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UW Trustees meet this week to consider academic restructuring proposal, hear COVID-19 response update

Right, UW President Ed Seidel (University of Wyoming, UW Alumni Association, Facebook)

CASPER, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees will meet this week from Wednesday-Friday, November 17-19, to consider a final proposed major reorganization of academic programs.

Discussion and potential action on the plan will begin at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, with public comment beginning at 3:00 p.m. Those wishing to offer verbal testimony should fill out the web form on the university website. The deadline to sign up is 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 16.

Seating is limited on site at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, but the meeting can viewed online here. Wednesday’s agenda is made up of committee meetings. The Board will also hear an update on UW’s COVID-19 response, as well as a report on the Trustees Education Initiative.

A complete agenda with background materials is available here.

After spending the summer holding listening sessions and reviewing feedback from stakeholders, including affected departments, the majority of the proposed academic restructuring changes won’t go into effect until 2023.

Citing reductions in state funding and the need to support new programs (like the School of Computing) to stay competitive in Wyoming’s changing economy, UW aimed this summer to reduce the 2023 fiscal year budget by $13.6 million, according to Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman’s final letter of recommendation to UW President Ed Seidel.

Seidel also said in a release last week that UW is aiming to attract research agencies and corporate partnerships, and to specifically “become a Carnegie R1 research-intensive institution.”

Carman noted that the “status quo in organization, degree offerings, and course delivery” could not continue amidst those cuts.

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

Other changes to the current College of Arts and Sciences, and the 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 of 2023, “pending further refinement,” UW said.

The additional year “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,” UW said.

Both the Faculty Senate and Staff Senate passed resolutions that were not supportive of the proposed reorganizations, Carmen noted in his letter to Seidel.

The Faculty Senate resolution “instead advocates that the UW campus community engage in meaningful deliberation of comprehensive reconfiguration as part of future strategic planning.”

After establishing 11 review committees and multiple listening sessions with donors, affected departments, and other stakeholders, Carmen noted that the Faculty Senate resolution stated that “a significant majority of faculty do not support the proposed restructuring, do not feel that faculty have had an opportunity for input, and do not feel that there has been adequate time for thoughtful planning.”

“It questions the wisdom of the recommendations given the lack of familiarity with UW of the provost and president,” Carmen’s letter said.

Carmen’s report notes that the restructuring plan itself does not achieve the $13.6 million in cuts that catalyzed the effort, and additional budget cut plans are underway.

A number of degree programs initially targeted for elimination would be maintained under the provost’s recommendations, including bachelor’s degrees in foreign languages and master’s degrees in political science international studies, sociology and architectural engineering.

According to the UW release, the proposal going to the Board of Trustees 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 four degree programs: the Master of Arts in philosophy, the MBA in finance, the MBA in energy and the Ph.D. in statistics.

The changes that would take place by July 1, 2022 include:

  • 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.

The changes that would take place by July 1, 2023, pending further refinement, include:

  • 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.

A full review of the changes is available in the UW release and in the Provost’s letter to Seidel.