UW academic reorganization gets Trustee’s approval

By Floyd Whiting, Sheridan Media
(this story originally appeared on Sheridan Media)

The University of Wyoming reported last week that a major reorganization of the university’s academic programs will proceed as outlined by the university’s administration, following votes of support Thursday by UW’s Board of Trustees.

After months of development informed by thorough review and feedback from internal and external stakeholders, the board approved plans setting in motion changes that will position the university for a vibrant future at a time of uncertain state revenues, economic shifts and a changing higher-education landscape. Some changes will take effect by the end of this fiscal year; others won’t be fully implemented until on or before July 1, 2023.

“We appreciate the board’s support of our vision for UW, and we are ready to move forward with these changes and work with our various stakeholders to make this the best university it can be,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “I couldn’t be more excited for the future of Wyoming’s university.”

The Board of Trustees voted in favor of the proposal from Seidel and Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman to reorganize the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Engineering and Applied Science to better align the life and physical sciences, and the humanities, social sciences and arts. That will involve the movement of several academic departments and eventually renaming the colleges. The changes will be made on or before July 1, 2023, in conjunction with a strategic planning process that involves more discussion with the affected units and their stakeholders.

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“This process will allow us to make sure the reorganization positions the university for a prosperous future,” Carman said. “We will have a robust discussion over the next year to carefully consider optimal alignments while minimizing unintended negative consequences of restructuring.”

The board also approved a reorganization of the College of Education effective July 1, 2022. The college will have three divisions: one focused on educator preparation; one for graduate education; and one for innovation and engagement. Enrollment will be suspended for two graduate degree programs — the Ph.D. in counseling and the Ph.D. in learning, design and technology — while discussions take place to determine how they can be continued in the reorganized college.

Trustees voted to eliminate these low-enrollment graduate programs: the Master of Arts in philosophy, the MBA in finance, the MBA in energy and the Ph.D. in statistics.

The board’s other action was to allow for discussion over the next year regarding the movement of the Human Development and Family Sciences, and Design, Merchandising and Textiles programs, currently in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with a final recommendation to the board in January 2023.

The administration plans to move forward with these changes by July 1, 2022:

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  • Consolidation of the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • Consolidation of the agricultural communications degree program with the Department of Communication and Journalism.
  • Movement of the American Studies Program into the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice.

Among the changes being considered on or before July 1, 2023, pending further refinement:

  • Movement of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and consolidation of that department with the Department of Atmospheric Science.
  • Movement of other physical sciences departments — Chemistry, Geology and Geophysics, and Mathematics and Statistics — from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
  • Movement of the Department of Zoology and Physiology, the Department of Botany and the Life Sciences Program from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Work will be done to determine the optimal structure for the consolidated program and to consider alternative placement of life sciences faculty with discipline-specific expertise that aligns better with other academic units, such as those in the College of Health Sciences.
  • Restructuring of the College of Arts and Sciences to emphasize and elevate humanities, social sciences and arts. With the additional time, work will be done to, among other things: possibly launch a Ph.D. program in English; explore opportunities for other Ph.D. programs; and explore partnerships with the planned School of Computing.
  • Movement of the Nutrition Program to the Division of Kinesiology and Health in the College of Health Sciences.
  • Movement of the Early Care and Education Center to the College of Education.
  • While the proposed reorganizations were driven, in part, by budget considerations, the anticipated savings — about $2 million annually — will not achieve the reductions necessary to respond to the drop in state funding and reallocate resources for new initiatives. Those include establishment of a School of Computing, a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), and the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH) Initiative, which are integral to the new Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) involving UW and the state’s community colleges.

As a result, working with UW college deans, the Office of Academic Affairs has separately developed a budget reduction plan that achieves a $5.3 million reduction to academic programs — including elimination of 20-25 faculty positions that have been vacated by resignations and retirements. Additional proposed reductions and revenue enhancements that will be refined during UW’s regular budget process for the coming fiscal year include academic policy efficiencies, consolidations in auxiliary units and reductions in employee travel and supplies.

“We’re happy that we have been able to achieve our budget targets without eliminating currently filled faculty positions, and our deans are focused on making strategic decisions to position their colleges to best serve our students and the state,” Seidel says. “We’re excited to move forward with our plans to improve the student experience and help grow and diversify the state’s economy.”

A proposal to launch the School of Computing — which will go through the regular review process involving the Faculty Senate — is expected to come before the Board of Trustees in January.

A number of degree programs initially targeted for elimination will be maintained under the provost’s plan: bachelor’s degrees in German and French, as well as in Spanish, German and French secondary education; master’s degrees in political science, international studies, sociology and architectural engineering; graduate degrees in entomology; and the master’s degree in family and consumer sciences, pending potential reorganization of that department.