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Academic restructuring to bring change

Submitted by KenDrell Collins on April 12, 2013 – 2:45 pmNo Comment

With seasoned faculty retiring and budget cuts looming, the Chancellor has called on upper administration to assist in improving UALR’s 25-year-old academic structure.

Chancellor Joel Anderson, in a Feb. 8 memo, tasked Provost Zulma Toro with developing a proposal that will change the university’s structure.

The change is directly linked to Goal Five of the Strategic Plan written two years ago. The plan calls for the implementation of “cost-containment initiatives and resource reallocations.”

One of the reasons for restructuring is the recent departure of three deans: Paula Casey of the Bowen Law School, Angela Sewall of the College of Education, and Angela Brenton of the College of Professional Studies.  Additionally, this year’s decrease in enrollment is likely to result in a reduction of state appropriations and federal funding.

Another factor igniting the push for restructuring is time. “It has been 25 years since we have ad a fundamental, thorough review of our academic structure,” wrote Anderson.

According to Toro, her team is still in the first phase of the process. She has compiled two groups, the Faculty Task Force and the Chair’s Task Force, which include representatives from various colleges on campus to help develop a proposal.

The two parties are currently analyzing information that has been collected from community members and are expected to submit a report of their findings by May 15, explained Toro.  Around mid-August, after the groups meet with a Steering Committee, the final recommendations will be made.

The Provost said she will discuss those recommendations with individuals who will potentially be affected by the changes. As for the three unfilled dean positions, interim deans will temporarily be put in place until the final structure is agreed upon.  She will submit her recommendation on Oct. 1 to the Chancellor, who will make the final decision.

“We hope to start implementation during the spring semester of 2014,” Toro said. “The plan is to have the academic restructuring completely in place by December of 2014.”

The process has brought about mixed reactions from faculty members. Most of the complaints regarding the change stem from the uncertainty regarding what it will mean for the future. Toro remains optimistic, stating, “I think that as in any process there are people that are very positive about the process, very motivated and excited about something different. There are people who are just waiting to see what happens and there are others, like in any organization, small percentage, that doubt that this will be the positive thing for us. But, I think it will be.”

One question is whether the restructuring will impact the job load of some people. According to Toro, “Everything is on the table at this point in time. We are not eliminating anything from consideration yet. We don’t really know but, in terms of faculty, I think that they will not have more work than the work they currently have.”

Students are expected to be impacted by the restructuring as well. Toro hopes that with more faculty collaboration, some courses will be team-taught. She intends to implement a classroom structure that mirrors that of the Donaghey Scholars Program, where multiple professors teach one class.

Despite the hurdles that come with implementing such a model in non-liberal arts classes, Toro believes it is still feasible.

“Currently there is an initiative that a couple of faculty members from the art department that are working with faculty in the college of engineering to come up with a program that will be multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary in nature,” Toro mentioned. This program is likely to start with upper level courses, she added.

Toro encourages students to participate in the restructuring process by attending the University Town Hall meeting on April 26.  Another way for students to voice their opinions is by conversing with the Student Government Association.

“We will be selecting a student representative in the next few weeks to sit in the final, overarching Steering Committee,” said Toro.  The selected student will be a member of the SGA.  Faculty and students can keep updated on the process by going the myCommunities page on Blackboard.


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