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So you’ve decided to start a new program here at GSU. Congratulations – that’s super exciting! Except: You soon realize that starting a program is a multi-pronged process starring a smorgasbord of people, policies, contexts, concerns, and excitements.

This is where we come in.

We’ve found that there are several major planning areas that you’ll want to address before you begin designing your program. We believe that all of these areas inform and impact all of your programmatic design efforts. Check out the short animation below to begin thinking about these areas (transcript available at the bottom of this post). Then, read on for more details and helpful links.

Approval Processes: What do you have to do to get this program approved?

In general, there are 3 levels of approval for most programmatic projects including requirements of 1) your department/college, 2) GSU, and 3) the USG. In addition, your particular discipline might have national program approval requirements. Keep these guidelines in mind as they frame everything that you do.

Local Flavor: Why would students choose this program over others?

Where your program is located can be as important of a consideration for some students as who you hire. For online programs, student considerations of which program to choose involve looking for the cheapest option or a unique option, specific to the student’s goals. This can include renowned scholars and their inspiring research and story; professional networking; the prestige of your institution name in their CV; or many other levels of distinction. We look at all of these items as your local flavor.

Start with GSU’s strategic plan, the University identity, your college and departmental missions, and your own experiences working here at GSU and living in Atlanta. The University has done plenty of the heavy lifting in this area, but it’s important for you to consider these items when you think about how the State Way expresses itself through your potential program.

Beyond your experience in the University, talk to current students and alumni. Why did they choose your department? What will they do with their degree? What inspires and frustrates them with education and learning?

Last, consider the embeddedness of your program with the city and its resources, culture, and history. This thinking applies to all programs. After all, even a GSU program delivered to students overseas brings with it our unique perspective just as all students bring their own lived experiences into the classroom.

Through these lenses you need to ultimately arrive on an answer to the question: What makes your program unique? Why should potential students care? These considerations help you craft a curriculum embracing your students’ needs, our research aims, and the situated nature of an Atlanta-based program. As a bonus, you can also use this local flavor in thinking about how to market your new program to potential students, faculty, and local partners.

Student Identity: Who are your students?

Speaking of marketing, you’ll need to think about future students and how to reach them. For this, CETL may not be the best place for you to start your conversations, but we can say that there are a few resources and lines of thinking that can help.

Before reaching out to administrators or market research firms, refer to GSU’s reports on our student population like the Fact Book. Talk to current and past students again. And faculty and staff perspectives are definitely valuable.

Beyond this, start developing program specific student personas to describe who you’d like to attract to your program. Developing student personas helps personalize and humanize the recruitment process into your program and ensures alignment between your program goals and students’ needs.

Building A Passionate Team: Why do you (all) care about creating this program at this time?

All design projects require a group of passionate team members committed to building and sticking with your program. Ideally, your team should consist of your colleagues, academic and non-academic departments, and local organization partners. The goal is to create a unique experience for students that shows a level of care about their current lives and their future careers in a distinctly Georgia State way. 

A related consideration here is coming up with an incentive plan for faculty designing courses. After all, even the most passionate faculty need time and resources in order to build the best learning experience possible. Although many faculty prefer course buy-outs to subsidize design time, it’s best to talk with your faculty about their preferences to inform this decision.     

Educational Climate: How might this program fit into the national and local educational landscapes?

The main question is Who else is offering this degree in this format? Investigate this area using a variety of data sources:

At the local level, reach out to community organizations as well as other colleges. In particular, reaching out to potential future employers will help you reflect on how your program might meet the philosophical and professional needs of potential students.

If you’re interested in beginning the new program process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

Scene One: Title Slide: Top of two Atlanta skyscrapers showing with the text “So you want to start a new program!” in the sky above.
Scene Two: Students: The camera pans down to show two students talking under a streetlight in front of one of the skyscrapers. The text appears on the ground and on the building background. The text reads as follows. Students. Who are your current students? Why did they choose you? Who would you like to attract to your new program?
Scene Three: GSU: The camera zooms out to show a portion of the GSU campus. It is a street scene. The two students are still visible in the background but more students mill about the campus as well. The text appears on a building in the foreground and reads as follows. GSU. What makes your departmental culture unique? How does this program fit into GSU’s educational landscape? What does your department require for program approval?
Scene Four: Atlanta: The camera zooms out to show GSU embedded within Atlanta. Students, pedestrians, and cars navigate streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks. A flying saucer with the text “ATLiens” appears in the sky. It is abducting a person from the top of a building using a tractor beam. The text appears on buildings, in the sky, and on the street and reads as follows: ATL. How does this program fit into the local educational landscape? How might you market your program to interested folks in the area? What gives your ideas local flavor? Who should be included on your design team?
Scene Five: Georgia and Beyond: The Atlanta scene dissolves and the state of Georgia is now visible and highlighted – pieces of other states are also visible. The text appears on the different states and in the ocean and reads as follows: Atlanta and Beyond. What does the USG require for program approval? How will you ensure that your program is accredited by SACS? How does the program fit into the regional educational landscape?
Scene Six: National and International. The scene zooms out to show the Southeast United States with Georgia still highlighted and a large portion of the Atlantic ocean visible. Africa rolls in from the bottom right with Ghana highlighted. A blue circle appears on Georgia to symbolize Atlanta and a circle appears in Ghana to symbolize Kumasi. A dotted line connects the two cities. The text appears on the U.S. and Ghana and reads as follows: Does your program have any national approval requirements? How will you market to a national audience? How will you market to an international audience?