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President Addresses COLSA Changes

February 14, 2007

Dear UNH Community Members,

Given your interest in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, I wanted to share with you that, early last week, the COLSA Strategic Planning Committee submitted to me its recommendations for the structural reorganization of the College, following a College-wide vote on the recommendations. This followed the committee’s submission of a new strategic plan for the College in early January, which COLSA faculty and staff had recommended by an overwhelming margin.

What is most extraordinary is how this process has been immersed within the faculty ranks of COLSA. Led by faculty, driven by faculty, discussed among faculty, and voted on by faculty, this proposed new direction for one of our most important academic units is a true testament to collaboration and teamwork. Not only am I indebted to the three chairs of this effort - Thomas Pistole, Regina Smick-Attisano and David Townsend – but to the many faculty and staff who gave invaluable input to this essential work.

As you may be aware, the COLSA Strategic Planning Committee embarked on this effort to propose a COLSA structural reorganization based upon the newly created COLSA Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is a valuable and visionary work which I believe will guide the College well for the next five years, and I am pleased to approve it today. As for the structural reorganization plan, the entire personnel of the College—tenured and tenure track faculty, adjunct faculty, and staff— were asked to indicate their support or not by ballot. The results of those voting were 87 percent in favor of the restructuring plan. Among the tenured and tenure track faculty alone, 83 percent voted in favor of the plan.

Today, I am writing to you to tell you that I intend to recommend the Strategic Planning Committee’s proposals for structural reorganization of COLSA, without changes, to the University System of New Hampshire’s Board of Trustees for approval at its April 19th meeting.

Between now and then, pursuant to Article 14.4.3 of the collective bargaining agreement, Provost Mallory and I will convene the Senate Agenda Committee and AAUP Executive Committee to outline my contemplated programmatic changes. Provost Mallory and I will also host a full working session with the Board so that the finer points of the plan can be fully discussed.

One virtue of the Strategic Planning Committee plan is the extent to which faculty planners went to involve the New Hampshire community, including business leaders and alumni, by soliciting their input throughout strategic and reorganization planning.

Let me briefly outline some of the reasons why I intend to recommend this plan:

  • It cannot be stated enough that this plan represents the collaborative work of our faculty, and no one knows the College better than those who teach, mentor students, conduct research, and carry out its critical outreach.
  • The reorganization plan naturally follows the new COLSA Strategic Plan (approved by the College 99 to1), which, in turn, follows the University’s Academic Plan. This shows the College’s commitment to accountability and rationality of program and administrative design.
  • The plan will reduce the number of departments in COLSA from seven to three (in addition to the Thompson School), while providing opportunities for all faculty to engage in the interdisciplinary collaboration which is vital to scholarly progress. The three new departments, whose final names will be decided upon by the faculty themselves, are: Molecular, Cellular & Biomedical Sciences; Animal and Plant Systems; and Natural Resources and Sustainable Communities.
  • Agriculture retains its well-earned visibility. Agriculture today encompasses disciplines and applied sciences in all three COLSA departments and the Thompson School. The study and teaching of agriculture therefore is distributed across all of COLSA’s three new departments and the Thompson School. Agriculture will be administered, however, in a single, central location. This will provide more effective use of our resources while offering clear and consistent academic program coordination. UNH believes that agriculture is so important to the University and the state, that it should be the subject of study in all COLSA departments. The new configuration of programs and its administrative coordination serve our land-grant mission in the 21st century.
  • The Thompson School is better integrated with the academic programs and the administrative structure of the three new departments. Not only does this increase opportunities for students with an associate’s degree to transfer into COLSA’s four-year programs, but the Thompson School has never been better positioned to contribute to the life of the University while retaining its distinctive mission of providing training in the applied sciences.

There are other benefits as well, and for those of you who have not read the College’s reorganization plan or its new strategic plan, I encourage you to do so. They both are posted online and available through the President’s web page at www.unh.edu/president.

If approved by the Trustees, many programs will operate academically between or among departments, which will encourage faculty to make academic interconnections among departments, while assigning administrative responsibility for every program to a specific department.

The new strategic and organization plans for COLSA will enhance the quality and coherence of the College’s academic, research, and outreach programs. It must be noted, however, that the College continues to face significant financial challenges. Simply put, the College does not have sufficient revenues to balance its current level of expenses. As the new plans are implemented, the College will need to take further measures to bring its operating budget into balance. This might be accomplished in several ways, including faculty and staff retirements, new investments in faculty to increase research and instructional productivity, new initiatives to increase external funding, greater curricular efficiency, and increased emphasis on private support. In the coming months, Provost Mallory and I will work with COLSA leadership to achieve these steps in order to assure long-term financial solvency for COLSA.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks to everyone in COLSA who has contributed so much of their time, imagination, and hope to this process. The results are truly impressive. I am deeply grateful for the good work that has been accomplished to date, and I am optimistic that COLSA is on a most promising path.

Best regards,
J. Bonnie Newman
Interim President

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