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downtown Mpls

The University's move to create three new Twin Cities campus colleges out of six existing ones will make the U more efficient and productive, and offer students more opportunities.

A transforming U takes shape

Three newly created colleges will improve educational offerings

By Martha Coventry

June 30, 2006; updated July 3, 2006

It's rare for a university to rearrange its individual colleges to create a more efficient and focused institution. The effort has to be worth it--vital for the well-being of the university and essential for its future--and it has to be done with the utmost attention and respect.

On July 1, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, went from 20 colleges to 17. It welcomed three newly created colleges--the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS); the College of Design; and the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)--(see diagram below) to campus, signaling its determination to ensure a brighter future for itself.

Nearly two years ago, the University looked at the challenges it faced as an international research university. It saw that money allocated for higher education was shrinking; that competition was growing for the best students, staff and faculty; and that research funding was increasingly going to institutions engaged in collaborative, multidisciplinary work. If it stayed its present course, it would survive, but probably not in as strong a position as other universities that set new directions and flourished.

New colleges by the numbers

College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)
275 faculty
2,500 students

College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)
200 faculty
6,000 students

College of Design
46 faculty
93 adjunct faculty
288 graduate students
1,483 undergraduate students

So the University went to work setting up task forces, inviting community input, issuing recommendations and presenting to the Board of Regents its plan for creating a new direction for the 155-year-old institution, one that would put it among the top three public research universities in the world within a decade.

Distilling the U's strengths A significant piece of that plan was the crucial step of combining six colleges into three newly created entities. It's a move that the U trusts will increase curriculum quality and selection, lead to more efficient operations, provide fertile ground for collaborative research, and save, by early estimates, nearly $3 million to $4 million dollars over the next two to three years.

Part of those savings will come from smaller payrolls as six colleges become three and no longer need the same number of deans, associate deans and directors. Additional cost savings will come from the University implementing better administrative practices.

The money saved will be reinvested in academic programs, as enhancing the academic offerings of the colleges is a key objective of this effort. The money will also be used for academic initiatives designed to make the U a stronger contender among higher education institutions.

"An important principle of strategic positioning was that if the colleges would go through the difficult process of reorganizing services, they would get to reap any rewards," says Lincoln Kallsen of the Office of Budget and Finance.

Seeking maximum productivity According to a recent draft report of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, colleges and universities shoot themselves in the financial foot by "their failure to seek institutional efficiencies and...their disregard for improving productivity." The creation of these three colleges is an important step in meeting both of those challenges--becoming a more efficient institution and improving productivity.

One way to improve productivity is to bring staff together to work in "clusters," a concept already in use at the College of Liberal Arts and the Medical School. In the newly formed CEHD, the finance people are moving out of their individual departments and into clusters--groups of people serving multiple departments.

"There's an efficiency here, but that's only one of the reasons we're doing this," says Kallsen. "We're trying to provide more colleagues for people, which will allow departments not to have to rely on one person."

The diagram above--please click for a larger image--shows which colleges, schools and departments will be part of the three newly created colleges.

The real benefit But the U is quick to stress that while saving money is important--and is still what some Minnesotans see as a top priority--it's the increased quality of teaching and research that is the big dividend in the creation of these new colleges.

"The creation of these colleges will strengthen the education that students get," says Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education. "Each new college brings together related disciplines within a single college, creating larger intellectual communities for students and faculty. Students will be exposed to new perspectives. Faculty will find it easier to collaborate on teaching and research."

Students as well as faculty will become collaborators. For example, in the new College of Design, interior design students and architecture students, who would never have rubbed elbows in the past, are together in the same college and given the opportunity to learn from each other. Faculty are already talking about new approaches to the curriculum.

Research, too, will benefit from the new colleges and the natural connections that will form.

"Realignment of our academic and research strengths will make the U more competitive in an increasing interdisciplinary research environment," says Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research.

On the ground It's inevitable that a move that involves more than 10,000 faculty, staff and students would create some challenges. Perhaps the college most affected by this move is General College, traditionally the entrance point to the University for students who need more academic development. It is now part of the College of Education and Human Development and called the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning. Terry Collins was interim dean of General College and is serving as interim dean of CEHD until new dean Darlyne Bailey, currently vice president for academic affairs and dean of the Teachers College at Columbia University, takes over on Oct. 1. Collins was intimately involved in the transition process for faculty and staff to the new colleges.

"I think that for [General College] staff, especially, the transition was very difficult," says Collins. "People were asked to come to work every day, do their job, and help push ahead a process that was very likely going to result in that job being radically changed or eliminated. And they did that selflessly and they did that in a way the University ought to be proud of. I think faculty are looking ahead and building a curriculum that will fit the mission of the new department that's grounded in learning communities and a kind of fast start for students who need support early in their careers."

This realignment of academic programs is one of the most significant changes in the University's history. When the students in these three colleges come to campus in the fall, they'll find the U keeping a close eye on these new endeavors, making sure that they are shining examples of the best the University has to offer.

Further reading University of Minnesota News Service release Education leader new dean of College of Education and Human Development Designing a college A vision for the future