An Example of a Feasibility Report


MEMO

TO: Martin Fever, Head of Geology Department

FROM: Patricia Inoye

DATE: February 15, 1999

RE: Incorporating Business and Interpersonal Skills into Geology Dept.

The Geology Department must provide for a constantly expanding and changing field of study. Practicing geologists are increasingly called upon to collaborate with peers from different disciplines and to interact with the public.

How will our department prepare our students to meet the challenges facing working geologists? And particularly, how can we prepare our students to meet these challenges when we already must teach the fundamentals of geology in a four-year program?

As you will see in the enclosed report, we must ensure that our graduates will be prepared with business and interpersonal skills as they enter the work force. Specifically, I recommend that the department adopt a curriculum that integrates business and interpersonal skills into existing geology courses.



Executive Summary

The Geology Department must provide for a constantly expanding and changing field of study. Practicing geologists are increasingly called upon to collaborate with peers from different disciplines and to interact with the public (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1995).

How will our department prepare our students to meet the challenges facing working geologists? And particularly, how can we prepare our students to meet these challenges when we already must teach the fundamentals of geology in a four-year program?

In this report, I present three alternate methods for introducing business and interpersonal skills course work into the geology curriculum. Then I recommend that the department adopt a curriculum that integrates business and interpersonal skills into existing geology courses.

Problem

Geology is a rapidly expanding and changing field. Geologists are increasingly being asked to work collaboratively with other professionals such as chemists, biologists, legislators, and lawyers. Also, it is becoming increasingly common for geologists to be asked to give an opinion to the general public. To prepare CU geology students to work closely with other professionals and to communicate clearly with them, the Geology department must integrate business and interpersonal skills into the curriculum.

If the Geology department fails to modify its curriculum to provide for business and interpersonal skills training, its graduates will suffer in the work place. Currently, the top three Geology schools in the country (the University of Minnesota, Colorado School of Mines, and Montana State) are making plans to produce graduates who are well versed in theory, grounded in practical skills, and prepared to work collaboratively with other professionals and work with lay people.

These schools made a commitment to adding business and interpersonal skills training to their curriculum as the result of a year-long study of practicing geologists (Johnson, 1995). As these and other programs around the country are preparing their graduates in business and interpersonal skills, our graduates will gradually be missing more and more opportunities to get new jobs and perhaps to keep their current jobs. Our department needs to address this situation as soon as we can.

Criteria

The following criteria were formed out of the need for any program change to adhere to the strategic plan of the Geology Department, to be able to be implemented in the Geology Department's program guide, to be done in an acceptable amount of time, to be implemented under the control of the Geology Department, to not duplicate existing offerings, and to be acceptable to faculty and students.

Time

To be acceptable to students, any program change must insure that undergraduates can complete the program in what they perceive to be a short or at least a reasonable amount of time.

Effectiveness

To be acceptable to faculty and to meet the demands of our strategic plan and program guide, any program change must be effective in making graduating geologists more versatile in many different situations. The program change must also be able to be implemented with the resources the department can control. Also the program change cannot mimic an existing program of activity.

Desirability

To be acceptable to both students and faculty, they must sincerely want to implement it. The method selected must help to keep students interested and motivated in geology.

Method of Evaluating Solutions

Each possible solution was evaluated by how well it met the above criteria, the criteria provided in the Geology Department's strategic plan, and the criteria provided in Department's program guide.

Additionally, several faculty members and students were interviewed in order to gain a sense of the needs and concerns of the Department as well as its students.

Evaluating Solutions

Three solutions are most likely to help our department meet the needs of our students as they enter the work force:

  1. Create an Additional Semester.

    In this method, we would extend the four-year undergraduate curriculum to a four-and-one-half-year curriculum. Students who want to graduate in the traditional four-year window could take an extra summer semester. Alternately, students could take one additional semester.

    This method fails the time criterion, because it extends the time students spend on campus. While more and more students are going to school part-time and thus taking more years to finish, the students we surveyed said they would not want to devote an additional semester to their studies, nor would they want to pay for that additional semester.

    This method meets the Effectiveness criterion. The extra semester spent on campus would be devoted to making geologists more versatile in a variety of situations. Also, our department could implement the change to the curriculum, given the Regents' approval. Our relationship with the regents is very good right now, so we don't expect resistance from them.

    This method fails the desirability criterion. Students surveyed said they did not want to stay an extra semester.

  2. Contract with English and Business to Offer Specialized Interpersonal and Business "Distribution" Courses.

    This method meets the time criterion because students will not spend an additional semester on campus.

    On one hand, this method would seem to be highly effective because it would allow students to use existing electives to take business and interpersonal courses. By taking these courses, students would become more versatile and would be able to meet many of the communication challenges facing them on the job. However, this method would require the agreement and enthusiastic participation of the English and Business departments. I know that the English Department does not have enough faculty right now to staff their own offerings, and given the current budget situation, they probably wouldn't want to devote faculty to our courses.

    This method would be desirable. Faculty wouldn't have to develop special courses and students would still get the courses they need.

  3. Integrate Skills into Existing Courses.

    This method would meet the time criterion. It would be implemented within the existing four-year program, which would be acceptable to the students we surveyed.

    This method would meet the effectiveness criterion. It would allow students to use existing courses to gain business and interpersonal skills. Also, it would allow them to do it in the context of courses in their major, thus learning the discipline-specific types of communication they need on the job. While this method would require redesign of existing courses, the faculty I surveyed suggested they would welcome the opportunity to tailor their courses to emphasize communication skills. I should note that I did not survey all faculty, so some faculty members may not want to implement this method, but perhaps we could provide them with extra support they might need in redesigning their syllabi and curricula.

    This method would be desirable for both the students and faculty I surveyed. Both saw the need for this kind of education, and both were willing to participate in this kind of education.

Selecting the Best Solution

While there are probably feasible ways to implement both the Contract with Business and English, and the Integrate Skills into Existing Courses options, I recommend that the Geology Department is to integrate business and interpersonal skills into the existing courses. The advantages to this alternative are:

  1. There is no need for an increase in the number of credits.
  2. The communication skills would be taught in the context of geological issues.
  3. It would be desirable for both students and faculty surveyed.
  4. It would increase the quality of courses due to:

This solution best meets the criteria and is most in-line with the Geology Department's overall goals.

Recommendation

I recommend that the Geology Department consider integrating business and interpersonal skills into the curriculum. Such a move would improve the integrity of the Department as well as help better prepare students for careers after graduation.

Plan