Daily Egyptian

Campus officials say Montemagno’s academic reorganization plan will benefit students, faculty

Southern+Illinois+University+Chancellor+Carlo+Montemagno+gives+the+%22State+of+the+University%22+speech+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+26%2C+2017%2C+at+Shryock+Auditorium.+Montemagno+spoke+on+his+vision+for+the+university+and+the+steps+administration+plans+to+take+to+increase+enrollment+numbers.+%28Brian+Mu%C3%B1oz+%7C+%40BrianMMunoz%29
Southern Illinois University Chancellor Carlo Montemagno gives the

Southern Illinois University Chancellor Carlo Montemagno gives the "State of the University" speech Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at Shryock Auditorium. Montemagno spoke on his vision for the university and the steps administration plans to take to increase enrollment numbers. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Southern Illinois University Chancellor Carlo Montemagno gives the "State of the University" speech Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at Shryock Auditorium. Montemagno spoke on his vision for the university and the steps administration plans to take to increase enrollment numbers. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Isabelle Rogers

Some campus officials say Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s plan to reorganize academic programs into new colleges will give individual units greater opportunity to collaborate and support one another.

The plan — which Montemagno revealed during his State of the University Address on Sept. 26 — calls for restructuring existing academic programs to consolidate them with similar programs into new colleges.

This would include the creation of a new College of Health and Human Services, combining allied health and public health programs into one unit rather than the three colleges they are currently spread out over.

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The reorganization will also form a new School of Sustainability and Earth Science, which merges agriculture and life science programs.

Eleven program heads and professors in the College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Science declined to comment until the chancellor releases more details about the plan.

Kinesiology program chair Julianne Wallace said students in health programs are often confused about which college to enter, leading different colleges to compete for students.

“Bringing us together makes absolute sense and quite honestly, it should have happened a while ago,” Wallace said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Wallace said this move should lead to increased collaboration between students and faculty.

“I see a lot of opportunities for research to evolve out of this, which further creates more opportunities for students,” Wallace said.

Assistant professor of public health Justin McDaniel said the combining health programs into one college will be positive for students in two ways.

“I think students would benefit from not only the opportunity to get involved in new interdisciplinary faculty-led research projects, but also from the opportunity to hear perspectives from students in adjacent programs and take classes with professors of various health-related programs,” McDaniel said.

Another aspect of the reorganization plan includes structuring University College to move some sub-departments to Academic Affairs and some to Student Affairs.

Associate provost Lizette Chevalier said the split will help students by making departments more accessible and fitting programs into departments that better align with their missions.

“My focus is looking at the opportunities for collaboration [like] building programs and academic opportunities for students that we currently don’t have or can build on,” Chevalier said. “What we’re trying to do is align things where there are connections, and where we can support each other.”

Exploratory student advisement and the university’s core curriculum departments will go into Academic Affairs, Chevalier said.

New student programs, disability support services and career services are among the programs that will be be added to Student Affairs, said Lori Stettler, interim vice chancellor for student affairs.

Stettler said the chancellor’s plan is in line with the university’s mission.

“The opportunity to recreate a team that will work in unison and collaboration to assist our students in achieving their goals through purposeful and engaging programs, resources and spaces is central to the vision we are creating as a whole,” Stettler said.

Montemagno said in his address the reorganization will save the university $2.3 million in administrative costs while eliminating program redundancies.

“Imagine the synergy, energy and strength we could build — and duplication we might avoid — if we broke down walls and brought programs and faculty together for joint exploration of knowledge,” Montemagno said.

Though the redirection of administrative costs may mean the loss of some administrators, Chevalier said she prefers to think positively.

“I look at the ‘Is the glass half full or half empty?’ as an inefficient design,” Chevalier said. “I view it from the other prospect of ‘What can we do?’ … Change can be a little intimidating, I get that, but change can also be invigorating. It is all about reinventing ourselves and enhancing student experiences, services and engagement.”

Montemagno said in his address this reorganization will create fewer colleges on campus, leading a larger resource base for the remaining colleges.

Though no final decisions have been made, new drafts of his “straw man proposal” will be released throughout October and November to provide more details about the plan, Montemagno said.  

Montemagno said he will share his finalized plan with a goal of enacting the new system by July 1, 2018.

Staff writer Isabelle Rogers can be reached at irogers@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @isabellearogers. 

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