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Sunday, May 19, 2024

UNCW college of arts and sciences split official, search underway for new deans

UNCW’s College of Arts and Sciences will split into two separate schools on July 1. (Port City Daily/file).

WILMINGTON — UNCW’s largest school, the College of Arts and Sciences, will split into two separate schools on July 1 after months of planning the move and years of rumblings over the topic.

Some have deemed CAS’ size as problematic, including Provost Jamie Winebrake, who is spearheading the division. However, those critical of the decision say the proposed colleges — categorized by STEM and non-STEM programs — will contribute to rifts in funding, resources and attention between the arts and sciences, with the former seeing the most detrimental effects. 

READ MORE: UNCW looks to divide arts and sciences, faculty cautious of consequences

CAS is made up of 5,800 students and 800 faculty and staff. Its dean oversees the most programs — 43 undergraduate degrees, 60 minors, 12 pre-professional programs, 25 master’s degrees and three doctoral programs, plus the Gender Studies and Research Center. 

In a few months, that will no longer be the case. The two colleges’ names have yet to be determined, however, the degree programs will be divided into the following: 

College of Arts: anthropology, art and art history, communication studies, creative writing, English, film studies, history, international studies, music, philosophy and religion, public and international affairs, sociology and criminology, theatre, world languages and culture, the Gender Studies & Research Center, graduate liberal studies 

College of Sciences: biology and marine biology, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, earth and ocean sciences, environmental sciences, mathematics and statistics, physics and physical oceanography, psychology, pre-engineering

The makeup of the colleges matches the proposed plan reported by Port City Daily in November. 

“We are excited to launch these two new colleges,” said Provost James J. Winebrake. “This new structure will allow us to expand the educational experiences we offer our students, further support the great work of our faculty and staff and respond to an evolving higher education landscape.” 

The university has also begun its quest for two new deans, in partnership with the search firm Isaacson, Miller, with an anticipated start date of July 1. The UNCW board of trustees will need to sign-off on the nominees. 

The option for two deans, each advocating for a fewer amount of degree programs, was one of the primary motivators behind splitting the large college. 

The high number of direct reports and a wide array of disciplines can put a strain on CAS’s dean, who must possess the knowledge and time to advocate for donations, organize fundraising and manage the activity of all 25 of the college’s departments. 

Leaders of the computer science, mathematics and statistics, data science, physics and engineering programs submitted a memo to CAS leadership requesting the split, many advocating the move will help their departments hone their brand and expand their ability to obtain resources. 

However, some professors from the humanities and social sciences expressed their worry that more attention and funding would be funneled to the research-based programs, while their departments were pushed to the peripheral.

Chancellor Aswani Volety, former dean of CAS, stated last year “no unit will have fewer resources than they have now.” Essentially, the funding and resources will follow each department to its new school. 

However, the university will have to dish out more funding for the new dean and assistant dean positions, as well as other support staff serving CAS. In November, the plan was to share support services until the positions were doubled and filled for each college. New buildings are also not included in the division’s plans.

“As the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, I fundamentally understand the scope of this transformation,” Chancellor Volety said in a press release. “By creating smaller, more agile colleges, UNCW will build on a firm foundation to better support and enhance the studies of our students and the work of our dedicated faculty and staff. The two new colleges will also allow us to advance the university in ways that will positively impact the region and state through our commitment to excellence in teaching, research, artistic activities and community engagement.”

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