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August 30, 2013

SUNY Oneonta plans academic overhaul

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — SUNY Oneonta will have five schools instead of three academic divisions under a reorganization to be officially introduced Friday, a media release said. 

Nancy Kleniewski, president of the State University College at Oneonta, will review changes and accomplishments at the campus with faculty and staff during the annual opening breakfast in the Hunt College Union Ballroom from 8 to 9 a.m. Friday.

Kleniewski will speak about the “ambitious, strategically critical plan to advance teaching, learning and scholarship” by restructuring academic affairs from a three-division to a five-school arrangement, according to the release, which was issued Wednesday, the first day of the fall semester.

Kleniewski also will review progress related to the college’s strategic plan and the re-accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on Higher Education. 

The five schools will be founded at a “Celebration of Schools” event in the Morris Conference Center from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 6. 

SUNY Oneonta enrolls about 6,000 students. Of 493 faculty, 259 are full-time and 243 are part-time, officials said, and the staff numbers 654 employees.

In spring 2012, SUNY Oneonta Provost Maria Thompson announced a proposal to shift from three academic divisions —liberal arts and sciences, education, and business and economics — to a five-school structure. The reorganization includes a School of Business and Economics, a School of Arts and Humanities, a School of Social Science, a School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, and a School of Education and Human Ecology.

Renee Walker, chairwoman of the anthropology department, said Wednesday that the reorganization has prompted mixed reactions of excitement and nervousness on campus.

But the changes overall are good because related disciplines are in the same school, said Walker, who until this week was chair of the Faculty Senate during the time the reorganization was developed. Benefits possible include streamlined management of departments, she said, and maximizing the sharing of resources to develop courses, programs and internships that will benefit students. 

Development of the five-school plan was based on recommendations of a consultant hired by the college to assess its divisional structure, the findings of the college’s Organizational Structure Task Force report and advice from faculty across academic disciplines, the release said. Searches for the five deans were launched in November, and three founding deans joined the college this summer.

The local United University Professions met with the dean candidates though it didn't make any recommendations on applicants, union chapter president William Simons said Wednesday. Meeting with the candidates established with them that the campus is unionized, he said.

"We have new deans — we wish them well,” Simons, a history professor, said. “We want the success of the school.”

Regarding the restructuring, Simons said, UUP generally is concerned about the potential that resources might be spent on an enlarged administration, and to meet the costs incurred to support it, instead of reaching students in the classroom.

“Resources are always finite,” he said.

SUNY Oneonta spokesman Hal Legg didn't return a call and email by 9 p.m. Wednesday seeking comment about costs and impact of the reorganization on student instruction.

The newly appointed deans, who will be introduced at Friday's breakfast meeting, are:

• Venkat Sharma, dean of the School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, joined the college July 8. Sharma recently served as dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of West Alabama in Livingston.

Sharma earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry/microbiology from the Cancer Institute at the University of Madras, in Madras, India. 

• Susan Turell, dean of the School of Social Science, joined the college Aug. 5. Turell came to SUNY Oneonta from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she served as associate provost. Turell earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Houston in 1992.

• David Yen, dean of the School of Business and Economic, joined the college July 1. He previously was at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was the Raymond E. Glos Professor in Business, director of the China Business Program and a distinguished scholar of the graduate faculty. Yen earned a Ph.D. in management information systems from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1985, and also holds master's degrees in computer science and business administration.

Searches continue for founding deans for the other two schools.

In the meantime, Richard Lee, associate professor of English and immediate past faculty senator, will serve as interim dean of the School of Education and Human Ecology.

And Wade Thomas, professor of economics and former associate dean of the economics and business division, will serve as interim dean of the School of Arts and Humanities.