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White Paper

Optimizing Academic Degree Program Management: A Systematic Approach and Impact


Higher education has an opportunity to provide greater transparency in its return on investment by developing a sustainable and systematic approach to academic degree program portfolio development and management, and it is possible to do so by meeting and maintaining external standards and requirements through consistent processes and documentation.

In this white paper, the authors discuss how University of Phoenix has an internal structure in which the university and its operations are more centralized and thus has an intentional balance between academic freedom and internal and external standards. The University Program Lifecycle (UPL) process, established over a decade ago, in 2012 provides the structure to maintain the University’s focus on rigorous and meaningful, market-benchmarked academic offerings for students that align to real-world opportunities. Meeting the vision for a valid and thoughtful academic portfolio established a major milestone on the journey to fulfill the University’s mission as the higher education environment around the university continued to change. Over the past decade, UPL coordinated stakeholders across multiple functional areas ranging from academic program leadership to advising, financial aid, accreditation, and more. UPL consistently improves resources and support in academic programs across over one hundred different work processes within the institution. The UPL process ensures responsible management and internal and external compliance of the University’s portfolio of academic programs.

Optimizing Academic Degree Program Management: A Systematic Approach and Impact

Optimizing Academic Degree Program Management: A Systematic Approach and Impact


HIllary Halpern

Hillary Halpern has been with University of Phoenix for 16 years and currently serves as the Senior Director Program Deployment, where she has leveraged her in-depth insights from her student support and process improvement background to develop, improve, and maintain the University Program Lifecycle (UPL) process. Halpern helps guide the evolution of the program lifecycle process at the institution to help ensure academic programs are aligned to external standards and regulations, as well as how they can be best leveraged using occupational codes and jobs to build an infrastructure to connect courses and programs to skills. Recognized as "Rookie of the Year" examiner award in 2017 from Southwest Alliance of Excellence (SWAE), Halpern also earned the 2017 President’s Award from University of Phoenix for her contributions to the UPL process. She has served as a lead examiner for the SWAE and as a speaker on process improvement at regional and national conferences. Halpern has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Arizona State University, and a Master of Business Administration and Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management from University of Phoenix.

Chelse Thomas

Chelse Thomas has served at University of Phoenix in Student Services, Registrar’s Office, Curriculum Learning and Technology, since 2009, and currently serves as the Senior Manager of Provost Initiatives and Academic Program Lifecycle. In this role, she leads the definition, implementation, and management of the university's academic program lifecycle process. Thomas provides support in strategic projects and initiatives, offering thought leadership on the provost’s strategy, and assisting academic colleges in making informed decisions and plans regarding academic program offerings to mitigate institutional risk. Thomas is a devoted advocate for the importance of lifelong learning and continuous development, a passion reflected in her director roles with Phoenix Women Rising, Employee Resource Group, where Thomas actively promotes leadership opportunities and fosters professional growth among colleagues. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Apparel and Textile Studies from North Dakota State University, and a Master of Arts in Education, Adult Education and Training, and Project Management Certificate from University of Phoenix.