‘Year of transition’ underway at Eastern

Brooke Schwartz, News Editor

A plan to restructure colleges and create a new one was approved by the board of trustees over the summer and put into effect during July.

The plan involves many changes, including the creation of a new College of Health and Human Services, the creation of a new school of communications and journalism and a school of fine arts.

Provost Jay Gatrell said the transition is happening according to the timeline he laid out last year.

“It’s going to be a year of change, but I think what we have is a stable structure to move forward with,” he said.

The first steps of this change, which occurred after the July 1 board of trustees meeting, included officially renaming chosen departments, colleges and schools.

Interim deans were also chosen, with Anita Shelton being named the interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Jeanne Lord being named the interim dean for the College of Health and Human Services.

Grant Sterling, who took a one-year position titled administrative fellow, said his job is to try and create a similar base out of all the once different schools and colleges.

“Each college had all its own structures. What if one had bylaws that say one thing and the other has bylaws that say something else, where do you go from there?” Sterling said. “There are lots of structures and traditions and practices in the two colleges that you have to figure out. What are we going to keep, what are we going to change? Can we merge things or do we have to create something totally new?”

Sterling said another difficult part of the transition process is creating the foundation for the two new schools, the School of Journalism and Communication Studies and the School of Fine Arts.

“There is no set blueprint for what a school has to be at Eastern,” he said. “We’ve had multiple entities called schools in the past, and none of them functioned in exactly the same way.”

This year will concentrate on building stable common ground between departments that were once separated.

Sterling said it is now up to the faculty to utilize the opportunity to create something new and to collaborate with departments they might have not thought to before.

“What we’ve done is bring faculty in different departments and disciplines together, and now it’s up to them to see where it goes. The success or failure of this whole thing is, what do the faculty do with it?” he said. “That’s what (the transition) is supposed to do. Give (faculty members) the opportunity to work together and come up with ideas and develop things and innovate.”

Anita Shelton, the interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Gatrell both said they are glad to see the vitalization project resulting in real changes around campus.

“Like any change, there’s always going to be a little bit of anxiety, that’s just the nature of any organization, but I really do believe that the realignment reflects the values and the mission of Eastern, the institution, as well as the priorities of the faculty as they were articulated throughout the entire vitalization process,” Gatrell said. “Vitalization is still ongoing, we are going to continue to revisit those workgroups and move forward.”

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].