Theme 4

Investing in the Health Sciences

Act of Determination 3 -- Achieving More Favorable Student-to-Faculty Ratios in the Sciences

Nothing is more critical to supporting the health science initiative at Baylor than hiring faculty who can directly support and enhance the educational experience in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings. It is essential that Arts & Sciences STEM departments hire faculty who enhance departmental goals in support of the health and human sciences. Such faculty hires will not necessarily be clinicians, nor will they necessarily pursue research directly related to human health. These hires will include faculty who conduct work in topical areas applicable to human health issues and whose research interests are in basic and translational science fields such as genetics, biochemistry, nutrition, neuroscience, and cell and molecular biology. Furthermore, undergraduate and graduate student research experiences in these laboratories will equip students with skills directly related to their success as future scientists and practitioners in the health and human sciences.

Table 4.1 shows the teaching demand serviced by sciences, mathematics, and statistics departments in relation to number of faculty. Consequently, the number of student credit hours (SCH) per faculty FTE translates to many large classes, resulting in fewer-than-optimal student contact hours, fewer classroom-laboratory interactions, and limited modes of instruction (less oral and written communication than is desirable). Significantly, high major-to-faculty ratios occur in departments that encounter difficulties providing the number of quality research experiences that students expect. Such experiences are invaluable for success in admission into professional programs in medical, dental, and other health-related schools. Small major-to-faculty ratios identify departments likely having capacity to educate more majors; targeting recruitment effort toward these majors could reduce pressures on the heavily subscribed majors.

Table 4.1. Student Major-to-Faculty and Credit-Hour-to-Faculty Ratios for Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistical Science Departments at Baylor.

Table 4.1

Determination of student-to-faculty ratios is complex, and justification for increases in faculty numbers is based on an equally complex constellation of factors. However, proven best pedagogical practices, literature on retention and engagement, and comparison with peer and aspirant institutions show strong support for mounting a significant effort to reduce this ratio in the sciences at Baylor. Arts & Sciences has adopted a 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan (refer to Appendix 1B) and has already hired a Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Initiatives as initial steps in addressing these concerns. The enrollment management strategy will strive to shape the freshman class in ways that moderate the numbers of majors in traditional prehealth departments (Biology, Psychology and Neuroscience, Chemistry and Biochemistry) and to guide prehealth students to other science majors having capacity, as well as to majors in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Action Step:
  • The Dean’s Office and department chairs in the Arts & Sciences STEM departments will evaluate replacement and expansion hires anticipated in the coming decade, and by Fall 2014 will create a plan for hiring in support of the health sciences.