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The University of Southern Mississippi has completed a Comprehensive Plan for Academic Reorganization that could significantly change the academic and administrative structure of the school.
“The reorganization will benefit the institution in four key ways,” says Dr. Amy Miller, professor and vice provost for academic affairs. “Heightened efficiencies in process, improved budgetary flexibility for colleges and schools, strengthened climate for research and teaching collaboration, and increased visibility for our unique programs and university identity.”
Although mergers outlined in the plan, which was first drafted in fall 2016, will reduce administrative positions and costs, it was not initiated as a direct reaction to cuts in state funding, says Jim Coll, the university’s chief communication officer.
The board of directors of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning is expected to vote on the plan during its August meeting.
As part of the reorganization, the number of colleges would be reduced from from six to four:
• The College of Arts and Sciences: The consolidation of the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science and Technology includes 13 schools and 22 departments.
• College of Business and Economic Development: The College of Business includes four schools and 14 departments.
• College of Education and Human Sciences: The consolidation of the College of Health and the College of Education and Psychology includes six schools and five departments.
• College of Nursing and Health Professions: The College of Nursing includes four schools and three departments.
The draft plan states, “Significantly, the role of faculty administrators is changed in this model — the schools are led by a director, an administrative lead of departments and programs, which are managed by faculty leadership teams. …
“In this reorganization, the director of a school will assume a management role while serving as the ‘first among equals’ or lead faculty in that school. This model will also increase the involvement of faculty in the management of curricular and program delivery issues, encouraging cross-disciplinary communication and decision-making.”
Despite the extensive restructuring, university provost Steven Moser told The Hattiesburg American, “I don’t think anyone will lose their jobs as a result of this reorganization.”
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, and changes were made based on feedback.
Multiple drafts have been vetted and revised leading up to the current version, which is also available to faculty, staff and students on the university provost’s website.