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Montemagno: SIU to redeploy, reorganize: Announced plans to reopen the University Museum

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Geoffrey Ritter

The new chancellor of SIU’s Carbondale campus says the university’s academic structure will undergo a massive reorganization in the coming months, with some programs consolidating, others reorganizing and some ending altogether.

Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, who in August became SIUC’s first non-interim chancellor since 2014, delivered his first major address to the campus community Tuesday and promised a large-scale reorganization of the campus to be completed by July 2018.

“We need to focus on deploying our resources to make us more competitive,” Montemagno told his audience gathered within the campus’ Shryock Auditorium. “Accordingly, we need to invest resources in programs that are absolutely essential. To secure the resources to invest in current and new programs, we need to identify programs that are weak and terminate those that are no longer necessary.”

Montemagno said campus leaders will release a “straw man” draft plan next month, to be followed in November by a revised draft. In comments following his speech, Montemagno declined to discuss details of what the process looks like right now, but he said campus stakeholders will have the opportunity to respond to the working drafts.

“To do this, we are looking at our current academic structure to identify lost opportunities,” Montemagno said in his speech. “Our allied health and human services program are currently in three separate colleges. We have management-focused programs in four. Imagine the synergy, energy and strength we could build ... and duplication we might avoid ... if we broke down walls and brought programs and faculty together for joint exploration of knowledge.”

Montemagno anticipated the creation of a “powerful” College of Health and Human Services, as well as a new college of agriculture and life sciences that will include a school of sustainability and earth sciences. Everything in the reorganization will be focused on creating “synergy,” he said.

“We will then begin moving programs out of existing academic departments, transitioning them into schools based on opportunities for synergy,” he said. “These schools will be organized under colleges. There will be fewer colleges than we have today.”

Montemagno also said in no uncertain terms that “some programs will close,” although he provided no specific examples.

Enrollment concerns hover around the margins

Following yet another fall enrollment drop, which continues a decade-long trend, Montemagno dug into the university’s history and its “can-do, collaborative spirit” as the possible solution.

With enrollment dropping 9 percent from fall 2016, including an 18 percent dip in the number of new freshmen, Montemagno said the university lost $9.4 million this year in tuition alone. Over the past decade, he added, that lost tuition money swells to around $1.5 billion.

“We became stagnant,” Montemagno said, contrasting the current enrollment crisis with SIU’s growth in the 1950s and 1960s. “Today, rather than finding ourselves on a new upward ‘S’ driven by innovation and change, we find ourselves in a decline. The greatest indicator of this decline is enrollment.”

Montemagno reiterated his plan to hire an associate chancellor for enrollment management. He also called on the SIU community to become more engaged in attracting and keeping students.

“Recruitment and retention must be the highest priority for every person who works on behalf of SIU — whether you maintain our beautiful campus, advise students or teach classes,” he said.

Looking toward the future

Donning an SIU ball cap toward the end of his speech, Montemagno urged greater involvement between the university and the surrounding area, citing ongoing efforts with the city of Carbondale highlighted most recently by activities surrounding the eclipse.

“We are also looking at how we can build community engagement through arts and events, including concerts and athletics, as well as community service,” he said. “Our goal is to create a more visible presence of our activity within the region.”

He also earned applause for announcing the reopening of the University Museum, which closed amid the state budget impasse.

Montemagno stressed the importance of speaking with a common voice in Springfield, and remaining confident in the university’s ability to keep evolving.

“I came to SIU because I am confident that we can change, that we can reinvent ourselves,” he said. “SIU is a special place. Looking at the trajectory of our first 150 years, we know it’s time to make our next move.”

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