Thursday, February 15, 2018

Proposed plan would move degrees, reorganize SNRE

UAF Provost Susan Henrichs has announced plans to move the School of Natural Resource and Extension academic degree programs to the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

Under the plan, SNRE academic faculty would form a department within the college. The school’s existing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in natural resource management and doctorate in natural resources and sustainability would continue to be offered through the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

The change in the administration of the academic programs is part of a larger reorganization plan involving the School of Natural Resources and Extension, which includes the UAF Cooperative Extension Service and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

Under the proposed plan, the school would be eliminated as a result of the degrees moving to CNSM,  and Extension and AFES would continue to operate independently, sharing a business office and communications support. Fred Schlutt, the vice provost for Extension and Outreach, would remain the senior administrator for both entities and Milan Shipka will continue as director of the station. SNRE faculty would have research appointments with the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

In an email to SNRE faculty and staff, Henrichs said UAF Chancellor Dan White will need to request approval from the University of Alaska Board of Regents for the reorganization plan. The request could be considered as soon as the board's June meeting.

SNRE Academic Director Dave Valentine said students would see few changes as a result of the reorganization.

“They’ll have the same degrees and the same classrooms and we’ll be in the same offices,” he said. Most SNRE academic faculty and classrooms are located in the O’Neill Building and Arctic Health Research Building on West Ridge.

In a meeting with SNRE research and academic faculty last Friday, Henrichs said she believed that the degree programs would do better in a larger unit with more students and greater possibilities for academic and research collaborations, including the possibility for more cross-listed courses. She said the number of academic faculty have decreased from 18 to 11 and with budget constraints, the school has not been able to hire replacement faculty, making it more challenging to offer programs. While SNRE has strong degree programs, future funding reductions could make it difficult to maintain quality if the programs remain on their own in a separate school, she said.

In her email, Henrichs said there were significant matters yet to consider and resolve, and she will appoint academic faculty to a transition team.

The School of Natural Resources and Extension was created in February 2014, when the regents approved the merger of the former School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. Extension and the station are mandated to file a joint federal plan of work and annual report.

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