Hiring more faculty and providing the latest technologies for labs are two top priorities of Kansas University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as officials scrutinize all department programs and goals.
The university is in the midst of a review of all its academic programs, mandated by the Kansas Board of Regents.
"The real purpose of the process is to help us redeploy new resources," said James Muyskens, dean of the college. "We have to look at what areas will be crucial."
The study of foreign languages is becoming more popular and may require more instructors, Muyskens said, especially for Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese.
"People now understand we're living in a global village. Even if you're going into business, you'll want to take a foreign language," Muyskens said.
"If someone had said to me two years ago that there would be no Soviet Union, there's no way I would have known that," he said. "Now the Ukraine is extremely important. Now we have to offer Ukraine."
On the flip side of the coin, other language departments may need to tighten their belts.
"A German department like we had in the 1940s and '50s isn't needed anymore," he said.
THE COLLEGE is the largest academic unit at the university. About 15,000 students or about half of KU's students are majoring in a subject under the college's umbrella of more than 50 departments.
"That's what many people don't understand about the college," Muyskens said. "It's big. We have some departments bigger than most of the other schools."
One way of supplying the demand for instructors is to hire graduate teaching assistants. "You get more bang for your buck," Muyskens said.
However, the college also needs quality instruction and supervision. "You're looking to get the right kind of balance," Muyskens said.
Another instructional issue is recruiting professors. It's not a simple task. The college has been trying for two years to recruit a top-notch Japanese history professor, and always ends up losing out to another school, Muyskens said.
Another goal of the college has been to increase interest in the sciences. Biological sciences are becoming popular again, but Muyskens said he can't take all the credit.
"The way the economy is, it's going to be harder to find a job. Job prospects look better in the sciences," he said.
TO INCREASE the popularity of the sciences, department heads are trying to make basic science courses easier to swallow and more layman-friendly.
"The tradition was to have a bad experience in your first science class," which puts off many students, Muyskens said. "Now I think some students are finding their first course to be more positive."
Officials also are bringing high school students into labs to get a taste for the sciences.
However, KU students in the sciences must deal with less than state-of-the-art equipment.
"We kind of feel like we're at a crisis as far as getting new equipment for labs. Some of the students had better equipment in high school," said Muyskens.
Another continuing goal of the department is to help faculty apply for grants for research, Muyskens said.
"KU is falling farther and farther down in terms of research grants we're pulling into the university," he said. "We're working very hard to promote the writing of grants across the disciplines."