Faculty/staff Q&A

SPaCE questions on reorganization

Posted on April 2, 2009

Two weeks ago I unveiled to the campus a new model for serving our non-traditional students.  I presented this first substantial pass on the idea to the Faculty Senate, at one of my Q&A sessions, and to the staff of our School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPACE).  As I said at those presentations, the model presented is still at the macro-level and we want to get it right at that level before drilling too far down into subsequent levels of detail.  The goal is to refine the model and finally bring it to the Board for approval at its May meeting.

After the SPACE meetings a number of questions were forwarded and I’ll try to address them below as well as I can at this point.  I’ll also indicate those item that we just haven’t been able to think about yet.

1.  There were three related questions about advisors at the Centers and a worry that thye would be removed and somehow centralized.

Response: This probably comes from my more general comment that we want to rethink the role and operations of the Centers if we re-organize as proposed.  I used as an example the idea that perhaps advising could be centralized and increasingly online and phone-based.  This was meant as an illustration, not an agenda item.  It remains a good question, but just one among many and far from being considered.  If and when it is considered, any eventual decision would be made with a lot of input from the Center staffs.

2. There were some questions that seem to revolve around the prospect of stripped down centers with minimal staffing.

Response: When we have better defined the roles for the Centers we can have a thoughtful discussion of what the appropriate staffing should be going forward.  One of the things we know is that students like the “care and feeding” they get at the Centers and we don’t want to lose that quality.  It may well be that Center staffing remains the same.  We just haven’t been able to dig into that question yet.

3. A related and somewhat skeptical (maybe even cynical) question was “Is the agenda really to close us?”

Response: The person asking this question sees evidence in the proposed re-organization, new credit policy, and tuition increases.  First, if there was an agenda to close Centers I would have said so something like “We will, over time, phase out etc etc.”  The plan is to revitalize centers by upgrading facilities (does the $650,000 investment in Salem’s new facilities seem like a phasing out?), adding programs (see the SNHU Advantage Program, for example), and improving inquiry generation.  As for pricing, we have been chipping away at moving everyone to standard rates and getting away from the crazy quilt of credit pricing with which wwe have operated.  The credit policy is an industry standard.

SPACE produces a lot of revenue for the university and the goal is to expand programs, stop declining enrollments, and expand (see Goal III of the Strategic Plan).

4. Someone raised a question regarding equity and comparisons of SPACE and Online.

Response: We have done two major passes at equity, the second just last fall and in conjunction with the Equity Committee, and have reassured ourselves that we have everyone at equitable rates of compensation across the university (after a modest number of adjustments as a result of the last review).  I worry that there is for some of our staff a little “Online-envy.”  When entities within an organization are perceived as growth areas with associated investments of resources and a heightened profile, it can feel to others that A) they are somehow being neglected, or B) that the “hot” area is getting everything it wants (instead of just what it needs).  This is not an uncommon phenomenon.

Also, as is common, if we asked the staff at Online if they are getting what they need they might provide a long list of requests denied or deferred, shortcomings associated with their remote location, and their own set of frustrations.  One goal of bringing the non-traditional units together is to overcome this kind of silo mentality.  After all, all of these units essentially serve the same students and success in any area accrues to the university and good of all, not the unit by itself.

5. There were questions about how marketing and enrollment management might change.

Response:  For the latter, I am going to simply ask those interested to revisit the presentation.  A lot of it had to do with changes in enrollment maanagement.  For those who haven’t seen it yet, I will do more public Q&A sessions.  As for Marketing, we have not got to it yet.  I can say that the new VP for Enrollment Management will take over the responsibility for lead generation, a function that has had multiple owners (and thus no real owner, one might argue).

6. Someone asked about hybrids and their role going forward.

By hybrids, we mean courses that have a mix of reduced face-to-face (f2f) time and some online time compared to a conventional course.  We know that A) there is growing interest in hybrids for those students who want the convenience of online, but don’t want to entirely forsake f2f time with their instructors and peers.  We also know that there are some students who prefer traditional courses. Interest in and growth of online courses has been dramatic.  Our challenge will be to get the right mix and that mix may vary from Center to Center and from program to program.

7. Someone asked about Culinary and where it might reside.

Response:  There has been absolutely no discussion about moving it from SPACE.  In fact, the one idea that was raised was to consider it as its own Center unto itself.  Mostly, though, we just have not gotten to the question.

8. There was also a concern about moving Justice Studies into one of the existing schools with issues around School Cores clashing with the major.

Response:  There is no plan to move JS yet.  This is one Patty Lynott will decide in time.  The School Core issue is a legitimate one and we don’t want to do anything to hurt what has been a  strong program right out of the gate.

These were the main questions (or grouping of questions) to come out of the SPACE presentation.  I know there is eagerness and probably some anxiety around many of these questions, but we will focus on getting the overall framework worked out first and then move to these areas over the weeks and weeks of work ahead of us.  We will not rush into any of it and there will be a lot more campus discussion.  That’s the one thing I can say with the greatest clarity right now.

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