Following a meeting between the university department chairs and directors on April 4, the Office of the Provost released The University of Southern Mississippi’s Plan for Academic Reorganization: Vision 2020.
The Director of the School of Ocean Science and Technology William “Monty” Graham said this meeting was for the chairs.
“I thought the process, up to now – no telling where it’s gonna go from here – but up to now, I thought it was really deliberate and thoughtful and inclusive,” Graham said.
“The Plan for Academic Reorganization: Vision 2020 arises from the commitment of academic affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi to enhance the distinctiveness of academic programs and to create a sustainable model for academic programming,” according to the Office of the Provost. “The academic leadership at all levels and faculty advisory bodies have played a critical role in shaping the reorganization initiative and the concomitant success of academic programs.”
The fall 2016 request for proposals resulted in 44 submissions from more than 100 faculty members, according to the Office of the Provost. Faculty members submitted proposals to the Provost for consideration. The proposals were reviewed by the Academic Leadership Council (ALC), a group of faculty leaders on campus.
“I think overall it’s a positive. [Reorganization is] going to better streamline and make us more efficient in the long run and hopefully there will be more research collaboration between departments,” said Janie Butts, a professor in the Systems Leadership and Health Outcomes Department of the College of Nursing. Butts served on the ACL as a part of the group who discussed the proposals in the beginning of the process.
Department Chair of the Systems Leadership and Health Outcomes Bonnie Harbaugh said she believes it will not affect current students.
“With the new faculty titles, that’s gonna cause people to move up and down in the faculty, I know that,” Harbaugh said. “The staff positions probably will be renamed and people are going to have to take on new [roles] or let go of old [roles]. We don’t know. All I can tell you is everything’s up for some change.”
Harbaugh said staff positions have been relabeled and so people are going to have to find their niche.
“We don’t know how many are going to be in each group,” Harbaugh said.
According to both Harbaugh and Butts, there has been 20 percent reduction in state programs since 2008. They said the academic reorganization plan is an adjustment in response to that loss in state funding.
The university hopes to implement the plan by fall 2017.
“The plan actually includes a discussion of the context and reasons for reorganizing as well as the details of the proposed structure and positions within it,” said Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Amy Miller. “We hope that the comment period will help us strengthen the plan and prepare it to present to Dr. Bennett. The decision on whether to move forward with this or any other reorganization rests with Dr. Bennett. If he approves the plan presented to him by Dr. Moser, the next step will be to develop an implementation timeline to identify what needs to be done, and when.”
The official academic reorganization plan, Vision 2020, is available to view on the Office of the Provost webpage along with all 44 proposals submitted.
“Administrative units will be larger in size and scope, with emphasis on programs rather than departments, to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary teaching and research, to realize economies of scale, to facilitate fluid reallocation of resources, and to reduce duplication in programming and administration,” the plan states.
The Office of the Provost will maintain a campus-wide comment period through April 17 with the goal of further refining the comprehensive plan.
Deans and members of the ACL can receive suggestions from the faculty.
Faculty Senate President David Holt will hold town hall meetings on the Gulf Park campus on April 12 and 13 and on the Hattiesburg campus on April 14.
For academic staff, Staff Council will collect recommendations through their website at www.usm.edu/staff-council/submit-action-item.