How to write a proposal for new course or program

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THE PERFECT RÉSUMÉ—Be sure to pay attention to detail when crafting the perfect résumé. Employers won’t think twice about throwing it away if it isn’t prepared with care. Jackie Jahfetson/NW

Jessica Parsons

Writing proposals don’t need to be as complicated as some make them out to be. They take a lot of time to prepare for, and the writing process itself is a whole new ball game. But a lot of people don’t know that the opportunity to write and submit a proposal to, say, add a new major or a new course to NMU, is right at their fingertips. (This article will choose to focus on adding a new major to NMU.) This guide will provide you all the tools and information you need to get your thoughts and ideas flowing and build confidence to turn in your masterpiece.

Why should I write a proposal?

Whether you’re serious and passionate about adding a new major to NMU, or you just want the practice writing and turn in a piece for experience, proposals are excellent documents to include in your portfolio to show your work and what you’ve done, regardless of acceptance. 

How do I get started?

The first step is to do your research. Who are you submitting to? What are the guidelines? How long should the proposal be? Are proposals even being accepted at this time? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when you have an idea pop in your head. It would be a shame if you’ve spent a ton of time writing something you’re proud of only to later realize it doesn’t meet the guidelines.

Let’s take our example of adding a new major. Does it add up to the amount of credit hours necessary for its degree? Does it make sense next to other related majors in its department? Again, these are important questions to ask yourself before the writing process. 

Think of it as a reality; if it were already a major, would other people who want a similar career outcome as you consider changing over to this new program you created? Why or why not? What about the professors and faculty? What will this cost the school, if anything extra? Remember, money can be a huge deciding factor. So rest your case with mutual benefit for both the school and the student.

Speaking of the school’s benefit, let’s compare this new major to other universities around NMU and Michigan in general; will this idea make NMU unique, and increase the enrollment rate? Will this new major successfully compete with our neighbor Lake Superior State University, or our rival Michigan Tech? Check out their programs. What do they have that’s working that you can compare to your idea? Don’t be afraid to contact them about it. Yes, even as a Wildcat. Essentially, you want your idea to fit in, while also standing out. 

What are the guidelines and where can I find them?

The source you’re going to want to look at is the Committee on Undergraduate Programs (CUP). They are responsible for matters relating to courses and curricula for undergraduates.

“This committee reviews proposals for new courses and programs, for changes in program requirements, for modifications of courses, for changes in departmental names and for deletion of courses and programs,” according to CUP’s mission. 

So while our focus here is about adding a new major, there are a variety of other things you could write a proposal on as well.

A link is provided for specific guidelines on their page on NMU’s website. This includes the deadline, instructions, correspondence and a list of official forms. The one you need for this example is called “New Program Proposal Form.”

When clicked on, a form will show up, available to download, edit and print. All the questions you need to answer are already listed right there for you to fill out. A few things you’ll need to fill out include things like a title for your program, description, degree requirements and a typical four-year sequence. Look this stuff over before you start filling it out. 

What should I consider before submitting my proposal?

After filling it out, ask those around you what they think of your idea, like students, professors or the Associated Students of NMU (ASNMU). 

ASNMU works with the CUP on academic proposals, ASNMU President Cody Mayer said. Proposals can even be brought to ASNMU and they will then be submitted to the CUP.

Use ASNMU as a resource to boost the confidence in submitting your proposal. They’re available to help and work with you to ensure your piece is the best it can be.

Be honest with yourself; if your program isn’t going to work, don’t follow through with it unless you’re confident. Maybe you could start smaller and submit a proposal for a course, not a program. Or maybe there’s something you don’t like about your major. This is your chance to have you voice and ideas heard.

Q & A with Committee on Undergraduate Programs Chair Krista Clumpner

How many proposals do you have submitted on an annual basis for adding a new major to NMU?

The number of proposals vary from year to year and fall into the following categories: new courses, deleted courses, changes to courses, new programs, deleted programs and changes to programs. A program may involve more than one major. Two years ago, the number of new programs, for example, was five. This year we anticipate a higher number as programs evolve as a result of the Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) process.

Would you say this is a difficult process?

I would say it is a difficult process and one that should be started early. If one wanted to propose a new major, it often involves creating or changing a program, adding or changing existing courses and involves discussions with all the departments that may be affected by any of these changes. Each addition, deletion or change requires a form to be completed and those forms ask for rationale, impact on staffing, a summary of what is being proposed, etc. 

Is there a theme that students want a particular program or do certain departments gets a lot of attention?

The committee really doesn’t see the input students may have had on a department putting forward a proposal. Currently, the main impetuses resulting in proposals are keeping programs updated with state mandates, changing programs to meet accreditation requirements or as a result of strategic planning at the school, college or university level.

How should students submit their proposals and when is the best time to do so?

Students do not submit proposals to us, except for students filing Independent Curricula Programs (ICP). Departments submit proposals to us and they must meet a deadline of Oct. 1 if they want the changes in place for the following year. We accept proposals throughout the academic year but those received after the deadline are not guaranteed to be in place for the next academic year fall semester.