UW News

January 11, 2007

Reorganization report released: Interdisciplinarity, collaboration, strategic transformation touted

News and Information

The committee charged with examining the organization of the UW’s schools and colleges has now issued its report, which is advisory to the Provost.

The committee has submitted 11 recommendations in response to the committee’s charge — to determine how the UW can provide the best learning environment and most effectively support research, scholarship and creative work. The entire report is available at http://www.washington.edu/provost/reports/CSOCreport.pdf

“I am very grateful for the efforts of this committee,” said Provost Wise. “The members did an amazing amount of work in a short period of time, to gather information from the broad University community. Their recommendations provide much food for thought.”

The committee, co-chaired by Kathleen Woodward, director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and Tom Daniel, professor and chair of biology, included 21 members, with broad representation across the schools and colleges and from the Faculty Senate.

While not making specific recommendations for new realignments, the committee recommended that each of the UW’s 17 schools and colleges undergo regular review. According to the report, “…the very notion that the organization of our colleges and schools can and should be routinely discussed and evaluated — thereby becoming a part of our regular dialogue and a mechanism by which we embrace potential change — is in itself crucial.”

One group of recommendations offered by the committee was that the divisional deanships within the College of Arts and Sciences be strengthened and given more autonomy and authority, with the dean’s focus on “more effective development of initiatives that involve undergraduate education, interdisciplinary research and collaboration,” the report says.

Promoting interdisciplinarity, collaboration and strategic transformation was a major focus of the report and resulted in four recommendations:

  • The Office of the Provost should be entrusted with 5 percent of new and open positions, to help address strategic opportunities;
  • a flexible fund to promote and incubate creative and important efforts in strategic transformation should be created. The resources for this fund would come from increases in state appropriations, tuition increases or private philanthropy;
  • academic appointments should provide limited flexibility for faculty to pursue lines of teaching and research outside their home departments;
  • the creation of the position of vice-provost for interdisciplinary affairs was recommended.

“We want mechanisms and strategies to be available for faculty and students to risk the unexpected rather than accept the routine,” the report said. The committee found that establishing mechanisms to increase the flow of faculty and students across colleges and schools, rather than the structural organization of the schools and colleges, was key to promoting interdisciplinarity.

The report identifies undergraduate advising as an area in which improvements could be made. The report makes two recommendations regarding advising: the creation of a University wide Council of Academic Advisers to address a number of problems of communication and coordination among advising units, and the identification of a vice-provost whose portfolio includes overall responsibility for academic advising.

Although the committee had just one recommendation regarding financial issues, their report notes “…a rational and transparent model for funding may matter more than the organizational structure of colleges and schools itself.” The report recommends that a portion of the new funds coming to the UW be allocated “in a way that acknowledges and rewards contributions to this aspect of the University’s mission….”

Individuals who wish to comment on the report should send their comments to provost@u.washington.edu