By Monica Chapman
Monday marked the first open forum on Ohio University's academic restructuring plan as proposed by university deans. An 11-member panel, including 10 deans and Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl, addressed questions and concerns voiced by attendees, comprising mostly faculty and staff. Dozens more participated via webcast.
Proposed in the form of a white paper on March 18, the academic restructuring plan calls for four fundamental developments:
According to Gary Neiman, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, the proposed academic restructuring would ideally go into effect by July 1, 2010. The quick turnaround, he said, contributes to a sense of urgency to collect feedback now.
"We're proud of this proposal and endorse this proposal and think that there's a lot of collective wisdom in it... but we also recognize that there's an immense amount of wisdom within the faculty, and we want to hear your constructive ideas on how this can be improved," he told the audience.
According to Krendl, academic restructuring should come as no surprise. In fact, she said, a major restructuring has occurred about every 30 years throughout the university's history.
"I hope we're in dynamic fields that continue to evolve and grow and expand and change," she said. "And somehow finding those interconnections, those opportunities and the boundaries of those fields has to be part of our ongoing conversations."
Read on for a sampling of questions addressed during Monday's open forum. Or, to hear the forum in its entirety, click here.
Where will cost savings be evident?
In his response, Neiman said cost savings will be largely generated through infrastructural changes that will occur. As an example, he pointed to the College of Health and Human Services, the refocusing of which will generate nearly $250,000 of future savings.
Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine Jack Brose said that under the reorganization, the university would also be better positioned to generate income through grants -- a statement that Krendl later expounded upon.
"Many (grant opportunities) are interdisciplinary in nature. Many of them require collaborations across what we would traditionally think of as silo-ed boundaries. And somehow we have to get to the point where we can have those conversations in on-going ways," she said.
Executive Dean of Regional Campuses Dan Evans added that the academic restructuring plan allows for the expansion of degree programs to regional campuses and that some of the resulting duplication of services could be combined over time to create efficiencies.
Dean of University College David Descutner pointed out that student success, as the driving force behind the proposed restructuring, ultimately translates to revenue through student retention.
How will this plan foster interdisciplinary interaction?
In his response, Neiman discussed the need for more integrated curriculums, referring to his own clinical training as training "with blinders." According to Brose, this lack of integration in medical training continues at Ohio University, while the medical fields become increasingly integrated. The creation of an academic health center, Brose reasoned, will create a broader medical network, pulling from many different disciplines.
"If we can educate students using that model -- bringing faculty together across disciplines -- we will be very successful in having the most employable students and those who will have the greatest impact on state-of-the-art clinical practice," Neiman said, adding, "We need to develop a model set of curriculum that embodies those values."
Dean of the Scripps College of Communication Gregory Shepherd went on to add that even colleges not affected by the proposed reorganization could benefit through faculty affiliations within the new structure.
How does this plan fit into the goals of the University System of Ohio?
In his response, Descutner pointed out that the new funding formula is based on student success and timely graduation -- both of which are key objectives within the University System of Ohio. "The more that we are aligned to meet that imperative, the better off we're going to be as a campus," he said.
Krendl referenced the creation of a new college, brought about through the merger of Regional Higher Education, University Outreach and University College.
"Having a college structure that is driven by the mission around access, affordability and student success can really position the institution more broadly and put us in a more competitive position in the state," she said, adding, "I think it's a direct fit with the idea of the USO and the principles that drive it."
Evans added that the regional campuses are the means by which Ohio can deliver on "the new 30-mile promise" -- the promise of putting "low-cost, affordable, high-quality associate degrees and baccalaureate degrees within 30 miles of every citizen in Ohio."
Brose cited a recent meeting with Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents Eric Fingerhut, during which he charged attending medical school deans to create academic health centers, using health care as a means to stimulate the economy.
Krendl acknowledged faculty concerns over the placement of programs, stating that work will need to go into developing new program missions and in some cases re-envisioning units. She said she also recognized that absorbing additional faculty into colleges without additional resources poses a challenge.
Krendl welcomed faculty and staff to share additional concerns and suggestions as the university moves forward in the process and provided assurance that the best interests of students and faculty are top priority.
"It's not about losing the momentum that we have, but it's about gaining opportunities and gaining opportunities that we can't currently take advantage of ... and those are many and are very much driven by opportunities to serve our region and to improve our potential in the marketplace," Krendl said. "So again, serving students, helping students succeed, creating opportunities for faculty -- those are the kinds of things that should be driving our decision making processes here."
Additional forums for faculty and staff at the College of Health and Human Services will take place on April 10 and April 17. Other departments wishing to discuss the restructuring with specific deans at greater length may do so by contacting Ann Fidler, the interim associate provost for strategic initiatives. Fidler also will field all comments and suggestions regarding the proposal.
The white paper appears in full on the Executive Vice President and Provost's Web site in PDF format. (An OAK login and password are required.)