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Our Rich History: The Thomas More Accelerated Program — TAP — becomes a reality

By Tom Ward
Thomas More University

Part 30 of Our Series: “Retrospect and Vista II: Thomas More College/University. 1971-2021”

In 1993, Thomas More College introduced what has been called ever since “TAP,” an acronym for the “Thomas More Accelerated Program.” The program was devised for adult learners to attain a college degree at an accelerated pace.

Dr. Dale Myers (TMU Archives

According to a letter by Dr. Raymond Hebert, Vice President of Academic Affairs, to the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS) that accredited Thomas More, the college perceived a need for an “intense Degree Completion Program with a schedule and delivery system suited to mature adults who have some college credits … but want to finish in as short a period of time as possible.” This would be similar to the Bachelor of Elective Studies (BES) already offered at TMC, but in a “compressed format.” Because the most popular non-traditional field of study was Business Administration, the new program would “simply package it in a different way” than what was done for the BES (Hebert to Dr. James Rogers, Executive Director of SACS, April 15, 1993, TMU Archives).

To develop such a program, the college teamed with the Institute for Professional Development (IPD), a subsidiary of the Apollo Group, located in Phoenix, Arizona. When contemplating this idea, TMC sought advice from other schools, and the IPD was highly recommended (Bensman letter to John LaMacchia of Cincinnati Bell, June 12, 1992, TMU Archives). Dr. Peter Thornton, Associate Dean at TMC, first contacted IPD by phone in August 1991 to gain information regarding its programs (Paul Hoffner, Executive Vice-President of IPD, to Thornton, Aug. 21, 1991, TMU Archives). The IPD mailed TMC an information packet on its affiliation process and programs, which, according to IPD’s Mission Statement, were intended “To assist accredited private colleges and universities to expand and diversify their traditional student base through the development of academic programs designed for and delivered to working adults.” The packet included an impressive list of other institutions of higher learning with which it was already affiliated.

Father William Cleves, TMC President (TMU Archives)

Representatives of IPD visited TMC on February 25, 1992. Because the courses envisioned for TMC revolved mainly around Business Administration, the chairs of Accountancy, Computer and Information Systems, Business and Economics attended the meeting. They gained a favorable impression from the IPD presentation and afterward, they wrote to TMC President, Dr. Charles Bensman, that they believed that “by providing appropriate programs for adult students, we can enhance our educational offerings to all traditional-aged students regardless of major” (Department Chairs’ letter to Bensman, Feb. 26, 1992, TMU Archives).

President Bensman established a task force to gather data regarding IPD, especially by contacting other schools that had availed themselves of its services. The task force would be headed by Dr. Dale Myers, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, with Dr. Elizabeth Penn, Sr. Mary Laurence Budde, SND, Dr. Peter Thornton, and Fr. William Cleves as members (Bensman letter to Myers, Feb. 26, 1992, TMU Archives).

In May, IPD presented its proposed adult programs with an implementation schedule and overview of each of the programs:

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Spring 1993
Bachelor of Science in Management, Spring 1993
Bridge Program, Fall 1993
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Fall 1993
Master of [Science in] Business Administration, Spring 1994
Master of Science in Management, Spring 1994
Master of Arts in Education, Spring 1994

The Bridge Program was for applicants who already had thirty credit hours from another institution and some work experience. They would be required to complete thirty more credits in TMC’s core requirements (IPD’s Proposed Adult Programs and Implementation Schedule, May 21, 1992, TMU Archives).

There was disagreement, however, regarding what seemed to be the assumption that the program would be directly tied to the Business Division of TMC and that Dr. Thornton would be the director (Hebert memo to Cleves, July 6, 1992, TMU Archives). Instead, Dr. Dale Myers was named the Director of TAP.

A Proposal for Agreement between IPD and TMC emphasized that IPD had the responsibility for marketing the program and for recruiting students—who would need to qualify under the college’s admission policies—and if the minimum of students were not enrolled for a course, IPD would pay TMC the difference of the lacking tuition. It would be up to TMC to develop the academic courses, as well as determine tuition and fees. All programs and courses were to conform to SACS standards and those of other relevant accrediting agencies, as well as the State of Kentucky. Some courses could be offered at off-campus locations (Proposal for Agreement, revised Aug. 1992, TMU Archives). On the basis of this proposal, President Cleves (who took office that fall) signed a Memorandum of Agreement with IPD on September 29, 1992.

Staff of TAP: Dale Meyers, Deborah Verlench (of IPD), Peg Asher, and Cora Hills, 1993 (TMU Archives)

The Memorandum of Agreement, however, was not the same as a contract, and as the college began to define its curriculum, IPD was not always satisfied with the results. IPD Curriculum Specialist Sue Barkley occasionally met with college personnel involved with the development of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program. Dr. Hebert and Dr. Myers discussed ways of reconciling differences in expectations between IPD and Thomas More’s Business Administration Department. According to a memo from Dr. Myers to Prof. Donald Ostasiewski of the department, the disputes between the two centered around four issues:

a. Courses to meet core requirements,
b. The role of Business Calculus in the major,
c. Prerequisites for the major,
d. A Bachelor of Science in Management.

In regard to these issues, Dr. Myers suggested that the core could be adapted from the current BES core. But he believed that a module could be devised for inculcating the needed math skills that would be less rigorous than a Calculus course. He also reported Barkley as claiming that “establishing prerequisites to the program as such only results in eliminating prospective students…”. Finally, in opposition to Prof. Ostasiewski’s disapproval, Dr. Myers wanted to proceed with offering a Bachelor of Science in Management, because “not to proceed leaves out a large group of potential students who may not be interested in a business major but need management skills” (Myers to Ostasiewski, Oct. 21, 1992, TMU Archives).

In a reply memo, Prof. Ostasiewski noted the growing need for Calculus in the modern business environment and suggested that, rather than offering a traditional Math course, the Business Administration Department could develop a “nine-hour integrated sequence incorporating statistics and quantitative methods.” Prerequisites, such as Accounting and Economics, could be incorporated into the Bridge Program. But he disagreed with Dr. Myers about a B.S. in Management. He claimed that what IPD proposed would “not provide the minimal content expected by the management profession,” nor be approved by Business School Accreditation agencies; furthermore, even though he recognized that such a program would likely be popular with adult students, the value of such programs “in terms of preparation for the professional growth of managers is not clear” (Ostasiewski to Myers, Oct. 24, 1992, TMU Archives).

Professor Donald Ostasiewski leads TAP Class, ca. 1994. (TMU Archives)

Even though TMC carried the primary responsibility for establishing the curriculum, IPD played a role in making recommendations. Barkley was critical of TMC’s requirement of “rather course-specific general education core courses” that were appropriate for entering traditional freshmen, but not for “the adult transfer student with two years of college”; instead, “IPD encourages Thomas More College to think broadly, to look at general content areas and multiple courses within that area rather than narrow course-specific requirements”; without a broader educational component, some adult students might have to take additional courses for which their employers would not reimburse their tuition. She regarded “a program which focuses too [Barkley’s underline] heavily on quantitative subjects” as a barrier to enrollment. She also recommended that TMC develop a Master’s in Business program “about two years after the BBA begins — you will have students asking for it”! (Barkley to Hebert, Oct. 28, 1992, TMU Archives).

It is not clear to what extent TMC tried to comply with these recommendations in the curriculum it developed. It appears that IPD was concerned with enrollment numbers and did not want to discourage prospective students with too much math. The program, as eventually presented, included “Analytical Methods” courses that included some calculus, and the 1994-1996 TMC Catalogue lists a Business Administration Course, “Mathematical Analysis for Management,” as a BBA requirement that would introduce students to “concepts of calculus essential to management …” though with less emphasis on math, as both Dr. Myers and Prof. Ostasiewski had suggested. But the faculty and administration of TMC were adamant that the curriculum would meet its normal standards for student outcomes (Supplementary Licensure Application for New Degree Program to be Offered at Off-Campus Locations, April 23, 1993, p. 4, TMU Archives).

Before the college could finalize an agreement with IPD, it had to meet the college’s Curriculum Committee’s requirements and obtain the approval of the faculty for the Bachelor of Business Administration. Dr. Myers presented the program to the Curriculum Committee on December 4, 1992. He assured the members that all research he had seen on similar intensive programs indicated that “when well done they can be as good as regular programs.” The committee voted that the program was academically creditable and consistent with TMC’s mission (Curriculum Committee meeting minutes, Dec. 4, 1992, TMU Archives). With strong support from President Cleves (Cleves memo to Faculty Coordinating Committee and Faculty General Assembly, Feb. 10, 1993, TMU Archives), the plan was presented to the faculty at an open forum on February 12, 1993, and the faculty voted in its favor on March 18th (Moreover, Summer 1993).

Before gaining the approval of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Hebert and Dr. Myers sent the Trustees a memo explaining the IPD program. Most adult students would be employees of businesses that could serve as “laboratories” in which they could apply the theories they learned. They would take only one specially designed modular course one night a week for four to six weeks with a group or cohort of fourteen to twenty-one other students. The college would offer its first program, the BBA, in September 1993 (Hebert and Myers memo to Board of Trustees, March 12, 1993, TMU Archives). The Trustees voted for it at their March 26, 1993 meeting. More meetings between IPD personnel and TMC faculty were scheduled during the intervening months (Myers Memo to faculty, April 2, 1993, TMU Archives).

One further step remained, however — to gain approval from SACS for a substantive change for Thomas More to offer the Bachelor of Business Administration degree. SACS required notification of any change in degree programs, and Dr. Hebert took the initiative to write to SACS concerning the new BBA. Hebert stressed that the new BBA would be similar in content to the BES already available through the Division of Continuing Education, though in a compressed form. If there were enough growth, the college would offer it “off-campus,” which he called “Phase II,” with “Phase III” to be the eventual beginning of a Master’s Program (Hebert to Dr. James Rogers, Executive Director of SACS, April 15, 1993, TMU Archives). The first site for the BBA would be Chancellor Commons in the Thomas More Center, with another site in Covington to be added in 1994 (Supplementary Licensure Application for New Degree Program to be Offered at Off-Campus Locations, April 23, 1993, p. 2, TMU Archives).

TMC prepared and submitted a more formal request for a substantive change in September 1993. This request more thoroughly explained and described the requirements for admission and transfer of credits, assessments of academic outcomes and graduation requirements. It also highlighted the program’s acceptance of credits through learning assessment programs like RECALL (Review and Evaluation of Career and Lifelong Learning), as well as the resources at TMC that BBA students would be able to use through the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) (Request for a Substantive Change to Offer a Bachelor of Business Administration, Sept. 1993, p. 22, TMU Archives). Because the TAP programs were so similar to other adult programs, such as the Evening and Weekend Colleges, it could naturally cooperate with the DCE that would be directed by Jodi Patterson beginning July 1, 1993 (Myers to Hebert, April 21, 1993, TMU Archives).

This initial stage for TAP was approved by SACS, and new programs would be made available “as student demand demonstrates the need” (Request for a Substantive Change to Offer a Bachelor of Business Administration, Sept. 1993, p. 9, TMU Archives). The inauguration of the BBA opened the door for various other Bachelor and Master programs that would make Thomas More a more visible and competitive institution in the area.

Tom Ward is the Archivist of Thomas More University. He holds an MA in History from Xavier University, Cincinnati. He can be contacted at wardt@thomasmore.edu.

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and along the Ohio River). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Professor of History and Gender Studies at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and the author of many books and articles.

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