The largest college within Augusta State University will divide into two entities July 1, a move officials say will offer students more focused instruction in each subject as consolidation with Georgia Health Sciences University approaches.
The Katherine Reese Pamplin College of Arts and Sciences will split into a college for arts and humanities and a separate college for the sciences, each with its own dean.
Carol Rychly, ASU vice president for academic affairs, said the split will allow each department to grow the student body, faculty, research dollars and grant opportunities.
“The thought is that we could be a little more focused if we had not such a broad portfolio of courses under one dean,” Rychly said.
Rychly is taking suggestions from faculty until June 8 for names of the two new colleges. Charles Clark, the dean of Pamplin College, will lead the new college housing arts and humanities. Sam Robinson, a professor and the chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, will be dean of the college overseeing the sciences.
Though the move is a change for ASU, splitting colleges is not uncommon in the world of higher education. Universities often divide their colleges of arts and sciences to focus efforts more narrowly, said Anne-Marie McCartan, the executive director for the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences.
Every year, about 10 percent of the 500 universities in the council either split their college or merge them back together after a divide, McCartan said.
She said there are benefits to both approaches of operation, but the best method depends on each institution. Schools often save money by consolidating colleges, in
effect reducing the number of deans. On the other hand, a split usually allows faculty to boast a more individualized education and increase a sense of identity within departments, she said.
“There’s no magic formula for what the correct division of labor is,” McCartan said.
After a wave of institutions split their arts and sciences to focus instruction 10 years ago, many are merging back together to save money as cuts to higher education continue, said Terrel Rhodes, the Association of American Colleges and Universities vice president for quality, curriculum and assessment.
“The trend that we’re actually seeing right now is some of the places that did that are now recombining them,” he said.
Colleges are also merging because of a renewed focus on communal learning across disciplines, Rhodes said.
“The colleges are starting to recognize that there’s more and more evidence that suggests they need students that can integrate their learning more,” Rhodes said. “By having colleges that are more narrowly focused, they find students spend more of their time there, there’s more integration of like people and there’s not much integration across disciplines.”
One of the promises of consolidation between ASU and GHSU is collaboration. Clark said he predicts more faculty in the arts and humanities will work with the health sciences departments after consolidation in instruction and research.
As of fall 2011, his college housed 4,520 of ASU’s 6,741 students. He said he expects growth after the split.
There could also be new undergraduate and graduate degree programs combining the two fields.
“The important thing is the people in the new college feel as if they have a voice and representation in what goes on there,” he said. “This is an exciting time for us. This is a good time.”