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An Update on the Formation of Interdisciplinary Schools

July 20, 2011

To:       The Campus Community
From:   John Aber, Provost
Re:       Next Steps on Schools and the Budget Task Force Report
Date:   12 July 2011


As promised in my letter of 2 June, here is an update on steps being taken this summer with regard to the formation of interdisciplinary schools, and in response to the Budget Task Force. Read the update.

Interdisciplinary Schools
With a proposal for the formation of the Marine School in hand, the group that constructed the proposal is meeting with Senior Vice Provost Jan Nisbet to draft a budget model for the new School.  A retreat was held on June 11 to begin drafting this model, which will be an important part of the discussions to be held in the fall.

The Proposal for the Earth School has also been received and next steps will involve discussions with the group developing ideas and data on the proposed reorganization of CEPS, COLSA and EOS, described below.

Both of these proposals can be found at:
The proposal for the third school, tentatively called “Public Service and Policy”, will be completed this summer.  See my last letter for the makeup of the group drafting this proposal.

The Budget Task Force report called for consideration of the reorganization of COLSA, CEPS and EOS in order to reduce administrative costs and enhance the academic environment in several key areas of strength.  In my last letter, I mentioned consulting with the Deans and Director of these units, and with the Senate Agenda Committee on the steps to generate the ideas and information needed for a full discussion of this possibility in the fall.  Based on this feedback, this group needs to include faculty and staff from the three units, plus faculty from the Marine and Earth School study groups and leadership from the Faculty Senate, as well as leaders of the BSCs and other staff in each unit.  I have asked the following faculty and staff to serve on this group:

Kim Babbitt, Associate Dean, COLSA  
Amitava Bhattacharjee, TT Faculty, EOS, CEPS
Drew Conroy, TT Faculty, COLSA/TASA, Senate Rep
Rick Cote, TT Faculty, COLSA
Jeanne Davis, BSC Director, EOS
Matt Davis, TT Faculty, CEPS
Diane Foster, TT Faculty CEPS
Art Greenberg, TT Faculty, CEPS, Senate Rep
Jennifer Jacobs, TT Faculty, CEPS, Earth School Group
Steve Jones, Research Faculty, COLSA, Marine School Group
Kathleen Maher, Staff, Health Services
Scott Ollinger, TT Faculty COLSA, EOS, Earth School Group
Larry Prelli, TT Faculty, COLA, Senate Chair
Kate Roberts, BSC Director, CEPS
Tina Sawtelle, BSC Director, COLSA
Regina Smick-Attisano, Director TSAS, COLSA
Doug Vandemark, Research Faculty, EOS, Marine School Group
Ruth Varner, Research Faculty, EOS and CEPS
P.T. Vasudevan, TT Faculty, CEPS
Win Watson, TT Faculty, COLSA, Marine School Group

An effort to identify an Extension Educator to join this group is in process.

A potential reorganization of this size and complexity requires the simultaneous consideration and synthesis of many inter-related issues and opportunities.  A number of models are possible, and there needs to be integration with the effort to create the Earth and Marine Schools.  Careful attention to possible savings through administrative restructuring needs to be weighed against possible losses in administrative support for departments and programs.  To address the broad range of questions posed by this possible merger, the group listed above will meet in an all-day retreat format on 22 July. 

The Budget Task Force report called for a full review of graduate programs and the Graduate School, and also a method for reviewing all programs and offices on campus. 

Graduate School
The review of the Graduate School will be able to draw on extensive data on national rankings, admissions selectivity, yield, and degree completion data, as well as surveys on the success of recent graduates in all programs. There are three broad areas to be covered in this review: 1) Professional masters degree programs, 2) Academic masters and Ph.D. programs, and 3) Structure and function of the graduate school. Additional issues include: 1) Financial support for graduate students (TA versus RA) and the quality of the graduate student experience, and 2) The role of programs in Professional Development and Continuing Education.

The number and variety of discrete issues and questions lends itself more to a series of focus-group-like discussions than a single inclusive retreat. Having again consulted with Deans and the Senate Agenda Committee, as well as the Dean of Graduate School, I will be setting up a series of shorter meetings on each of these topics. As recognized campus leaders in graduate education, chairs of departments and programs offering graduate degrees, members of the Graduate Council and the Graduate Student Organization, as well as Associate Deans will be invited to these discussions, which will be scheduled throughout the rest of the summer.  Representatives from our Manchester campus and the Law School will be important parts of these discussions.  Summaries of these meetings will be posted and a synthesis of meeting outcomes will form the basis for the campus-wide discussion in the fall.

Overall Program Review
For the academic part of the “review of all programs” goal, I have spoken with the Deans, the Agenda Committee, and with Senior Vice Provost Lisa MacFarlane, who has proposed that this goal be folded into the in-depth review that will accompany the NEASC accreditation process.  The intense self-study that precedes the writing of the NEASC document and on-campus review is, in a very real sense, a review of all of our programs.  SVP MacFarlane will be leading the team developing the data and documentation for this review, which will then meet the requirements of the Budget Task Force as well.

I hope your summer is going well, and will post another update as plans move ahead.

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