Current Issues


Posted on March 21, 2009

We this week unveiled a new organizational model that brings together the university’s Graduate, Continuing Education, and Online administrative units under one umbrella (still searching for a name).  The model was based on the Strategic Plan, The Aslanian Group report on non-traditional markets, and months of analysis and deliberation.  Goal II of the Strategic Plan, focusing on policies and processes and systems, and Goal III of the Plan, focusing on aggressive growth of our non-traditional programs, are the foundation for the re-organization.

The Strategic Plan and the two aforementioned goals were themselves the product of a very inclusive planning process that extended over 18 months and had the support of all major stakeholders and ultimately the unanimous approval of the Board of Trustees back in October.  My point is that the reorganization is based on solid research, extensive discussion and planning, and widely-agreed upon goals for our future.

Yet in all major organizational change the devil is in the details.  As I presented the new organizational model to the Faculty Senate and then at an open information session this week, I knew that people were A) trying to understand the model and B) placing themselves within the model and assessing the impact on their roles.  Those impact questions range from “How does my job change, if at all?” to “Is there an opportunity for growth and reward?” to “How does authority and decision-making shift?”.

These are all reasonable and natural enough questions.  Fundamentally, the plan is about growth — an aggressive expansion of the university.  That means:

-we should be adding positions (not shrinking) and providing opportunity;
-we will need new ways of doing things that build capacity and support scale;
-some jobs will inevitably change and shft.

As we now refine the overall organization model we can increasingly drill down and understand its implications at various levels and places within the university.

Some things will change less than some might initially fear. Moving Graduate out of the schools into the newly formed merged unit of Grad, CE, and Online caused some initial consternation among faculty who primarily teach graduate courses.  However, there is no desire to displace those faculty and in the new model they can continue to teach the same courses they have in the past.  Nor will this model wrest control of the curriculum or setting of faculty credentials from those schools that originally created the programs. The existing governance framework provides a way to manage those areas and it remains intact.

On the other hand, the model does redefine the CE centers so they are no longer competing with each other and Online.  The Centers in places like Nashua and Portsmouth and Salem will likely shift to all hybrid classes over time, be linked to each other through videoconferencing (to offer sections in all locations), have a greater scope of program offerings, and become more service and support centers as part of a greater whole than islands unto themselves.

The presentataions that will continue to take place over the coming weeks will include questions that invite us to better refine the model and its execution (and each subsequent presentation may look different than the one before it as the model evolves), so there is value not only in the communication, but also in the good feedback we receive along the way.

Our current organizational model, systems, and ways of doing business have brought us far.  However, we find ourselves bumping up against the limitations of all three as we seek to grow.  The plan rolled out this week is not so much about any perceived deficiencies in what has been, but about positioning the university to meet its bold goal of being the leading nonprofit provider of higher education to non-traditional students.

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