Wright State University | Photo by Cheyenne Waddell | Edited by Jessica Fugett | The Wright State Guardian
Wright State University plans to take the current six academic colleges and reduce them to four, according to a communication email from Interim Provost Douglas Leaman.
Consolidating seven colleges into four
In an effort to ease the financial strain on the university, Leaman has introduced a plan to consolidate WSU’s current seven colleges into four.
The reorganization involves creating the new health college, combining units of the Colleges of Science and Mathematics and Engineering and Computer Science into a new STEM college, and reorganizing the College of Liberal Arts and Raj Soin College of Businesses.
The creation of the new health college was originally planned to launch in 2021, but with increasing financial strain, the university decided to move up the process to this upcoming fall.
“Rather than freeze in place, we are rising to the challenge and accelerating the reorganization,” said Leaman in the email. “The consolidation of many of our academic units and programs will focus on the forward-looking needs of our region.”
Many colleges in the area decided to furlough faculty in an effort to stabilize their budget after coronavirus.
The University of Dayton decided to furlough or lay off over 500 employees in April, but WSU has not made any move to follow suit. Instead, the university is opting for a restructuring of colleges.
“Furloughs are not long term solutions to the problems we are facing,” said Leaman. “But we have been looking at a long term issue that Wright State has been facing, and that is the issue of declining student population and declining state support. We need to look at structural solutions that can position us for long term sustainability.”
The restructuring is intended to put the university in a situation where they are not continually having to look for short term solutions year after year, according to Leaman.
In addition to the health college, other reorganization changes will follow suit.
The preliminary plan was previously shared with college deans, Faculty Senate Executive Committee and department chairs. Leaman is now sharing the plan with the WSU community to solicit feedback, ideas, and concerns, according to the communication email.
Leaman is very adamant about taking the advice and concerns from the community into account before deciding on a final draft.
“We want to be clear… this is not something for us to impose,” said Leaman. “This is something that needs to be done, and it needs to be done collaboratively. It needs to be done with feedback from experts, the people that are in all of these units, and it needs to be done absolutely openly.”
For more information and to provide comments click here >>
Leaman has asked Brian Rigling, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, to serve as the point person for this project. Rigling’s next steps include forming a committee process to review comments and developing a final organization plan to be considered by Leaman.
The end goal and changes
“In a perfect world, students will not experience significant changes to their educational experience,” said Leaman.
However, students may see certain names change or notice that their programs are realigned.
Some programs may merge with others, but Leaman does not see this as “cutting” programs. He assures students that “we are not eliminating opportunities.”
There is no set number that determines if a program will stay or go, but rather what programs fit the strengths of the institution and the needs of the community, according to Leaman.
Leaman hopes the restructuring will allow the university to offer what is critical for the region while doing it in a more effective and sustainable way.
The university will also experience a more simplified administrative structure under the new changes.
“There will be situations where instead of needing two deans, you may only need one,” said Leaman. “But there is no question that streamlining and administrative efficiencies will reduce their administrative burden.”
Some deans and administration from merging colleges will be assigned to new roles that are needed in the new structure.
“What we are gaining is efficiency, not just in the administrative structure, but by bringing together academic units that have similar missions, we are able to meet the needs of the students more effectively,” said Leaman.
There is not a set timeline yet for the changes to be put into action, but Leaman plans to have it ready to market to students joining in the fall of 2021.
“I can’t fully predict the speed but the goal would be to work throughout the year to start to merge things from a structure on paper into more of a reality,” said Leaman.