I do not believe in change for the sake of change alone. In my two years at Portland State I occasionally have asked if our structures optimize the accomplishment of our goals and mission. With the opportunity presented by the search for a new Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs (EMSA), I, along with
the guidance of the Academic Leadership Team (ALT-comprised of the deans, vice provosts and myself), assessed some of the services in EMSA that are most aligned with our academic functions and wrote a white paper with a set of recommendations. EMSA provided their perspectives and conversations took place between the two divisions, with final recommendations reviewed and discussed with President Wiewel.
As a result, President Wiewel made a decision that we should move Advising & Career Services, the Learning Center, the Office of the Registrar, and graduate student recruitment and admissions from EMSA to the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA). There are many details to work out in making these moves that will involve the participation of numerous individuals and groups over the next few months.
It is important to note: 1) Certain reporting structures will change to better align with the university’s academic priorities, and that will require reorganizing some functions. However, there are no plans to eliminate positions as a result of the change in reporting lines, and 2) this change is not in criticism of the great work that EMSA has done, but rather to better align and implement the strategies critical to our academic programs and student success. For example, PSU faces increasing competition for graduate students and we need to develop a comprehensive graduate admissions system that is separate from undergraduate admissions and coordinated closely with our schools and colleges.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last that we ask if our structures serve our current and future needs. I asked that question in “my own back yard” when I first arrived at PSU by taking a critical look at the functions of the provost office. In that case, I merged and reduced leadership positions.
Last year when the dean position in the School of Social Work (SSW) was vacated, I asked SSW faculty and staff about their structure and leadership. There were some initial concerns that I might have already made up my mind to merge the school with another college. I assured them that was not the case. As a result of SSW’s thoughtful and deliberate conversations it was determined that their current status as a school, with a dean, was critical to the success of their programs.
I again asked a structure question this spring when the CLAS dean position was vacated. At the suggestion of faculty and staff in CLAS we administered a poll to see if they wanted to have a discussion about the structure of their college. Seventy-one percent (248 out of 349) of the full-time faculty and staff responding to the poll indicated a desire to do so. That conversation is taking place now–again with no predetermined outcome.
Change for the sake of change is never a good idea. But we need to remember that throughout PSU’s history we have been an institution that has been willing to look at how our structure serves our students, faculty, staff and community. Today, we have seven schools/colleges (and maybe an 8th if the Faculty Senate recommends creation of a School of Public Health), a division for Research and Strategic Partnerships, a division of EMSA, and an office of Global Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) – all a result of a willingness on the part of this university to occasionally change our organizational structure.
I am interested in your thoughts on the topic of structural change and on any specific changes that have taken place or are under consideration.