Periodic review of academic programs is important for maintaining programmatic standards and comparing progress of programs relative to their peer institutions. Information on research productivity and some faculty metrics are available from various databases (Academic Analytics, 2013; Marchant et al., 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 2014). One challenge with these databases is that different institutions for a variety of reasons code similar degrees or professions under different classification of instructional programs [CIP codes (U.S. Department of Education, 2014)], which complicates accurate extraction of data for degree programs that cut across different CIP codes. For instance, just the CIP codes associated with nursery and greenhouse manager occupation titles are listed under several codes, including general agricultural business and management (01.0101), agribusiness/agricultural business operations (01.0102), ornamental horticulture (01.0603), greenhouse operations and management (01.1105), plant nursery operation and management (01.0606), horticultural sciences (01.1103), and plant protection and integrated pest management (01.1105). Even when research productivity and faculty demographics are compiled and extracted, quantitative information on programmatic effectiveness, program policies, program assessment, and student demographics are often less readily accessible.
Much information and assistance is available for conducting assessment programs and analyzing assessment data internally in general terms (Astin and Antonio, 2012) and to a more limited extent specifically for internal assessment of undergraduate horticulture programs (Duncan et al., 2008; Rom, 2004). External assessment data from industry and former students can also be useful in evaluating programmatic effectiveness (Beidler et al., 2006; Madewell et al., 2003; VanDerZanden and Reinert, 2009). External accreditation reviews are similar to internal assessment programs, but differ in that the emphasis of an accreditation review is on the education process rather than its outcomes (Nichols and Nichols, 2000). One challenge of preparing for an external accreditation review is the need for comparative data from peer programs, not only on demographics but also on policy issues. Specific information (Arnold et al., 2006) on the programmatic processes, admissions criteria, demographics, finances and metrics of evaluation of horticulture graduate programs is limited. Previous work (Arnold et al., 2006) found that racial/ethnic populations in horticulture graduate programs did not reflect the U.S. population as a whole, but no information was provided on trends or on racial/ethnic populations in the horticulture faculty ranks. Data from this work also indicated that graduate student and faculty salaries at NLG horticulture graduate programs lagged behind those at LG programs. Davies (2005) expressed concerns about a lack of teaching experience or training in LG horticulture graduate programs. Darnell and Cheek (2005) expressed concerns about the transfer of assistantship costs from institutional support to faculty-derived funds causing shifts of resource allocations from graduate assistantships to technicians or postdoctoral positions.
The purpose of this work was to gather information on programmatic processes, admissions criteria, demographics, finances, and metrics of evaluation specific to horticulture graduate programs, which might then be used for peer institution comparisons during program assessments, accreditation reviews, or for contextual background for strategic planning. Goals of this effort were to determine student demographics with regard to similar programs on a national basis, determine how a variety of programmatic requirements and procedures were used at each institution, determine the types of graduate programs and support provided to students by the various departments, determine how departments were financing students and what types of training they were providing, and to document demographics associated with the faculty at peer institutions. Also, these results would allow comparisons with previous data obtained in a 2005 survey of similar institutions (Arnold et al., 2006) to determine the extent of changes and identify potential trends likely as part of broader scale developments.
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