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Southern Miss to Implement Plan for Academic Reorganization

HATTIESBURG, MS. - The following is a press release from the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approved The University of Southern Mississippi (USM)’s Plan for Academic Reorganization: Vision 2020 on Thursday, a plan the University expects will be a catalyst toward realization of its vision to become the model for public higher education across the country.

“Our ability to evolve will determine our level of success in today’s competitive landscape of higher education,” said University President Rodney D. Bennett. “I am excited about the transformative potential of the Plan for Academic Reorganization, and I appreciate the hard work of all who were involved in developing this strategic path forward for academic affairs at USM.”

Implementation of the plan is expected to remove artificial administrative barriers to collaborative and effective academic work, and is expected to facilitate greater student access to resources and assistance from faculty and staff.

“Our faculty are doing extraordinary work in the classroom, in the labs, and in their creative efforts,” said Dr. Steven R. Moser, USM Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The question was how do we take our resources and accomplishments and leverage those to move the institution forward.

“This reorganization plan gives us an opportunity to structure academic affairs in a way that positions us for enrollment growth and to expand collaborative teaching and research.”

The plan reduces the number of colleges at the University from six to four, while currently maintaining the number of programs offered. It also moves academic affairs from a department-based structure to one rooted in broader schools.

Colleges are the “macro” organizational entities for collections of academic units, and the academic head of a college is generally a dean. Colleges house schools, departments, and programs as well as, potentially, centers and institutes, all designed toward a common academic mission. The plan calls for colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business and Economic Development, Education and Human Sciences, and Nursing and Health Professions.

“We are excited about many aspects of the reorganization process, starting with our new name: College of Business and Economic Development,” said Dr. Faye W. Gilbert, dean. “Business faculty are distinctive in their outreach and collaborative work with organizations, and our economic development students and faculty make a difference in this region and beyond.

“The reorganization process emphasized shared governance. Over time, I believe this work will enhance the voice of faculty and identify synergies and new collaborations across disciplines.”

The plan is the result of a year’s worth of collaborative work by administrators, faculty, staff and students, beginning with a request for proposals from faculty in Fall 2016. That request resulted in 44 submissions crafted by more than 100 faculty participants. These proposals were submitted to the Provost for consideration and subsequently reviewed and discussed by academic deans and by leadership of faculty governance bodies. Multiple rounds of draft plans were reviewed and revised, incorporating additional feedback with each new draft.

“A great deal of thought, effort and time has been put into the reorganization plan,” said Dr. Charkarra Anderson-Lewis, associate professor and interim chair of the department of public health. “I know that for many of us, it is difficult to imagine a way of doing things differently from what we are accustomed to, but I am excited about this change and have high hopes that this reorganization of our academic structure will create more academically viable units and a stronger and better University of Southern Mississippi!”

The resulting plan supports USM students, but also the state of Mississippi and beyond, as faculty and staff assist graduates in maximizing their potential to the benefit of the state, region and nation.

“The School of Polymer Science and Engineering is pleased to support Provost Moser and University administration in this bold reorganization, which is certain to strengthen the University through attracting and retaining high quality faculty, staff and students,” said Dr. Jeffrey S. Wiggins, professor and director of the newly renamed school. “I am particularly inspired to help advance engineering programs at Southern Miss in an effort to stimulate economic development in South Mississippi and position highly skilled graduates to meet our state’s next-generation workforce requirements.”

Implementation of the plan is expected to begin this fall and occur over the next two academic years.

“Our focus is still on the traditional degrees we offer and the high-quality research we conduct from the ocean floor to the International Space Station,” Moser said. “But we also have the potential to do more, and this structure will encourage innovation that benefits USM students, the state, the region, and the country.”



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