FSU is introducing three new academic colleges, a structure in which three deans oversee six to seven academic departments each and report to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Linda Vaden-Goad.
The deans will support and manage department chairs, approve tenure, evaluate personnel, schedule courses, reappoint faculty and manage budgets, among other duties. The system is designed with the goals of improving retention, graduation rates and student success, according to Vaden-Goad.
A job search has been initiated to find permanent deans, but in the meantime, three interim deans were selected from an internal candidate search. Marc Cote is the interim dean of arts and humanities, Sue Dargan is the interim dean of social and behavioral sciences and Margaret Carroll is the interim dean of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
FSU is among the last Massachusetts small universities to institute this system, according to Vaden-Goad.
FSU administrators have been discussing this option for years. Although this structure was not approved until this year, a similar system was established last year called Faculty Fellows. These three appointed faculty members, now the interim deans, held similar responsibilities under that system.
President F. Javier Cevallos said, “Universities are large and complex organizations that need to always adapt and evolve to fulfill their missions. Our goal has to be focused on student achievement and academic excellence. As the university grew, the level of administrative complexity also grew, and it was very difficult for one person to be in charge of all the departments involved.”
Prior to the dean structure, 50 people from 22 academic departments reported to Vaden-Goad, who said she believes the new system will help departments reach their full potential since more focused attention will be available for each discipline.
“I’m only one person,” she said.
Vaden-Goad said she will now have more time to make ideas and dreams realities. She said she looks forward to helping the school improve on grant proposals, civic education and service learning.
Dargan, a professor of sociology, described Vaden-Goad as a “visionary” whose ideas can now be realized.
Dargan added, “I think the most important thing is to support faculty. … They are the ones who are delivering academic experience to students.”
Carroll, a professor of biology, said she believes her main function as interim dean will be to facilitate communication between faculty and administration and emphasized working together as a team.
Specifically, she said her department and herself are working on retention in the sciences so that a higher percentage of students will be able complete the programs FSU offers.
She added that she hopes the structure will make “students feel like a part of the department and a part of the community.”
Cote, a professor of art, said he believes by focusing on individual areas with more “hands on deck,” the academic structure will improve for faculty and students overall.
“We are a university that is growing,” said Cote. “It makes sense to give additional resources in a more targeted way.”
Cevallos said there are two main advantages to the structure – managing departments more efficiently and encouraging “more collaboration across disciplines in each one of the colleges.”
He added, “The Deans are the academic leaders of their areas, and working with the faculty, the colleges will develop new programs and initiatives that will emerge from shared interests.”
Vaden-Goad said the dean structure is meant to ensure students are getting everything they need, such as the programs and resources to succeed academically. The deans will work on raising money for student-led opportunities, scholarships to study abroad or attend conferences regardless of financial status. Students will then be able to think globally and locally, she added.
Dargan said, “I think that Framingham State University is doing this the right way.”
According to Dargan, Academic Affairs is highly centralized at FSU, and too many people were reporting to the academic vice president.
Vaden-Goad asked for the support four years ago and didn’t get it, said Dargan. Cevallos approved the decision this summer when he became president.
Two more colleges, education and business, are in the process of being established. There will be two new deans hired for each of these disciplines. Academic Affairs recently posted a position for an interim dean of education. Vaden-Goad anticipates the college of business opening in a few years.
Student Government Association President Kendall Valente, a senior sociology major, said she looks forward to the new dean structure helping new departments develop, which will lead to more student enrollment.
“I hope that with the new dean structure, students will be able to have a more direct connection with their faculty and deans of their departments,” said Valente. “I also hope that this will bring more majors which can be more specific for students and help them to identify closer with their major.”
Taylor Garnes, a junior psychology major, is familiar with a dean structure because of her brothers, one of whom attended Northeastern University and the other UMass Amherst – both of which have a dean structure.
“I hope it will give students a person to talk to specifically with our area of concentration,” said Garnes.
She added, “And I hope it will get students to stay in their classes.”
Michael Jordan, a senior history major, said he believes that faculty are good about helping and talking to students, and he is happy with the classes he has taken.
“I think it [the new dean structure] will increase the number of students, and I hope the deans will increase the number of classes the departments offer,” said Jordan.
Skyler May, a sophomore math major, said he would enjoy classes with more hands-on activities.
He said he hopes the deans will address faculty and have them “talking with us instead of talking at us.”
Vice President of SGA Daniel Costello, a junior sociology major, has been familiar with the new dean structure since last semester. He believes that it will improve the relationships between faculty and administration, pushing FSU to become a better whole.
“This is the next step to building up the university and improving academically,” said Costello.
Vaden-Goad said, laughing, “It’s not going to be a secret, our success. Everyone should be able to see it and sense it.”