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Recently, Dean Kate VandenBosch sent letters to department chairs with individual recommendations to help focus each department’s structure exploration. Recommendations were either to explore a merger with one or more departments, explore a collaborative with one or more departments or to remain as is and look for ways to cooperate with other units. Recommendations from the letters are excerpted below.

Departments are considering the dean’s recommendations and other ideas, with the objective of drafting a concept document summarizing their best path forward by the end of May. The goal of the redesign project is for all collegiate departments to be positioned for future success.

Planning conversations will continue throughout the semester and into the summer.

April: Departments considering a merger or collaborative meet jointly to discuss content for a concept document.

May: Each departmental structure committee completes a concept document, based on input from their department(s) and using the provided template.

June: The dean will review concept documents and discuss them with chairs to determine whether departments should move forward with developing formal proposals for redesign, or continue working towards an alternative plan.

July: Work on phase two, developing formal proposals for redesign, begins.

Excerpts of letters from the dean

Agricultural and Applied Economics

“AAE has existing strengths and future potential that would allow it to remain as is, but could potentially benefit from enhanced interactions through a collaborative. In this spring’s department meetings, discussions with the chairs of AAE, Life Sciences Communication and Community & Environmental Sociology revealed similarities and raised questions. Each of these social science departments independently partners with CALS science departments on topical multidisciplinary research, for example on natural resource issues. Is there a way to leverage this parallel nature, to create more visibility for the collective expertise in the human dimensions of agriculture and the life sciences? Could a collaborative formed from these departments create new opportunities for the participants, as well as for other CALS colleagues or external stakeholders? I ask you to pursue these questions. Together with your potential partners, you should explore how a closer association could benefit interactions such as the certificate shared between AAE and LSC, or potential partnerships around centers.”

Agronomy:

“Agronomy shares strengths and priorities with other plant science departments, most notably Horticulture. These areas include plant breeding and genetics, genomics and biotechnology applications; cropping systems – including pest, weed and nutrient management; sustainable land use; advancing organic production, urban and regional agriculture; and basic plant sciences, including mechanisms of biotic and abiotic stress responses. Therefore, I ask you to join forces with Horticulture to plan priorities for a merged department. The merged department may want to participate in a plant science collaborative, involving Plant Pathology and/or Soil Science. Please work with these departments to determine what the shared foci of such combined or collaborative groups would be.

For CALS to remain successful in the future, we must not only demonstrate excellence, we must also expand efforts to leverage our state support by growing enrollments and increasing other revenues. Therefore, in your conversations with partner departments you should develop plans for an undergraduate program that can attract larger numbers of students, while providing a high-quality student experience. This may include consolidation of plant science majors and new program development, such as a food systems major. The emphases of the proposed programs should also align with strengths needed to maintain and grow excellence in research and outreach.”

Animal Sciences

“Animal Science has many commonalities with Dairy Science, though each department also has its distinct interests. The overlap includes animal health and welfare, nutrition, reproduction, cattle genetics and genomics, animal biologics and basic science. Therefore, I ask you to join forces with Dairy Science to plan a merged department of Dairy and Animal Sciences. There is a good rationale for continuing both the Dairy Science and Animal Science undergraduate majors under a merged department. However, the Poultry Science major is consistently the smallest in the college, and I ask you to take the first step towards closing it by suspending admissions to that major.

In the short run, the priority for a partnership discussion with Dairy Science is to develop a common vision for areas of scholarship that will define strengths of the merged department. It is imperative that Animal Science faculty contribute constructively to this discussion by targeting focused areas with potential for excellence, rather than spreading effort thinly by focusing broadly across many sub-disciplines. The chosen foci should be coherent with continued excellence in Dairy Science and developing strengths that leverage the new Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building. The areas of focus should also align with existing educational and outreach strengths. The two departments should work towards integrating hiring priorities and increased coordination of teaching.”

Bacteriology

“Based on evaluation of metrics and other factors, Bacteriology has well rounded strengths and sufficient critical mass to justify remaining ‘as is’ if it so chooses. But even if Bacteriology chooses to remain in its current configuration, the department should explore options for partnerships with other CALS departments on focused priorities that will strengthen both partners and the college. Collaborations in this vein could include:

  • Partnering with another department, such as Plant Pathology, to support growth in undergraduate programs. Such a partnership could help to provide continued oversight and program development of the Biology major, or potentially contribute to Microbiology instruction.
  • Partnering with Food Science to support instruction for the Fermented Foods and Beverages Certificate.
  • Collaborating with another department to develop a shared revenue-generating program.”

Biochemistry

“Based on evaluation of metrics and other factors, the Department of Biochemistry has well rounded strengths and sufficient critical mass to justify remaining ‘as is’. If, as expected, Biochemistry chooses to remain in its current configuration, the department should explore options for partnerships with other CALS departments on focused priorities that will strengthen both partners and the college. These could include joint hiring around shared priorities, support of curricular needs in other departments and evaluation of potential for joint revenue generating academic programs.”

Biological Systems Engineering

“As the only engineering department in CALS, BSE clearly has several axes of collaboration, including those related to agricultural production, environmental management and food engineering. A partnership with one or two other departments is not likely to encompass all of this breadth, while mergers of sub-disciplines to different partner departments would disperse engineering capabilities that are currently united. The Department of Soil Science is a natural partner on water and nutrients, agriculture and environmental sciences. Such a merger or collaborative (perhaps involving additional partners) would create a nucleus of strength around the soil/water/energy nexus, and environmental analysis, management and remediation. I believe this has strong potential. Although food engineering is not emphasized in this arrangement, you could still interact with Food Science as you do today. Alternatively, you could pursue a collaborative arrangement with Food Science.

As you consider these options, keep in mind that a very large collaboration could be unwieldy and create additional administrative burden. In discussions with potential partners, explore what would be the specific activities that would most benefit from shared effort and pooling of resources. These foci will constitute the core of the collaboration.”

Community and Environmental Sociology

“I believe the best way to grow critical mass and keep the expertise of CES together is to form a partnership with a related CALS department that shares similar priorities. Partnering around common themes also fosters intellectual diversity, with the potential to create synergy in research and training environments. For these reasons, I encourage CES to explore options for teaming up with Life Sciences Communication and/or  Agricultural & Applied Economics to determine how a collaborative or merger could create more visibility for the collective expertise in the human dimensions of agriculture, natural resources and the life sciences. Discussions should include the research, teaching and outreach missions of the department, and could include discussions of department-affiliated centers.

As a reminder, graduate programs are not the focus of CALS Redesign. We consider the existing program review process to be appropriate for guiding graduate program assessment and planning. Furthermore, CALS is proud that CES is partner to the top-rated Sociology Ph.D. program in the coungry. Therefore, you are not required to consider changes to graduate programs as you develop a concept for the department’s future, though this may be addressed if you so choose.”

Dairy Science

“Dairy Science has many commonalities with Animal Science, though each department also has its distinct interests. The overlap includes animal health and welfare, nutrition, reproduction, cattle genetics and genomics, animal biologics and basic science. Therefore, I ask you to join forces with Animal Science to plan a merged department of Dairy and Animal Sciences. There is a good rationale for continuing both undergraduate majors under a merged department, especially if both can grow and if curriculum management can identify efficiencies through increased coordination of teaching. In the short run, the priority for a partnership discussion with Animal Science is to identify the common areas of scholarship that will define strengths of the merged department.”

Entomology

“The best solution for the Department of Entomology is to merge or form a collaborative with one or more departments, and to create critical mass around shared priorities. I especially encourage you to explore the shared goals that partnerships with Forest and Wildlife Ecology or Plant Pathology would promote. It is critical that you specifically attend to concepts that could support higher undergraduate enrollment programs, such as:

  • A new major in ecology, which would attract additional students as well as perhaps accommodate an entomology option.
  • A new major in global health, which could encompass the One Health framework that Entomology could foster.

Plans should address either consolidating the undergraduate Entomology major into a larger program, or discontinuing the major.”

Food Science

“For CALS to remain successful in the future, we must expand efforts to leverage our state support to attract additional research funding, increase student enrollments and grow other revenues. Collaboration can help Food Science, a modestly sized department, make progress towards these goals.

Because Food Science has a distinctive mission in CALS, it isn’t a clear candidate for a merger. Nevertheless, it shares areas of expertise and some curricular elements with Biological Systems Engineering, Nutritional Sciences and Bacteriology, and a partnership with one of these departments could form the basis of a collaborative. In discussions with potential partners, please explore activities that would benefit from shared effort and pooling of resources, such as joint hiring, academic program support, course development and revenue generation.”

Forest and Wildlife Ecology

“FWE shares strengths in organismal interactions, ecology and ecosystem assessment and management with other departments. Yet it’s been frequently noted that UW gets less visibility for ecology-related strengths than lesser institutions. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to use CALS Redesign as an opportunity to explore partnerships that could correct this gap and create greater critical mass for your shared priorities. Entomology and Soil Science are probably the most logical departmental partners, though there are likely individuals in other departments that would be interested in this conversation, as well. As you consider options, keep a clear focus for the partnership so that it does not become so big as to become administratively unwieldy. I specifically encourage you to identify the best opportunities to grow undergraduate enrollment, for example through a new program in ecology or through collaboration with the environmental sciences program.”

Genetics

“The Department of Gentics differs from all current CALS departments in that it operates as a cross-college, joint department with the Department of Medical Genetics in SMPH. As such, they are already a ‘merged’ department with greater critical mass to support their mission than our metrics demonstrate. As a result, a merger or other restructuring would create complications for the current status with SMPH. Because of these factors, plus the current robustness of the undergraduate major, I support leaving the organization of the Department of Genetics ‘as is’, if it so chooses. I look forward to the upcoming meeting with you and SMPH leadership to review the current status.”

Horticulture:

“Horticulture shares strengths and priorities with other plant science departments, most notably Agronomy, but not exclusively. These areas include plant breeding and genetics, including advanced genetics, genomics and – potentially – biotechnology applications; cropping systems – including pest, weed and nutrient management; sustainable land use; advancing organic production, urban and regional agriculture; and basic plant sciences, including mechanisms of biotic and abiotic stress responses. Therefore, I ask you to join forces with Agronomy to plan priorities for a merged department. Additionally, the merged department may want to participate in a plant science collaborative, involving Plant Pathology and/or Soil Science. Please work with these departments to determine what the shared foci of such combined or collaborative groups would be, and if such a partnership is desirable.

For CALS to remain successful in the future, we must not only demonstrate excellence; we must also expand efforts to leverage our state support for increasing enrollment and research support, and grow other revenues. Therefore, in your conversations with partner departments you should develop plans for an undergraduate program that can attract larger numbers of students, while providing a high-quality student experience. This may include program consolidation and/or new program development. The emphases of the proposed programs should also align with strengths needed to maintain and grow excellence in research and outreach.”

Life Sciences Communication

“Partnering across disciplines would help to create opportunities for growth. Especially for a small department, collaboration can help create efficiencies and build critical mass to support development of revenue-generating programs. Perhaps most importantly, partnering across disciplines around a common theme fosters intellectual diversity, with the potential to create synergy in research and training environments. For all of these reasons, I encourage LSC to explore options for teaming up with one or more other departments. In particular, I encourage LSC to work with Community & Environmental Sociology and Agricultural & Applied Economics to determine how they might collaborate to create more visibility for the collective expertise in the social sciences of agriculture and the life sciences. Could a collaborative formed from these departments create new opportunities for the participants, as well as for other CALS colleagues or external stakeholders? I am eager to hear the department’s ideas on what other exciting partnerships might be.”

Nutritional Sciences

“Because of the distinctive mission of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, we don’t see a logical partner for a merger. Furthermore, based on evaluation of metrics and other factors, the department is justified in remaining ‘as is’ if it so chooses. But even if Nutritional Sciences chooses to remain in its current configuration, the department should explore options for partnerships with other CALS departments on focused priorities that will strengthen both partners and the college. Collaborations in this vein could include:

  • Co-investment with other departments such as Food Science or Bacteriology, where there is curricular overlap or potential for co-teaching during the academic year or in summer offerings.
  • Partnering in strategic hiring, where collaboration could advance joint research priorities. The Obesity cluster hire is a good example of this type of creative approach.”

Plant Pathology

From my point of view, Plant Pathology has several options to merge or create collaboratives:

  1. Plant Pathology shares interests with Horticulture and Agronomy in cropping systems, including pest, weed and nutrient management; basic plant sciences, including mechanisms of biotic and abiotic stress responses; plant breeding and genetics, genomics and  biotechnology applications; sustainable land use and advancing organic production and regional agriculture. A merger or collaborative approach would advance a strong, consolidated undergraduate program in the plant sciences and coordinate priority use of field facilities.
  2. As is often pointed out, many Plant Pathologists identify first as microbiologists, which creates an opportunity for collaborations with Bacteriology, especially around undergraduate teaching. Bacteriology is home to the largest CALS major (Biology), as well as the popular Microbiology major. Plant Pathology contributes to the support of Biology, especially through introductory courses. A closer association with Bacteriology could create opportunities for Plant Pathology to co-support Biology, contribute to large enrollment courses and explore options for revenue-generating programs.
  3. Plant Pathology shares with Entomology interests in the biology of organismal interactions; sustainable solutions for fruit, vegetable crops and turf; and responses to climate change, among other potential topics. The two departments should explore their priorities in these areas to determine where shared effort could benefit them.

Soil Science

“I believe that merging or collaborating with Biological Systems Engineering and/or Forest and Wildlife ecology has the most potential for Soils. Such an ‘ecosystem sciences’ collaboration could emphasize topics including the soil/water/energy nexus, climate impacts, and environmental analysis, management and remediation. As you consider options for such a collaboration, keep a clear focus on priorities so that the partnership does not become such an unwieldly size that it would create additional administrative burden. In discussions with potential partners, explore what would be the specific activities that would most benefit from shared effort and pooling of resources. These foci will constitute the core of the collaboration. I specifically encourage you to identify the best ideas to grow undergraduate enrollment in the Environmental Sciences program, to increase CFI by serving students in related programs, and to increase opportunities for large, multidisciplinary research projects that will be well positioned for extramural support.

In addition to environmental science, the Department of Soil Science also has another axis of collaboration specifically around production agriculture, similar to the departments of Agronomy and Horticulture. It will be difficult to accommodate all of your important relationships into one collaborative, but you can still interact with others as you do today.

Whatever plan moves forward, I would like you to consider how the soil science major could be consolidated into another major so that soils-oriented undergraduates still be served, but without the efforts to maintain the major as a separate program.”

 Content on this page was updated at 8:20 a.m. on Tuesday, April 17

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