University restructure: Largest UW reorganization in history impacts ag college programs
Laramie – On July 13, the University of Wyoming (UW) Trustees announced a plan to “reconfigure UW’s colleges; discontinue or reorganize some academic programs; build on UW’s existing Tier-1 Engineering, Science and Trustees Education initiatives; advance the new Wyoming Innovation Partnership; and launch a School of Computing, a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative,” according to a press release.
Among reorganizational efforts are a series of academic department discontinuations, degree program discontinuations, creation of new academic units and relocation or reduction in academic units, resulting in estimated savings of approximately $13.3 million. In addition, up to 65 faculty and staff positions could be affected in the reorganization, as well as 10 department head positions.
The reorganization is authorized under UW Regulation 2-13, which provides for academic program reorganization, consolidation, reduction and discontinuance “to promote and maintain high quality academic programs” and for “education, strategic, realignment, resource allocation, budget constraints or combinations of educational, strategic and/or financial reasons.”
Jody Levin and Shane Schulz, co-chairs of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Board, comment, “Given the importance of agriculture to Wyoming’s economy, we believe it is imperative to retain core programs and degree opportunities for students.”
While UW policy allows for restructuring, there is concern from stakeholders across the state, including alumni, donors, staff, students and others, on the fast-paced nature of the process, as well as the lack of transparency and ability to provide meaningful feedback.
“One of our biggest concerns is there isn’t much information out there about the reorganization,” Levin comments. “As an advisory board, we have numerous questions and need answers to help inform the process, particularly surrounding impacts to students and unintended consequences.”
She continues, “Our board recognizes the fiscal challenges facing the university. Budgets will have to be cut, but by our understanding, this is the largest reorganization proposed in UW’s history, and we feel it’s a rushed process. Let’s remember the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has taken the brunt of budget cuts over the years compared to other University of Wyoming colleges.”
Schulz adds, the process has also been poorly communicated throughout the state.
Weighing in on the reorganization
University of Wyoming’s Regulation 2-13 provides for feedback from stakeholders through an online survey, which is available for both on- and off-campus stakeholders.
“The university has not done well at communicating these changes to the state and to alumni,” Schulz says. “Unless you know what you’re looking for, it is very hard to find information about this reorganization on the website.”
Schulz continues, sitting down with agriculture organizations, making the changes more available and easier to understand, as well as improving the ability for stakeholders to provide feedback would be a more appropriate way to seek public input.
“It is extremely important to go online and use the survey portal because the university is going to use this as a key metric in determining how to make these decisions,” Levin says.
“The survey portal, however, is extremely frustrating,” she continues. “We are hearing from stakeholders who feel the portal does not provide an opportunity for meaningful public input.”
Levin and Schulz encourage stakeholders who are interested in providing comments to use the web portal.
“This would also be a time for Wyomingites to have conversations with the Trustees they have relationships with,” Schulz says.
Levin and Schulz note stakeholders should also write letters to the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs or the Provost, making sure to also include College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Barbara Rasco, to ensure the input is received.
The survey to provide feedback can be found at uwyo.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5cGngx5Q5dQOZYW, and the survey must be provided by Oct. 1.
Inside the reorganization
A number of changes impact the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the reorganization, including a proposed name change for the college, to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) “to make it a hub for agriculture and life sciences at the University,” according to the master proposal document.
The master proposal notes the reorganization hopes to enhance outreach and extension, as well as strength UW’s ability to carry out the land-grant mission.
In striving to accomplish this goal, all life sciences departments will be reorganized into three academic units, and the botany, zoology and physiology and life sciences program will be relocated to the newly created CALS.
Further, the Agriculture and Applied Economics department will be moved to the College of Business, consolidating the department with the Economics department. Both the Bachelor’s of Science (BS) in Agricultural Business and the Master’s of Science (MS) in Agricultural Economics will be preserved, according to the master proposal document.
“The move of agriculture business and ag econ out of the College of Agriculture would be a stark change compared to many of UW’s land-grant peers as we look to neighboring state’s land-grant institutions,” says Levin and Schulz.
The proposal also looks to move the Agriculture Communications Program to the College of Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts and combining it with the communications program.
A reduction will be seen in Family and Consumer Sciences programming, with a reorganization of the BS and MS programs, including nutrition, as well as a relocation or the program to the Division of Kinesiology and Health. Early childhood education will also move to the College of Education.
Additional changes within Family and Consumer Sciences include moving and restructuring the MS in Food Science and Human Nutrition as life sciences and combining the programs. The PhD in Animal and Veterinary Science would also be restructured as Life Sciences.
Program eliminations for CALS include a discontinuation of the MS and PhD programs for entomology and the MS in Family and Consumer Sciences.
In looking at the reorganization, one of the largest areas of concern has been the move of the Agriculture and Applied Economics Program to the College of Business.
“We believe that ag students won’t seek a degree in agribusiness or ag econ if it’s not offered in the College of Agriculture,” Levin explains. “Ag students have a deep connection to the industry, and culturally, the two colleges are very different.”
Levin continues, “It is our foundational belief that ag students want to be in the ag college, and this move will erode highly successful and popular degree programs. The same concern is true about ag communications, which is proposed to move to Communications and Journalism.”
“I see a continued erosion amongst students, who are going to be productive members of society, who are not going to know where their food comes from,” Schulz says. “When we lose this connection to the College of Agriculture, whether it’s ag communications or ag business, we see deterioration in the understanding of where things come from.”
There are similar concerns with the movement of the Nutrition and Dietetics programs to the College of Health Sciences.
“With Nutrition and Dietetics in the College of Agriculture, there is an interdisciplinary focus with Animal Science and Plant Science so students understand the origins of their food,” Levin continues. “We question whether that element will be retained if that program moves to Health Sciences.”
There are also concerns with this reorganization and how it will affect federal funding.
“There are federal dollars from Smith-Lever and the Hatch Act that have restrictions on how they can be used and how positions must be classified for those funds to be used,” Levin says. “These are the questions we are asking as a board. If the positions aren’t classified correctly, we understand those funds may be lost, and this defeats the overall fiscal goal of the reorganization plan”
The extent to which federal funding will be impacted is unknown, and there may be further impacts to Extension and the ability of those programs to provide the high-quality outreach that UW has worked to establish.
“We need time to work through these changes, understand unintended consequences and offer alternative scenarios to meet budget reduction requirements,” Levin says. “Overall, the board’s reaction has been the proposed changes appear to be de-valuing the importance of agriculture. As a land-grant institution, that is deeply concerning.”
“At the end of the day, we recognize change happens and sometimes it can be good, but we are concerned with the vacuum in which these changes are proposed,” says Schulz. “We are also concerned the university hasn’t fully vetted the idea with key stakeholders throughout Wyoming.”
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.