Departments shift to different spaces in university merger

Merging two universities requires a lot on planning and coordination on many levels, from combining curricula to melding administrations, but it’s the physical pieces of the puzzle that concern Phil Howard.

“There are a ton of moving parts,” said Howard, the vice president of facilities at Georgia Health Sciences University, which will consolidate with Augusta State University in January.

It’s Howard’s job to find space and facilitate the relocation of different departments and services on the campuses that will become Georgia Regents University when the final merger is approved as expected.

Space and facility use surveys have been performed, and studies have been undertaken to make use of various buildings and offices that will become available as departments are shifted and combined.

“We are doing a lot of studying, that’s what we are doing now,” he said. “The problem with consolidation is we really can’t do anything until it is official.”

There are a number of plans under way in different stages of completion, however.

Howard said the guiding philosophy is to shift people and departments to where they will be doing most of their work.

“It’s more boiling down to who has the larger program,” he said.

For example, GHSU has a larger human resources department, so it makes sense to shift ASU’s personnel to what will be known as the “health and sciences” campus. On the other hand, because most new students will be entering through the Summerville campus, most student counseling and advising services will move up the hill, he said.

Other things are still under study, such as where to put the university president’s office.

Howard said that President Ricardo Azziz will be moving to what is now the ASU campus but that the specifics haven’t been ironed out yet. They are looking at three locations – Rains Hall, Paine Hall and the Boykin-Wright house – as a possible site. Each will require renovation to make it work, he said. Those plans should be firmed up by the end of December, he said.

One move is certain, however: ASU’s nursing program will move to the GHSU campus Dec. 19, according to Jean Pawl, the interim chairwoman of that school’s Department of Nursing.

“I’ve already got the keys to my new office,” said Pawl, who has been packing for the move.

She said current students will continue with the ASU curriculum until they graduate, while new students who enter next fall will begin the combined program designed for GRU.

“We are just keeping the students calm,” she said. “We are letting them know this is a change in location, not a change on how it will be taught.”

Pawl said the space they are vacating in University Hall will be occupied by student advisement and career counseling services.

“They’ve been busy measuring and scheming and planning, which is fine,” she said. “Our last faculty meeting is on Dec. 18, and everyone is turning in our keys.”

The shifting spaces are opening up opportunities for other programs.

What will become GRU’s honors program is moving out of a quiet corner of University Hall to its own building in the middle of campus – Bellevue Annex, said Tim Sadenwasser, the honors program director.

“Right now we are well off the traveled path that most students take,” he said. “It is going to give us a much more prominent location.”

He said he hopes to create a space that encourages prospective students to investigate the honors program and gives current honors students a place to drop in to study or just hang out between classes.

“We will be trying to create a community atmosphere where they are not just taking classes together,” he said. “It’s nicely symbolic that it is at the center of campus.”

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Topic page: University merger

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