate curriculum, and its own campus. These conditions do not exist at Chatham. The only undergraduate program that currently has a faculty who offers a wide range of courses and degrees is in CCW. FSS and CCPS offer specialized undergraduate programs supported by faculty experts within these disciplines.
  2. Consortia exist to enhance and supplement each partner’s curriculum, thus offering an environment of inclusion. However, the internal consortium would create an environment of exclusion in order to preserve the women only co-curricular life. This would be in odds with the womanist ethos of inclusivity.
  3. Through the internal consortium, we aspired to enroll co-educational transfer students and adult learners. However this aspiration wouldn’t generate the number that Chatham University needs in order to thrive; we must double undergraduate enrollment in the next five years to be able to survive economic downturns and the stiff competition with the numerous universities/colleges in our region.
  4. If we were to enroll undergraduate students in two separate colleges (CCW and CCPS), where should we place new degree programs? This is a very important question as we are designing degrees in alignment with the job market. To put them in CCW would limit enrollment as well as delivery modality, and to put them in CCPS would draw CCW’s students away. Offering them in both colleges would not be cost-effective, and in addition would create different curricula for the same degree because CCW’s culminating product is the tutorial while CCPS is the capstone.

Although the two working groups were not able to provide a direction that promises significant growth and the preservation of the Women’s College, their work, nevertheless, has generated many good ideas on how to make CCW a more attractive destination for transfer students and to support their retention.

  1. Sarah says:

    What I’m taking away from this is that even if CCW doesn’t go coed, it’s still really coed because the students from the coed school of sustainability will be taking the same classes. So CCW will be kind of 40% a women’s college.

  2. Kelly McKown says:

    Who were involved in these committees? Will any summary reports from these committees/study be available for public review? Can we see the information from the 3 colleges studied?

    Was there a cost/benefit analysis done? How much will it cost to make the college and campuses co-educational?

    What were the options that were studied for keeping the women’s college? If this is an enrollment issue, why is there no explanation of enrollment efforts so far and the plans for moving forward? Even if the college goes co-ed we’ve seen no explanation of how the college will be successfully re-marketed to a different, probably disinterested population?

    As always, more questions and very few answers. And until I get substantive answers, I cannot and will not support this.proposal.

  3. Nicole Hagan says:

    “…we must double undergraduate enrollment in the next five years to be able to survive economic downturns and the stiff competition with the numerous universities/colleges in our region.”

    If Chatham’s current enrollment number is 541 per earlier posts from administration on the Chatham Feedback blog (although the administration has yet to provide proof of this number versus others, such as the Middle States Accreditation in November 2012 that cites 922), that means that CCW is 259 young women away from the lower bound of the 800-1000 critical mass cited in Dr. Barazzone’s reflections. That is far below a “doubling” that would be required as cited in the current blog post. Perhaps if the administration focused more efforts on increasing its current 72% retention rate, the number of students that continue past their first year would increase the number of current students enrolled to achieve a critical mass. Additionally, if Chatham is having difficulty recruiting and retaining female students at CCW, how does the administration propose that a transition to co-ed would entice male students of the same caliber as your current students to enroll and continue to stay enrolled at CCW? If the competition is already “stiff” and you are unable to recruit, how do you propose you will attract male students from the area?

  4. Marisa says:

    I’m confused— The Undergraduate Steering Committee and the Faculty Reading Group looked at the Five Colleges Consortium (in MA-Smith, Holyoke are members) The Scripps and Claremont College Consortium (in CA) and what I could only find as the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Colleges Student Exchange Program (of which St. Catherine’s is one)—-all of which rely on using external but frequently geographically/or mission linked institutions to amplify and expand the home college offerings. What they suggested after studying these was “the idea of creating an internal consortium”- a model that none of the consortia employed. Usually, when one tries to create something, one looks for existing models that are at least approximations of what they are hoping to create.

    When I was a student at Chatham we had something that would be described as a loose consortium- students at all Pittsburgh Colleges were allowed to cross register at other schools- I took classes through this and remember having students from other colleges in my classes. If a consortium approach were being seriously considered as an option at all, research would have been made publicly available to Chatham constituents about the work done attempting to create a consortium within Pittsburgh (linked by geographic location). Certainly, with all Chatham has to offer with it’s Eden Hall Campus, and work in sustainability it would be attractive to students participating in a consortium approach.

    I fail to see how an internal consortium looks anything like the models of consortia studied. Surely t

  5. Marisa says:

    Oh, and Chatham is already part of a consortium: http://www.pchepa.org/

  6. Amber Keefer says:

    One of the reasons I attended Chatham was because of the consortium with the other Pittsburgh colleges and universities. Why time was spent researching an opportunity that already exists astounds me. In addition to the external consortium with PCHE, there is certainly already relationship between the graduate school and the undergraduate school. Over ten years ago, my husband (MAT ’03) took pre-requisite classes he did not have from his Washington & Jefferson BA degree via the undergraduate offerings at Chatham. Again, why did a committee have to explore an already exisiting opportuniy? More importantly, why did a committee take two existing programs and deem that they had “limitations” and basically, not worth pursuing as far as efforts to maintain the undergraduate women’s college?
    If students in both schools were advised correctly, this internal and external “consortia” would already be proving its worth. Additional tuition dollars from grad students who would potentially take care of missing pre-reqs right at Chatham while provisionally admitted into their respective program, rather than taking the credits at a different (perhaps cheaper) institution first. And a fantastic retention tool for undergraduate women who want offerings beyond what Chatham is able to offer, or a mixed classroom, or a larger university experience with the support of the Chatham “bubble”.
    A very easy way to maintain the identity of the women’s college? Only degree-seeking students may be women. Sections of classes required in the general education requirements would be open to women-only. The practice that already exists of allowing cross-registering students of PCHE or graduate students needing pre-requisites continues. Again, these are practices that already exist, but are not utilized / managed effectively.

  7. Linda Monville says:

    Chatham’s Gateway Program was the major reason that I attended and graduated from Chatham. As an older student I was able to complete my education after a break of almost 30 years.
    Chatham is an excellent educational institution and will continue to educate its students as a co-educational university.. Quality education for its students, be they female and/or male, will always be the main objective of the faculty and staff of Chatham University.

  8. Sarah says:

    Yes, it might be better to look at Barnard, which is a women’s college that is part of Columbia University but still mostly independent. The colleges and universities listed in this post are like each other but not like Chatham. It’s apples and oranges.

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