March 14, 2007

A message from the president and provost:
The next steps in university realignment

critical issues and observations
new organizational structure
allocation of resources for health-care planning
FY '08 budget request
strategic plan for health-care expansion
strategic plan for statewide expansion

Dear Colleagues:

We recommended in February a strategic change in the university's organization to launch a significant expansion of nursing and the health professions while allowing for continued growth in programs in Hotel and Restaurant Management and Forestry.

We proposed to create a new college for health and human services (a final name is yet to be determined) encompassing both the School of Health Professions and the School of Nursing. Additionally, we proposed to join HRM with the College of Business Administration and the School of Forestry with the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

This communication presents our formal proposal to the campus as well as extensive documentation related to the health professions initiative. For your review, we have included our fiscal year 2008 budget request, which highlights our request to the state for an additional $4 million to create new programs as part of our health professions initiative.

In addition, we have included our strategic plans for health-care and statewide expansion that were approved by the Arizona Board of Regents and resulted in $13.5 million in TRIF over-attainment dollars through 2011. Finally, we have included our initial allocation of resources to departments and schools in the health professions units to expand our current programming both in Flagstaff and statewide.

We have held extensive discussions throughout campus, in particular with the faculty and staff of the affected units. Having carefully considered all points of view, we are moving forward on what we believe is in the best interest of the university as a whole. We have heard and taken into consideration many issues that will require attention as we move to a new model. Accordingly, we have altered our original proposal to the following:

  1. The Consortium of Professional Schools will be dissolved on July 1, 2007.
  2. The university will move forward with the creation of a new college for health and human services. (An exact name will be determined in consultation with nursing and health professions faculty.) It will join the existing School of Health Professions and School of Nursing. A search for a dean of the college will be launched following ABOR approval of the new structure.
  3. The School of Hotel and Restaurant Management will join the College of Business Administration, effective July 1, 2007.
  4. The School of Forestry will report to the Office of the Provost, beginning July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2009. We will review the effectiveness of this organizational structure in 2009 or at any time such a review is requested by the School of Forestry or initiated by the provost.

We look forward to ongoing discussions of these recommendations throughout the university in the coming weeks. Specifically, we will be meeting with the Faculty Senate, Council of Deans, Academic Chairs Council, President's Cabinet, the Associate and Assistant Deans Roundtable, Associated Students of NAU, Strategic Planning Council and the chief academic officers of our sister universities.

We will submit a recommendation to the Arizona Board of Regents for its April meeting in Tempe.

Our communications with faculty, students, staff and alumni throughout this process have brought a number of critical issues and observations to light, which we will continue to discuss with our campus community and off-campus constituents. These issues and observations are outlined below:

  1. The original proposed realignment of the schools of Nursing, Health Professions, HRM and Forestry generated concerns about perceived loss of resources, prestige and possibly accreditation.
    We continually have stressed the commitment to preserve the national reputations of our HRM and Forestry programs and that the organizational realignment of the four schools would not negatively impact programs, budgets, curricula or accreditation. We have proposed a change in reporting lines only.

    In fact, the realignment offers new and exciting opportunities for HRM. We can strengthen HRM through alignment with the College of Business Administration and its strong financial management and external programming. We want to pursue expanding the HRM program on and off campus to take advantage of our one-of-a-kind, nationally ranked programming in the state of Arizona.

    As a result of meetings with HRM over the past several weeks, the school has determined that reporting to the College of Business Administration is in its best interest.

    We conducted similar discussions with Forestry about opportunities for greater interdisciplinary connections with disciplines in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, including biology, chemistry, environmental sciences and environmental engineering. However, Forestry has continued to request more time to consider the options available to ensure its effectiveness in the university structure. As a result, we have recommended that Forestry report to the Office of the Provost through June 2009. We will review the effectiveness of this organizational structure in 2009 or at any time such a review is requested by the School of Forestry or initiated by the provost.
  2. Could the Consortium of Professional Schools remain, housing the schools of Hotel and Restaurant Management and Forestry?
    With just two schools, the unit would be too small to be a college, and the schools of HRM and Forestry are too disparate to make organizational sense. Moreover, recruiting a leader for such a unit would be extremely difficult in any local, regional or national venue.
  3. The School of Nursing has asked about retaining its school status upon joining the new college.
    We understand the legitimate concern of nursing faculty with maintaining their school status in the new college. The School of Nursing will retain its current structure with an executive director, who would report to the dean. Additionally, the faculty from both Nursing and Health Professions has requested additional planning for the new college structure to maximize its effectiveness as a new college. These conversations will be ongoing.

    Once approved by ABOR, NAU would begin a search for a dean of the new college and also launch a search for a new executive director for the School of Nursing. Both searches would be conducted with the assistance of a search firm.

    The schools of Nursing and Health Professions would engage in planning for a new health sciences facility.
  4. The School of Health Professions faculty has expressed an interest in returning to departmental status within the proposed new college for health and human services.
    Instead of having chairs report to an executive director who, in turn, would report to the dean of the new college, the health professions faculty has suggested reducing administrative layers by moving from an executive director structure to a college with departments whose chairs would report directly to the dean. There has also been discussion of possibly moving some programs back to a departmental structure.
  5. The School of Nursing faculty has prompted a discussion about whether the university should create new programming for nurse practitioners or physicians assistants.
    Our plan to create new programs to meet a statewide shortage of health-care professionals originally included physician assistants, among others. The School of Nursing faculty has raised valid points about the advantages of a program for nurse practitioners as well as consideration of increasing our graduate program capability. We will continue those discussions as we identify the new programs we plan to offer, contingent upon the necessary funding from the state.
  6. Questions have been asked about the potential impact of this health initiative on the rest of campus.
    This health-care expansion proposal is a core initiative of the university. NAU has long prided itself on its interdisciplinary approach to teaching, research and public service. We urge all areas on campus to examine the potential for collaborating with the new college to develop new courses and opportunities for students. The departments of biology and chemistry already are exploring such possibilities. It is that kind of thinking that results in strengthening the education of our students and our service to the state.

    The potential exists to recruit new students specifically for health-care initiatives, which will increase enrollments for Northern Arizona University.
  7. There is an apparent lack of awareness about the planning effort for the nursing and health professions expansion initiative.
    Considerable planning for the allocation of resources for this initiative has occurred and continues as the university expands existing programs and prepares to offer new programs in the health professions. We have committed to add 11 faculty members, one clinical coordinator, one staff member and funds for equipment needed in our health programs for future expansion in Flagstaff and off campus. The revenues for these new positions will come from the TRIF over-attainment funds and statewide resources.

    The School of Nursing already has more than doubled its enrollment with recent state-funded expansion. We continue to explore ways in which we can build nursing programs on and off campus in response to the state need for more nurses.

This college realignment plan not only advances an important strategic initiative for the university and the state, but also opens the door to further interdisciplinary collaboration.


John D. Haeger

Liz Grobsmith
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs