Plan drafted for USM academic reorganization

Plan drafted for USM academic reorganization
The University of Southern Mississippi. Source: WDAM

A drafted plan for academic reorganization at the University of Southern Mississippi would decrease the number of colleges from six to four in an effort to have a more "efficient organizational structure."

"The goal is to highlight our strengths, cultivate creativity, and distinguish ourselves as an institution," Chief Communication Officer Jim Coll wrote in an email.

The Office of Academic Affairs initially called for proposals from across the University in Fall 2016, resulting in 44 submissions that included more than 100 faculty participants.

"The process has been a lengthy one due to a thorough and inclusive approach," said Coll.

An initial draft of the plan for reorganization was crafted with academic deans and a committee of representative faculty. The draft was released to the University community for a comment period, which closed on May 12, 2017, and changes were made based on faculty feedback.

According to the draft of  the academic reorganization plan "Vision 2020,"  the number of colleges is reduced from six to four: College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Education and Human Sciences, and College of Nursing and Health Professions. This plan would combine the College of Arts and Letters and College of Science and Tech and eliminate the College of Health.

Currently, the full draft is only available online to faculty, staff and students with a University ID number.

As written in the plan, reducing the number of colleges will "reduce administrative costs and promote additional efficiencies, and we (USM) move from a department-based structure to one rooted in broader schools."

The plan states the role of faculty administrators is changed.  If approved, Schools within each College will be led by a Director, an administrative lead of departments and programs, which are managed by faculty leadership teams.

According to the reorganization plan, Vision 2020 is "designed to be implemented by the 2019-2020 academic year."   Once finalized and approved by the IHL Board, changes are expected to being in stages starting this fall.

"Certainly changes in funding, student demographics, and public perceptions create opportunities as well as challenges," is stated in the plan.  "We are poised to respond to such challenges and opportunities so that instructional and research productivity will increase and resources will be maximized to support the academic mission."

"As one Dean put in fall 2016, the "new reality of higher education calls for a new approach, a new vision, a new USM."

Coll said the draft has not yet been finalized.  The final draft plan will be sent to the Mississippi Institute of Higher Learning Board for approval.

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