Academic Strategy and Structure – Proposal

Dear Colleagues,

As we work to refine our academic strategy and in turn help more students succeed, I have met with academic leaders in all areas of the campus in extended meetings to review each academic program, curriculum structure, locations of delivery, faculty workloads, and many other areas of instruction and support. I have enjoyed these discussions and the opportunity it has been to explore ideas, review data, and build shared understanding. I have also thoughtfully reviewed each response the survey circulated last week. These discussions reinforce the fact that we are at an inflection point as an institution. There are issues we face that are small and simple. There are also some deep-seated issues we must have the fortitude to address if we plan to continue our path to institutional health. Based on these meetings and a review of the data, it is clear to me that the student body is shifting, enrollment patterns have shifted, and the academic side of the institution needs some structural rethinking to serve students more effectively and take a step closer to the institution we are to become.

We are faced with a challenge that is not unique to us. Other organizations have been at similar inflection points. The former CEO of Starbucks described this problem by suggesting their organization needed to figure out “how to grow big and stay small.” We face the same challenge. How do we finish a merger as one large university without losing the intimacy of the small college feeling? We also are faced with making these adjustments during a time of significant change in the higher education environment. One survey respondent described our challenge this way: “There is no question that nothing less than the soul of the institution is at stake here. The competitive landscape of higher education and the expectations of our stakeholders require a reevaluation of our structure and strategy. Maintenance of scope is no longer an acceptable tactic for MGA. We need to embrace the status of a state university.” I concur with this comment, but also realize in our efforts to improve, some changes may not always create the intended results. However, this does not mean we shouldn’t make a good-faith effort to develop new ideas, change, and move forward. 

Another survey respondent described with the challenge before us with some hesitation in this statement: “While I whole-heartedly agree (with) the principles underlying this paper, I am somewhat hesitant about the implementation of the proposed structure… In the Core, we see students coping with learning and life issues that do not always (manifest themselves) in upper-division courses.” A similar comment stated: “The leadership of the professional schools will naturally view their professional programs as the most important. In this context, I can foresee the core courses taught within those schools as representing a barrier to graduation more than an essential part of a university education.” While these statements relate to the Core specifically, other respondents shared similar concerns about discipline-specific learning in questions such as: How we can really create interdisciplinary and maintain discipline-specific rigor? How can we carefully evaluate the integration of different mixes of disciplines? Additional issues identified included a lack of cross-campus thinking in the current structure, a lack of consideration of all campus needs when making departmental decisions (including course rotation and scheduling across the campuses), and a lack of consistency regarding how P&T committees are structured or how administrators are involved in the process at different locations.  

Other issues identified in discussions and survey responses include: “As for the White Paper itself, I am very excited about the possibilities revising the post-Core requirements within our majors open up for our students. On many occasions over the years I have spoken with students who wish to change their majors, but find that a year or more worth of classes will not work toward their new course of study,”  or “The advising process could help create a culture of spreading the core across all four years of a degree plan rather than front-loading it based on the old ‘complete the core first’ transfer model.”

Each of these issues are certainly important and revising the academic organizational structure will only address some of them. Continued conversation and change are critical to our institutional health and progress. It will take all of us working together, being nimble and open to new ideas for the institution to continue on a healthy path forward. This work will take the effort and engagement of (as one respondent described it) “the institution’s most important asset – its faculty and staff.”

Recognizing change is needed to help improve efficiency and student success, I have outlined below the proposed organizational structure for the Division of Academic Affairs. The modified organizational structure will include six schools, named as follows: The School of Humanities, The School of Computing and Data Sciences, The School of Business and Organizational Leadership, The School of Aviation, The School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, and The School of Health and Natural Sciences. The structure is shown in the chart below. These names are working titles and other suggestions for naming are welcome. Also included is a list of the number of faculty who are assigned to each school, and those assigned to the Office of the Provost (as of Fall of 2018). 

School # of Faculty
School of Aviation 19
School of Business and Organizational Leadership 26
School of Computing and Data Sciences 47
School of Education and Behavioral Sciences 38
School of Health and Natural Sciences 71
School of Humanities 77
Office of the Provost 10
Grand Total 288

Not only do we need to review the school structure, but several department level changes are needed as well. This new structure will include  the creation of departments in the School of Business and Organizational Leadership. The Department of Health Services Administration will join the School of Business and Organizational Leadership as a new department within that school. Faculty in the current School of Business will be divided into two departments and department chairs named for each group. A department structure in the School of Business and Organizational Leadership is one step toward building the administrative structure needed to support accreditation efforts and program growth. 

We will also divide the Department of History and Political Science to create a new Department of Political Science. This decision is based in part on physical space (we need space in the Jones building for growth in the School of Health and Natural Sciences). It is also based on an attempt to distribute administrative loads across the new schools. 

These changes will necessitate some moving of office space. Our faculty in the Department of History on the Macon campus will move to the Arts and Sciences Building (which will be renamed to reflect the School of Humanities). The Department of History office space will be in several smaller classrooms that will be converted in the early summer. Our faculty members in the Department of Political Science (on the Macon campus) will move to the Education Building to share space with our faculty in the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences.  This will also free up the space needed in the Jones building on the Macon campus for the expansion of the School of Health and Natural Sciences. These office moves will happen over the summer of 2019.


This school and department organization does not address several other department-level challenges we face. We have large departments in Math, English, Natural Sciences, and MCA that span multiple campuses. We also have a Department of Nursing that is larger (in terms of nursing students headcount including those who have been admitted and those who are preparing to enter the program) than some of our schools. After looking at different models, we will not be splitting Nursing from the other Health Science disciplines, as these areas share a lot of overlap with clinical spaces, etc… It makes administrative sense to keep these clinical programs together. Another option that was recommended by some was to split Natural Sciences into two departments (possibly Natural and Physical Sciences). However after hearing some very rational and coherent arguments regarding developments in both fields over the last 50 years, there is a strong case for discipline-specific reasons to keep Natural Sciences as one department for now. Another option suggested and explored was to create a seventh school (of various sorts of departments or disciplines). However, in our current budget environment, there was not evidence to justify the administrative costs associated with a seventh school. No other department changes are planned at this point, but we will continue to work with school leadership to see if further adjustments may be needed in the coming years.

The new department structure within each school will be:

School/Department # of Faculty
School of Aviation 19
Aviation Maintenance and Structural Technology 7
Aviation Science and Management 9
Dean’s Office 1
Department Chair 2
School of Business and Organizational Leadership 26
Accounting and Economics 8
Dean’s Office 1
Department Chair 1
Health Services Administration 4
Management 12
School of Computing and Data Sciences 47
Dean’s Office 2
Department Chair 1
Information Technology 14
Mathematics 30
School of Education and Behavioral Sciences 38
Behavioral Sciences 18
Dean’s Office 1
Department Chair 2
Education 9
Political Science 8
School of Health and Natural Sciences 71
Dean’s Office 2
Department Chair 3
Natural Sciences 29
Nursing 31
Rehabilitation Science 3
Respiratory Therapy 3
School of Humanities 77
Dean’s Office 1
Department Chair 3
English 32
History 15
Media, Culture, and the Arts 26
Office of the Provost 10
Office of the Provost 10
Total FT Faculty 288

As we prepare to move forward, there will be a number of searches and administrative assignments that need to take place. In the allocation of chairs, assistant chairs, etc… We must assure that we have adequate coverage in our two largest residential campuses, Cochran and Macon. This evaluation of administrative responsibilities and assignments will follow the announcement of the final new school structure. Many of the searches or reassignments will be internal, some will be external and there may be some shifts within the current administrative ranks. In working with the faculty and staff in each area, this evaluation (and any searches) will begin as soon as possible with the anticipation of having the positions filled by July 1st.

Recognizing that change is difficult for all of us (including, if not especially, for those who propose it), we can’t back away from the clear data that show the fact that MGA comprises two former institutions that had five years of enrollment declines (merging data from both institutions), followed by five years of enrollment declines after the institutions were merged. We (collectively as an institution) continue to own some of the lowest retention and graduation rates in our institutional sector. Over the last 18 months the institution, its faculty, staff, and administrators have clawed and fought out of this decline to become a healthy and growing institution. Much of this work has been done by solving the simple problems. We now must address deep-seated issues to assure our health continues to improve and our institution begins to thrive. This academic restructuring is one small step in that process. Despite the dire predictions of some, this won’t be the end of the world. It will be  a step forward to a healthier, more interdisciplinary, and collaborative institution in the future. 

I welcome your comments on this proposal. Please accompany your thoughts with proposed alternative solutions that increase student retention and graduation, are budget neutral, and help the institution “grow big and stay small.” My schedule has changed a bit for the coming week due to some system meetings, but please share your feedback via email, the anonymous survey, or if you prefer to meet virtually, let’s Skype or Google Hangout, please contact Jennifer Jones in the Office of the Provost and we can set up a time to meet. I plan to receive and review any feedback between now and Thursday night, February 21st. The final structure will be announced on February 22nd. 

All the best,

Jon Anderson, Provost