Academic strategic plan includes consolidations, mergers, new school

Northern Arizona University is establishing a new School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability as part of its 2009-10 academic strategic plan approved by the Arizona Board of Regents at its meeting April 30 and May 1 in Tucson.

The new school brings together the Department of Geology with the Center for Sustainable Environments to combine outreach and educational programs with undergraduate degrees in environmental sciences, environmental studies and geology, and graduate programs in environmental sciences and policy and geology.

New ABOR President
Ernest Calderón meets
Faculty Senate
NAU alumnus Ernest Calderón, newly elected president of the Arizona Board of Regents, was on campus Monday to meet with the Faculty Senate and address a variety of university issues.

Much of the discussion centered around the concept of a new “instructional university” that might be developed in coordination with community colleges. Some characteristics of an instructional university include a focus on teaching versus research and an emphasis on baccalaureate education, which should result in a lower tuition model than that of the state’s three research universities.

“You will remain a research university,” Calderón assured the NAU faculty. He did note that the Board of Regents will examine downsizing duplicative programs among NAU, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

An interview with Calderón on instructional universities was featured Monday in thePhoenix Business Journal.  

Calderón also praised Gov. Jan Brewer for her support of the universities. “She’s a friend of higher education,” he said. He cited Brewer’s intention to maximize federal stimulus funding for the universities to mitigate the impact of tuition increases.

In addition to his NAU background, Calderón is a Phoenix attorney who owns a home if Flagstaff. The Morenci, Ariz., native will assume the office of ABOR president on July 1.

Calderón served as ASNAU president in 1978-79 and is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law. He is a former president of the State Bar of Arizona, former chairman of the Catholic Community Foundation, past Valley Leadership (metropolitan Phoenix) Man of the Year and was Arizona’s first Harry S Truman Scholar. He has served seven Arizona governors by appointment.

Calderón said he plans to continue his education leadership focus on refining higher education to be affordable, accessible and as financially predictable as possible in these challenging economic times.

The vision of the school is to become the “premier school for research, outreach, and education in earth sciences and environmental sustainability in the Mountain West for local to global communities,” said Abe Springer, director of the new school.

An added benefit of the new school is a net cost-savings to the university by combining units, according to Liz Grobsmith,
provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Other unit mergers approved in the plan are:

  • combining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Construction Management
  • combining the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Department of Computer Science
  • combining the Institute for Future Workforce Development and the Northern Arizona Gerontology Institute

Grobsmith noted that no new degree programs were proposed in the academic strategic plan, which cites budget reductions for delaying implementation of a new doctorate in occupational therapy and the master’s program for physicians’ assistants.

Budget reductions prompted several of the plan’s initiatives that include program consolidation, administrative mergers, reorganization and the discontinuation of certain programs. An overview of the academic strategic plan changes is available here.

In other action, the regents received a briefing on the report issued to legislative leaders in April by the Fiscal Alternative Choices Team. The team, which included Marc Chopin and Ron Gunderson from The W.A. Franke College of Business, outlined options for state lawmakers to close the state budget deficit.

Regent Ernest Calderón noted that the FACT options align with Gov. Jan Brewer’s five-point budget recovery plan, which calls for:

  • reforming the budget process by increasing the size and restricting the use of the “Rainy Day” fund; limiting fund sweeps; and using reliable revenue estimates
  • providing fiscal flexibility with Proposition 105—the Voter Protection Act
  • further spending cuts to reduce the general fund by $1 billion
  • providing tax reform to attract business and create jobs
  • instituting a temporary tax increase to generate $1 billion annually

Calderón made a motion for the Board of Regents to support the governor’s plan, and the motion passed unanimously.

“We applaud Gov. Brewer for her leadership in dealing with the state’s budget crisis,” Calderón said. “She has put forth a pragmatic, sound plan, which is designed to put Arizona back on the path to prosperity. We believe it is very worthy of the board’s support.”

The governor attended the regents meeting on April 30 for the discussion and vote to approve a tuition surchargeat the three universities for the 2009-10 school year. The regents also voted to approve a one-year exception to board policies that would permit undergraduate resident base tuition and mandatory fees to exceed the current limit of the top of the lower one-third of rates set by the 50 senior public universities in the nation.