As springtime approaches, Keene State College is making changes and updates to its internal work. In a Campus Update email sent out by KSC Interim President Dr. Melinda Treadwell on April 2, she stated all college departments will remain intact and the hiring process for two interim deans for the new schools is set to begin before the end of the school year.
Treadwell provided updates on campus realignment work and the transition to the two-school model — the school of Arts, Education and Culture and the School of Sciences, Sustainability and Health — which will be established prior to the fall of 2018.
One of the major points of the message stated that all current academic departments will remain intact and the current academic chair structure will be preserved.
In a sea of many unknowns, department chairs and other college employees expressed concerns as to what would happen to their department during the move to the two-school model. Some were worried their department would get clumped in with another, and others worried their department would disappear altogether.
In an interview with Treadwell, she said getting rid of a department entirely wouldn’t benefit the college. “To simply close a program would leave students adrift. We’d have to try to think of teach-out, it makes everyone feel a terrible turbulence. I’d much rather say, let’s keep all the departments right now. Let’s look at the ones that aren’t thriving and find if there are ways to do those programs differently.”
Modern languages, for example, doesn’t carry a lot of majors, but considering KSC is a liberal arts school, Treadwell said it’s a necessary department.
Professor of Modern Languages and Cultures Dr. Tom Durnford said he considers KSC a “multi-purpose” institution, and any definition of a liberal arts institution includes language and culture. “When it comes right down to it, I believe our administrations, although we’ve had some rocky times, are intellectually honest and have to look at what we offer,” he said. “There are never going to be as many language majors as there are communication or occupational safety and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Low-enrolled programs provide seats for courses within the Integrative Studies Program (ISP) and aren’t a major cost burden for the college, Treadwell said, and cutting programs is not the place to save money. “I wanted us to have time. Keep the disciplines we have, keep the majors that we have and then look at majors that need more investment, look at majors that are really under-enrolled, and then how do we think of the future of those academic programs holding our mission as a liberal arts institution?”
Rather than just shutting programs down, she said now is the time to discover why certain programs aren’t thriving and brainstorm new ways to communicate and deliver them. She also suggested creating new opportunities for students, such as collaborating with Plymouth State University or Granite State College.
However, in the midst of changes at KSC, Durnford said he does worry, if he chooses to retire within the next year, whether KSC will hire someone to take his place.
With a transition to a two-school model comes a transition of leadership. Treadwell said she’ll be putting out a call for nominations and/or applications for the dean position of both schools, one being a 1-year and the other being a 2-year appointment. She’s anticipating the hiring process to be finalized by the middle of May.
As far as the current deans go, if they choose not to apply or are not selected for the position, they will go back to being a department faculty member. “I’m hoping it will be low turbulence, and the chairs [in each school] will have very strong voice in who gets selected,” Treadwell said.
While KSC is behind in where it should be when it comes to the incoming class’ enrollment, Treadwell said the current admitted student population is strong. Next year’s first-year class is projected to be at 935, but in order to get there, she said KSC must yield 23 percent of all admitted students. Without a lot of margin, KSC could be in trouble if we don’t yield that number, but she said the number is “totally achievable” regardless.
The reason KSC may be behind this year could be due to a delay in marketing, but Treadwell said we’re currently ahead in our marketing for next year.
Additionally, she said KSC is expanding the Honors Program because it’s already been filled.
“We’ve gotten beyond the budget piece, so what’s next for Keene State?” Treadwell said. “We’re ahead now for next year, and we’re not going to have a year like ’18 again,” she said.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org