Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education

Review of Existing Instructional Programs


Institution: _____Chadron State College_______                         Program:   Biology, including Health Science

I certify the following:

-the information provided regarding this program is accurate

-the above named institution has in place a procedure for reviewing instructional programs              

and a copy of the procedure has been provided to the Commission

-such review took place on or about _____________________________________________

-such review was presented to the institution’s governing board on _____________________

-the governing board’s action was: _______________________________________________


Signed: ___________________________________________                      ____________________

(Chief Academic Officer or designated representative)                    (Date)  

Evidence of Demand and Efficiency








5 yr avg

Student Credit Hours (SCH)







Faculty Full-time Equivalency (FTE)







SCH/Faculty FTE







Number of

Degrees and Awards


(list degrees/
















































Evidence of Need (provide a statement below or attach document)





Justification if the program is below CCPE thresholds (provide a statement below or attach documentation)




For CCPE staff use only                                                                    Reviewers & Date:

Biology Discipline Program Review

Department of Physical and Life Sciences -- Chadron State College


Overview:  Biology at Chadron State College is administratively housed within the integrated Physical and Life Sciences Department.  A total of twelve tenured or tenure-track faculty plus one phased-retirement faculty member are assigned to the Department of Physical and Life Sciences.  Special appointment faculty use is limited, restricted currently to teaching Hematology and select earth science courses. Six full-time faculty are assigned to biology, with one phased-retirement position, one science educator position shared with the department, and one position shared with chemistry. 


The Chadron State College science faculty believe that learning (and thus teaching) science involves practice as well as theory.  Thus, most biology courses require concurrent laboratory experience to support constructivism learning, knowledge application, techniques and skills acquisition, and introduction into the actual ‘practice’ of science.


Degree Offerings:  The biology discipline offers three major programs of study. Although in principle these three different majors lead toward three different career paths, the significant overlap in course offerings, laboratory experiences, and faculty expertise results in a coherent undergraduate program that serves diverse student populations in a highly efficient manner.  The three programs include:

(1)  A comprehensive Bachelor of Science in Biology major, with options in general biology, environmental resource management, human biology, and molecular biology.  Graduates generally are employed locally or regionally in environmental or laboratory fields, pursue graduate school, or enter professional health programs of study.

(2)  A closely aligned comprehensive Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences major allows exceptional students the opportunity to complete three years at Chadron State College in an intensive program of study that fulfills requirements for most professional health schools.  If the student is selected for accelerated entry into a professional school (at the end of their third undergraduate year), the first year of professional school fulfills CSC’s undergraduate degree completion requirements.  The students are thus eligible to graduate from Chadron State College with a baccalaureate degree as they pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in professional health studies.  The Biology and the Health Sciences degrees are closely aligned, allowing students not accepted into professional school at the end of their third year of study to complete their comprehensive undergraduate degree in Biology.

(3)  A Bachelor of Science in Education program leading toward certification as a 7-12 teacher is also offered.  Students pursuing this option complete many of the same courses as found in the degrees leading toward other careers in the biological sciences. 


Minors in biology, plant sciences, watershed management, and wildlife management are also offered to complement majors from the physical sciences, range management, psychology, criminal justice, physical education and recreation, and other degree fields. Additionally, the Physical and Life Sciences Department offers a 7-12 BSE Natural Science Field Endorsement, in which biology is one area of emphasis.


Student Enrollment and Success:  The number of majors in Biology and Health Science throughout the fall semesters averages approximately 163 students.  Most students (78%) are enrolled in and complete the four-year programs of undergraduate study (see charts prepared by the CSC Institutional Research Office). Students in select pre-professional programs and with the background knowledge to complete accelerated programs are encouraged to enroll in the Health Sciences program, with the understanding that they can transfer into the comprehensive biology major at a later date if needed or desired.  The program enrollment has been fairly steady over time, increasing slightly as seen in the following chart:



We average nearly 43 graduates per year, which is greater than 26% of the fall enrolled majors.  This reveals our very high student success (retention and graduation) rate.   We believe that our student success stems from the faculty’s ability to know and interact with students, offering encouragement and support while maintaining rigorous program expectations.  All faculty within the major advise students.  All faculty teach laboratory sessions.  Most faculty are active in sponsoring or facilitating student clubs.  All faculty are engaged in research or scholarly projects, and students are usually included in these projects.  All faculty participate in senior seminar, through mentoring of students who are researching and presenting on a current area of research.  Examples of recent senior seminar topics include genetic models of schizophrenia, effect of temperature on avian and reptilian egg development, current research in nerve regeneration, the potential use of arthropod venoms in medicine, the biology of sepsis and current treatment options, genetic and environmental factors in melanoma, NOTCH1 mutations and aortic heart valve disease, and the impact of fire on lotic insects.  The program of study is rigorous and demanding of both students and faculty; the faculty support for student success is outstanding.


The numbers of declared majors and graduates do not include students who declare a pre-professional program (i.e., pre-nursing, pre-clinical laboratory sciences, pre-radiologic technician) as these students are generally non-degree seeking.   They do enroll in our major courses and are an important part of fulfilling our commitment to meet the health care needs of rural Nebraska.  However, these students generally do not seek an undergraduate degree and thus are ‘counted’ only within the student credit hour production.


One needs to be careful interpreting the ‘graduation rate’ for a program such as Biology.  Students may not declare as degree-seeking (declaring “pre-medicine” or “pre-forestry”), and thus are not counted in the discipline majors although technically that is where they belong.  Thus, if they graduate they are not listed as a “declared major” yet are appropriately counted as a graduate from the program. Students seeking pre-professional education in allied health fields (i.e., nursing, radiology) may choose to stay for the full baccalaureate program, not formally declaring this until they apply for graduation.  Additionally, transfer students should not require the full four years to graduate.  Thus, even though the comparison of graduates to declared majors is exceedingly high, the faculty realize that actual students enrolled in the department are undercounted by our system of “declared majors,” and that student failure is, unfortunately, an occurrence.  Thus, the faculty consistently seek mechanisms to improve student retention and success within the Chadron State College biology discipline.  For example, all students within a freshman zoology course are required to turn in class notes for grading, in an attempt to facilitate student learning of the critical skills of lecture-interpretation and note-taking.  Learning guides are posted in freshman chemistry and entry biology courses.  Sample tests are housed in the library for genetics and developmental biology.  Faculty routinely maintain more office hours than administratively required.  The faculty focus on facilitating student success in a rigorous program of study.


Efficiency of Offerings:  In spite of the heavy laboratory teaching load within this discipline, the Biology faculty teach more than twice the student credit hour load considered minimally appropriate by The Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (see attached charts prepared by the CSC Institutional Research Office).  Laboratory sessions are necessarily restricted in enrollment due to safety issues, equipment limitations, and laboratory room size.  To compensate for this lower laboratory enrollment, many of the lecture sections within biology are inflated beyond the level generally considered “ideal” for facilitating faculty-student interaction and constructive learning.  For example, the freshman Cellular Biology class generally enrolls nearly 90 students each fall semester.  Faculty compensate for the larger class sizes through utilizing mediated classrooms to enhance visibility of demonstrations, creating small-group learning opportunities, projecting higher personal energy within the classroom, and spending the required time outside of normal working hours to grade and return assignments in a timely fashion.  Although not ideal, the faculty’s dedication facilitates student success rates.


Facilities and Equipment:  The Chadron State College Science and Mathematics building is efficiently utilized to accommodate the large number of students we serve.  The online offerings in mathematics have opened needed classroom space for physical and life sciences to utilize.  However, at the beginning of every semester the department chairs of mathematics and physical/life sciences evaluate class sizes and conduct a ‘domino’ shifting of classes to ensure that classroom sizes will accommodate enrolled students.  This is frustrating for faculty and students alike, yet is a required activity to ensure that all students are served and that all classes are located within classrooms large enough to accommodate the enrolled students.


Laboratory spaces and equipment limit the sizes of many of the hands-on learning experiences our students experience.  For example, to serve our students’ needs we routinely enroll 15-18 students in a microbiology laboratory that should only accommodate 12-14.  The laboratory appropriate for teaching biochemistry limits enrollment to about 16 students, when 18-20 is an appropriate size for this course.  Limited equipment in biotechnology keep the laboratory sessions to about 14 students, when the laboratory would safely and comfortably allow 18.  The same equipment limitations restrict the size of analytical chemistry laboratory, which is a course we encourage for our environmental resource management students.


As faculty seek to engage more students in research and scholarly projects, available areas to support student research are constraining this effort.  Small sections of classroom and laboratory spaces are dedicated, but this limits the time when students can work on their research, requires storage of work in progress so assigned laboratories can be held in that space, and does not support long-term or extensive research projects.   Flexibility of faculty and students has allowed this to occur.  However, as the College prioritize facility renovation, the Science and Mathematics Building should be considered an area of priority, as is supported by the building renovations’ current placement on the Ten-Year Facility Plan.  Renovation of this facility would alleviate space as well as ventilation and other “appropriate space” concerns.


Areas of excellence that support our academic and outreach mission include the Chadron State College High Plains Herbarium, the Eleanor Barbour Cook Earth Science Museum, the Research Microscope Suite, the Human Anatomy laboratory, and the Greenhouse.  Faculty volunteer to administer these facilities beyond our  assigned teaching and service loads, due to their importance to student learning and regional outreach.


Summary:  The Biology discipline is integral to the success of western Nebraska, providing education leading toward health care, environmental resource management, education, and molecular biology careers.  Support of closely aligned programs occurs through dual-major enrollment and minor offerings.  The program exceeds the minimum productivity standards set by the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for  Postsecondary Education, excels in student retention and success, and is closely aligned with institutional role, mission, and vision.


Respectfully submitted by the Chadron State College Biology Faculty