Simmons College plans academic redesign in coming years

By Maddy Longwell

Staff Writer

Simmons College will be undergoing an academic redesign that will be completed within the next three years. Provost Katie Conboy addressed the Simmons SGA on Wednesday, Nov. 30, with details of the new changes. “We are small place to be as complicated as we are,” Conboy explained.

Source: Simmons College

The most notable change to Simmons will be the reorganization of schools within the college. Simmons will move from the five schools it currently has—the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Management, School of Social Work, School of Library and Information Science, and the School of Nursing and Health Science—down to four schools. This will mean fewer administrators throughout the organization. Although the schools will be consolidating and reorganizing, there will be “no faculty job loss, period,” Conboy said. She explained that, although there will be fewer dean positions within Simmons, the college currently only has three sitting deans that plan to still be at Simmons after the redesign is complete.

Throughout the presentation, Conboy discussed the high number of administrative positions at Simmons. She explained that with fewer schools and administrative demands, faculty members would get to spend more time in the classroom and with students. She also noted that the redesign is intended to “reduce our overall financial footprint.”

While the completion date for a move to a new academic structure is not set, Conboy highlighted major dates along the redesign timeline. In October of this year, administrators at the college were presented with two potential academic structures, which, along with their costs, were shared to the Board of Trustees in late October. This past month experts in related fields discussed the potential structures with college leaders to help make a more informed decision.

Most notably the academic redesign will consolidate current departments into four schools. The current Simmons structure groups most undergraduate programs into the College of Arts and Sciences, while the remaining four schools have a much higher concentration of graduate programs. Conboy explained that a new change to the organization of programs would mean that all schools had graduate, undergraduate, and online programs.

The structure presented at the SGA forum on Wednesday, titled “Model 1a” broke the college down into four schools based on related programs: a media, arts, and humanities school, a school of social work and social science, a school of information science and business, and a school of nursing, health, and natural sciences. Model 1a was one of two models presented in October, and Conboy noted that the model did not provide the names the school would actually take on.

During the presentation Conboy outlined the goals of the academic redesign, which included simplifying the school structure and highlighting the academic strengths that Simmons does and could have, which include health sciences and social work.

“[Simmons will] continue to have all programs of study that we currently have,” Conboy said when explaining the academic changes. “Students will continue to apply in the same way, and we will still be women-centered as we always have been,” Conboy continued.

This is not the first time Simmons has undergone academic changes. “In 1990 Simmons graduated 13 nursing students, now, more than half of last years class were nursing students.”  While Simmons focus on health sciences has been dramatic in the past 20 years, it has been changing as a higher-education institution since long before then. In the past the college has been home to many more than five schools, including a school of retail and a school of landscape architecture. Conboy explained the reasoning behind some of these changes. She explained that although Simmons has a strong education program, it is difficult for it to compete with state universities in the area who can offer similar programs at a lower cost.

In addition to academic reorganization, Conboy talked about the goals and changes to the education at Simmons that the academic redesign hoped to help achieve. “There are cross-cutting issues we need to focus on.” These goals included inclusive leadership, social justice,  and global citizenship, “some of these are aspirational,” she said.

Conboy explained that to make the redesign work, some faculty members might have joint appointments and teach in multiple schools, and students could potentially study in schools outside of their major.

“Student affairs is an important part of the redesign,” Conboy said. She mentioned linking affinity groups between schools, and helping graduate and undergraduate students see how an institution that involved both could be beneficial. Sometimes it “doesn’t feel like we had as much common cause as we could considering the size of Simmons,” Conboy said.

“Our expectation is to make changes for July 1,” Conboy told the SGA. She explained that the redesign might be over the course of three years, and would not necessarily include physical moves for departments on campus.