Workgroup talks feedback, potential innovations

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

Workgroup No. 9, Academic Visioning II, discussed feedback given to them about their suggestions for reorganizing different academic areas and potentially innovating programs to market them better at their meeting Wednesday.

Workgroup chair Melinda Mueller, a political science professor, emailed every chair of academic departments about ideas the group had in previous meetings.

Sometimes the chair collected the faculty responses, and some wrote to Mueller directly.

At times, she said there was conflict in departments over some issues.

A lot of the faculty members who got back to her wanted to know how these reorganizations would save money.

“One of the things people want to see are administrative cost savings,” she said. “There are some departments defending themselves by presenting themselves in terms of their profitability.”

She said people want to know more information, as it is such an early stage that people do not know how much money would be saved, or how it would actually work.

There were also concerns Mueller had with people telling her about the cost and departments isolating themselves too much.

“The overwhelming response is, is it worth it? Will it do anything? Is it too expensive? Will it silo us even more at a time when that might not be a good idea?” she said.

She said while there are advantages to having a small group, if it is too small, departments might not talk to other departments, causing them to lose multidisciplinary opportunities.

Austin Cheney, chair of the School of Technology, said marketing the institution and some programs differently is another option the group could look at.

“Maybe we don’t have to change the internal structure,” Cheney said. “Managing it internally, that’s a secondary issue when you’re presenting the right things.”

Cheney said there still has to be a driver of all this.

“Who’s the person who drives innovation in this area?” he said. “Who’s going to say we should do this?”

Richard England asked what the group would do if new fields evolved or other disciplines and career opportunities came up.

“If we try to serve those markets only by adding onto, it’s a little bit like keeping the old family car and turning it into a station wagon by cutting off the back and adding features to it in a kind of Frankenstein-ish way,” England said.

He said there is an argument for reorganizing if it is serving students’ needs better.

When serving students, English professor Jay Bickford said there are two or three elements he sees that are involved.

One is marketing so they can be attractive; another is their placement in advising and giving opportunities for interdisciplinary advising so there’s more cross discipline considerations, he said.

England said there is some work to be done, as changing the surface means also changing the substructure.

“Before we go forward, do we have a plan?” he said.

It was mentioned that a potential challenge is the amount of time it can take to implement changes.

The group decided to look at the number of administrators and number of staff to address the question of whether they should move forward with a plan to reorganize or come up with some way for innovation.

“Maybe the idea of innovation needs to be addressed no matter what,” Mueller said.

Mueller said this is an area that could belong to curriculum committees.

“If we’re not doing that, maybe we need to have some mechanism for that,” she said.

Mueller said the group will be studying their options, as there are pros and cons to any of the reorganizations they are considering.

She said there is no data yet for how they would innovate or better market the programs.

“We have ask some people for resources on that I don’t know yet,” Mueller said.


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].