College mergers aim to pool resources

Nina Petersen-Perlman

L Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on the second round of realignment task force recommendations.

Like a marriage, strategic positioning task force members are hoping the reorganization of several University colleges and departments will result in the merging of mutual assets.

What negative effects might come from the shuffle aren’t yet known.

As part of the University’s realignment plan to become one of the world’s top three public research universities, the General College and the College of Human Ecology will dissolve, becoming departments within other colleges.

College of Education and Human Development

As of July 1 the General College will no longer exist in its current form.

It will become a department in the new College of Education and Human Development, which also will include departments from the current college and the College of Human Ecology’s department of family social science and the school of social work.

The strategic positioning task force recommendations proposed a structure organized around five themes: social justice and diversity, teaching and learning, development across the lifespan, economic and social well-being, and educational/social policy and leadership.

Laura Coffin Koch, task force co-chairwoman, associate vice provost and General College math professor, said the task force tried to incorporate the best of what each department had to offer into the new college.

“We looked at developing majors that would build on the strength of the College of Education, but also looking at social justice and diversity,” she said, adding that they want to continue the General College’s history of strong advising.

“We were looking at how we can make the most of this event,” she said.

Institute of Design

The department of design, housing and apparel from the College of Human Ecology will merge with the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture to form what might be named the Institute of Design.

The merger will allow the two departments to combine resources, including the proposed creation of a major in product design, said Becky Yust, task force co-chairwoman and head of the department of design, housing and apparel.

As the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture is on the East Bank and the department of design on the St. Paul campus, one of the bigger problems to solve is geography.

“Obviously, we’re not together in one place, and for units who deal with spatial environments a lot, it’s important,” Yust said.

Institute of Environment

The College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences will merge with the College of Natural Resources and departments from the College of Human Ecology to form the Institute of Environment.

Task force co-chairman and science and nutrition department head Allen Levine said the institute would be a place for faculty members and students interested in an environment to call home.

The task force proposed three clusters in the institute: environmental science, policy and management, food, nutrition and animal science, and plant science, which would enable people to work more efficiently, Levin said.

He called the process “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary.”

“Through reorganization we’ll have excitement and quality we didn’t have before,” he said. “We didn’t dictate exactly what should happen; we want it to evolve into a quality place.”

The task forces will accept comments through the strategic positioning Web site until Jan. 27. The final reports are due Feb. 3.

Some task force members said they were excited for the upcoming changes in colleges and looked forward to what would result from them.

“There’s a pretty big silver lining, and that is interaction with other colleges and working with new people in a way that advances everyone’s agenda,” Yust said.