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UW Finalizes Academic Restructuring Proposal to Present to Trustees

November 5, 2021

A major reorganization of the University of Wyoming’s academic programs would proceed, although implementation of some significant components would be delayed by a year, under a proposal scheduled to be presented to the UW Board of Trustees Nov. 17-19.

The proposal, which follows months of development informed by thorough review and feedback from internal and external stakeholders, aims to position the university for a vibrant future at a time of uncertain state revenues, economic shifts and a changing higher-education landscape.

“We must consider where we are headed at the same time we make changes to budgets of our various units in response to reductions in recent years,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “The academic reorganization plan, combined with new initiatives to improve the student experience and higher education’s role in Wyoming’s economy, sets the stage for new synergies, scholarly coherence and efficiencies that aren’t possible under the university’s current structure. Overall, the plan aims to better serve our students and better position us for increased revenue streams from research agencies and corporate partnerships as we strive to become a Carnegie R1 research-intensive institution.”

Specifically, the proposal going before the trustees would, effective July 1, 2022, reorganize the College of Education; move and/or consolidate several academic departments; and eliminate four low-enrollment graduate degree programs.

Additional academic reconfigurations -- including movement of several academic departments from the current College of Arts and Sciences, and restructuring and renaming of the current College of Engineering and Applied Science and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources -- wouldn’t be implemented until July 1, 2023, pending further refinement.

“After careful consideration of the feedback that we have received from faculty, students, staff and stakeholders, I believe additional time is needed for consideration of how best to implement the major reorganization of the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Engineering and Applied Science,” Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman says. “I plan to engage in a robust discussion over the next year to carefully consider optimal alignments while minimizing unintended negative consequences of restructuring. This year, UW will be updating its institutional strategic plan, which will be an ideal opportunity to consider how reorganization could position the university for a prosperous future.”

While the proposed reorganizations were driven, in part, by budget considerations, they would not achieve the reductions necessary to respond to the drop in state funding and reallocate resources for the new initiatives -- establishment of a School of Computing, a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), and the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH) Initiative, which are integral to the new Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) involving UW and the state’s community colleges.

As a result, working with UW college deans, the Office of Academic Affairs has separately developed a budget reduction plan that achieves a $5.3 million reduction to academic programs -- with work continuing for a total $13.6 million budget reduction. Final details on the reductions will come later, but the plan does include eliminating 20-25 faculty positions that have been vacated by resignations and retirements.

“We worked extremely hard with the deans to find ways to achieve our budget targets, continue to be strategic and not harm faculty who dedicate their careers to serving our students,” Seidel says. “We have succeeded in not eliminating faculty positions that are currently filled. And, by folding in final implementation of the reorganization with strategic planning, we will ensure strategic outcomes with faculty, staff and student input throughout the process.”

A proposal to launch the School of Computing -- which will go through the regular review process involving the Faculty Senate -- is expected to go before the Board of Trustees in January.

Under UW Regulation 2-13, the proposal going to the Board of Trustees this month would:

-- Reorganize the College of Education effective July 1, 2022. The plan is for the college to have three divisions: one focused on educator preparation; one for graduate education; and one for innovation and engagement. A review committee would examine a proposal to discontinue two graduate degree programs, the Ph.D. in counseling and the Ph.D. in learning, design and technology.

-- Reorganize the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Engineering and Applied Science to better align the life and physical sciences, and the humanities, social sciences and arts, with full implementation by July 1, 2023.

-- Give authority to the provost and executive vice president to implement some components of the restructuring plan by July 1, 2022, while pausing to engage in thoughtful discussion over the larger, structural changes before implementing changes no later than July 1, 2023.

-- Suspend the required review period specified in Regulation 2-13 to allow for discussion over the next year regarding the move of the Human Development and Family Sciences, and Design, Merchandising and Textiles programs, with a final recommendation to the board in January 2023.

-- Discontinue these degree programs: the Master of Arts in philosophy, the MBA in finance, the MBA in energy and the Ph.D. in statistics.

Among the changes that would take place by July 1, 2022:

-- Consolidation of the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

-- Movement of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and consolidation of that department with the Department of Atmospheric Science.

-- Consolidation of the agricultural communications degree program with the Department of Communication and Journalism.

-- Movement of the American Studies Program into the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice.

Among the changes that would take place by July 1, 2023, pending further refinement:

-- Movement of other physical sciences departments -- Chemistry, Geology and Geophysics, and Mathematics and Statistics -- from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

-- Renaming of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, possibly to the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

-- Movement of the Department of Zoology and Physiology, the Department of Botany and the Life Sciences Program from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. With the additional time, work will be done to determine the optimal structure for the consolidated program and to consider alternative placement of life sciences faculty with discipline-specific expertise that aligns better with other academic units, such as those in the College of Health Sciences.

-- Renaming of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, possibly to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

-- Restructuring of the College of Arts and Sciences to emphasize and elevate humanities, social sciences and arts. With the additional time, work will be done to, among other things: possibly launch a Ph.D. program in English; explore opportunities for other Ph.D. programs; and explore partnerships with the planned School of Computing.

-- Movement of the Nutrition Program to the Division of Kinesiology and Health in the College of Health Sciences.

-- Movement of the Human Development and Family Sciences Program, and the Early Care and Education Center to the College of Education. With the additional time, work will be done to consider alternative placement of the Human Development and Family Sciences Program and faculty with discipline-specific expertise that aligns better with other academic units; consider the appropriate academic home for the Design, Merchandising and Textiles Program; and consider discontinuation of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The additional year also would allow careful review of the potential implications of the proposed reorganizations of the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and College of Engineering and Applied Science. Those considerations include reallocation of staff support and academic advising; redistribution of operating budgets; assignment and stewardship of endowments; and administrative structure.

A number of degree programs initially targeted for elimination would be maintained under the provost’s recommendations: bachelor’s degrees in German and French, as well as in Spanish, German and French secondary education; master’s degrees in political science, international studies, sociology and architectural engineering; graduate degrees in entomology; and the master’s degree in family and consumer sciences, pending potential reorganization of that department.

The full proposal to the Board of Trustees, along with other information, will be available at www.uwyo.edu/acadaffairs/program-review/current/program-documents.html. Comments will continue to be accepted until the Nov. 17-19 board meeting.

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