In an effort to increase efficiency and cut costs at the University of Wyoming, the College of Education and College of Arts and Sciences are consolidating several of their small departments into a few larger schools.
The changes will cut down on administrative costs while encouraging communication between related fields of study, College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel said.
“It will flatten the organization, make for quicker, better communication, better articulation and less administrative overhead cost,” he said.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Paula Lutz also listed financial, scholastic and efficiency benefits to the mergers within her college in a memo to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Kate Miller.
The financial benefits come from lowered staffing costs and the demotion of department heads.
In the College of Arts and Sciences — where 16 departments are becoming seven — several faculty members will lose their status as department head and the higher pay associated with it.
“This is a huge step for the College of Arts and Sciences,” Miller said at the Board of Trustees meeting May 11. “It’s going to get this all down from what are 30 departments down to what are 20 departments, which is going to be a pretty major step.”
The greatest change will occur when four arts and sciences departments — African American and Diaspora Studies, Latino/a Studies, American Indian Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies — merge to form the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice.
Bonnie Zare, head of the Gender and Women’s Studies department, will lose her title, but still be expected to run the Gender and Women’s Studies program within the new school.
“The slightly controversial nature of this situation is that the person who is still going to oversee some assessment and curriculum is not allowed to call themselves an associate director,” she said.
However, the new, larger, more diverse school could foster previously unlikely alliances, Zare said.
“The directive to merge came from the budget crunch, so I don’t want to pretend that the initial impulse had something to do with anything but saving money,” she said. “It didn’t. But given that situation, I believe we have a really strong group moving forward and I’m excited about the future.”
The reorganization could lead to positive outcomes, Zare said.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” she said. “But I am actually genuinely excited about the collaboration between the programs because a lot of the issues we care deeply about we have in common.”
The College of Education will condense four departments into two schools.
The School of Teacher Education will absorb the departments of secondary education, elementary and early childhood education and educational studies, bringing it more in line with other teacher education programs across the country.
Grouping these departments together makes sense because they all share the mission of preparing teachers, Reutzel said.
“That was the primary motivation for us to link these disparate silo units into one unit so they’re talking together and leveraging each other’s resources to do a better job of preparing teachers from preschool to graduate school,” he said.
The College of Education’s School of Counseling, Leadership, Advocacy and Design will essentially be the same as the old Department of Professional Studies.
The mergers in the College of Education come after seven months of discussion within the college, which included faculty.
“It’s been a collaborative effort,” Reutzel said. “It is the measured judgment of the faculty and the administration of this college that this is a better way to go.”
The reorganization scheme adopted by the college was one of two final schemes that were — following College of Education bylaws — put up for a vote by the college’s faculty. The winning scheme received 87 percent of the votes, according to a memo sent to the Board of Trustees.
“To get academics to vote (87) percent on anything is amazing,” Reutzel said. “I don’t know if you know how academics are, but we pride ourselves on being sort of like jackrabbits on a flatbed truck.”
The College of Education expects to save $57,000-$87,000 a year by consolidating departments, though some of that will be used for the cost of appointing school heads.
The College of Arts and Sciences expects to save an annual $85,000 through cutting stipends to department heads.
The college has saved roughly $200,000 in annual salaries by creating shared staff centers.
“Some of the costs savings are yet to be realized because it’s going to take a while to see how these new departments settle in and what their needs really are,” Miller said.
Other new departments in the College of Arts and Sciences include the School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies (combining political science and global and area studies), the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, The Department of Visual and Literary Arts (combining art and creative writing), the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology and the Department of History and American Studies.