A look at another institution’s reorganization

Welcome to the chancellor’s blog. I plan to use this space to keep you updated about campus activities and initiatives, including academic reorganization, the subject of this first post.

A major goal of reorganization is to create scholarly communities that give faculty greater ownership of their programs. We can do this by changing how resources are managed, reducing administrative burdens and creating opportunities through closer alignment of programs that will yield greater collaboration.

We are not alone in this approach.

The University of Southern Mississippi, a research university similar in size to SIU, is undergoing an academic reorganization driven by reshaped expectations, declining state funding and “trends in scholarship that demonstrate a fundamental shift toward collaborative work, which is made more difficult by traditional academic structures.”

Here’s the key question the university asked of itself: “What can we do within our existing resource realities to highlight our strengths, cultivate creativity, and distinguish ourselves as an institution?”

The answer: “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.”

This should sound very familiar.

ACADEMIC STRUCTURE

The university’s plan should also sound familiar. Departments are grouped under schools. School directors have administrative and budgetary responsibilities for groups of departments. Departments are led by chairs who work with program coordinators to “manage assessment and curricular matters.” Program coordinators focus on academic degree programs, working closely with department chairs. Chairs and program coordinators are described as non-administrative faculty members who are elected by their peers.

These roles and responsibilities align closely with the roles and responsibilities we have described in our proposed reorganization. (See our online FAQ.) The primary exception is the use of the term “departments” and “chairs,” which are described much as what we are currently calling “divisions” and “coordinators.” As the FAQ notes, we cannot use the term “department” in our proposed new structure for now, but this issue can be addressed collaboratively.

FOCUS ON PROGRAMS

No two universities are exactly the same. Not every aspect of the Southern Mississippi plan is the same as ours. But we share an interest in building scholarly communities, creating opportunities for greater collaboration and providing greater emphasis on the programs that comprise our academic core.

Reorganization will give faculty far more ownership of their academic programs, and it will create more capacity for academic collaboration. I’ve heard from many faculty members who say they are looking forward to these opportunities.

Author: Carlo Montemagno

Carlo Montemagno is chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more about him at chancellor.siu.edu.