The elephant head statue that adorns the entrance to Dowling Hall, home of Tufts' administrative services, is pictured on Aug. 20, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily Archive)

Changes in federal requirements, student needs drive administrative reorganization

According to an Oct. 21 email from Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser and Dean of the School of Engineering Jianmin Qu to Tufts undergraduates, recent changes in administrative responsibility within Dowling Hall and other departments concerning student life will expand or change the roles of several deans, most notably Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Students John Barker and Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon.

“In an increasingly complex higher education landscape, the new structure is designed to improve coordination and support for individual Tufts students and better meet the complex demands of an ever-changing student body,” the email read.

According to Glaser, while the previous system had been functioning well, the time had come for changes.

“We hadn’t substantially reorganized in about 11 or 12 years, and over the past year I think we’ve come to recognize that it would be a good time to do this,” he said.

The reorganization was prompted by many changes both within the university and society in general, Glaser said.

“Societal trends happen, and now there are new challenges we have to face and you should reorganize periodically to address those new challenges,” he said. “For instance, there are a lot of new federal requirements that we do things in certain ways … or there are new developments in the world that effect us — social media, better treatments for mental illness that allow students to be more successful than in the past — and it brings us a different set of challenges that many of our students are facing.”

Glaser added that reorganization may be beneficial for the deans themselves as well.

“Reorganization gives you opportunity to provide growth and development of people who live within the organization,” he said. “You want to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses and reorganization gives you the opportunity to do that.”

Barker said that he will assume a new role as dean of international studies and extended programming.

According to Barker, in his role prior to the reorganization he had broad responsibility for much of the student experience, including student affairs, study abroad and health and wellness.

During his time as Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Students, Barker established the Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) program, according to Glaser. BLAST is a six-week summer program for incoming students who may be first generation college students or who attended an under-resourced high school. It also serves as a support network for these students throughout their first year.

In his new position, Barker will focus on study abroad programs, the International Center (I-Center) and the Confucius Institute at Tufts University, according to the Oct. 21 email.

“We partnered with China to develop a Confucius Institute here,” Barker said. “We’re going to look at how to integrate the Confucius Institute into more of what we’re doing in the future.”

Barker said he would like to explore the potential for new types of international opportunities, such as short-term programs over breaks and faculty-led programs during the summer.

According to Barker, about 50 percent of students enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences study abroad, but relatively few athletes and engineers do so because of training and course requirements. Barker said that one of his goals in the new position is to make study abroad more accessible to those students.

Barker said he will also support international students as they navigate through the university, adding that they often experience complications that differ from those of the rest of the student body.

[I will] make sure that the I-Center is supporting them for everything, from the visa work they may have, understanding the complications of being an international student here which is that most of them can’t work and earn money, which they might need, so how do we support them in different way[s] … Looking for alternative housing for international students so that they don’t have to fly home or find a place to live because it’s extremely expensive, the flight back and forth,” Barker said.

Glaser said that one of Barker’s responsibilities in his new position would be to consider ways of bringing additional revenue to the university.

“The big commitments that we’re making with the new science buildings, with the SMFA, with the faculty unions that have formed in the past couple of years and with the major infrastructure changes that we need to make in the school to improve the dormitories, the classrooms [and] the laboratories, the burdens on our budget are substantial and we need a creative mind to help us think about expanding some of the revenues coming into the university,” Glaser said.

According to the email, McMahon will continue as the dean of student affairs but will now have an “enhanced portfolio bringing together student affairs, career services, accessibility services, and health and counseling services.”

McMahon said her job title is the same but her responsibilities have changed significantly, as the number of offices under her oversight have increased.

Glaser said that McMahon’s role has been maximized as a result of the reorganization, adding that he has confidence in her.

In the past, McMahon has overseen the Office for Campus Life, Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL),  Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and five of the Group of Six houses, she explained.

“Now the Division of Student Affairs will include the Health [Service], Health Promotion, Counseling and Mental Health Services. All told that’s probably another 60 people [to oversee],” she said.

According to McMahon, the Career Center, the College Transition Advisors and Student Accessibility Services, which supports students with academic and residential life, will also be included in the Division of Student Affairs.

McMahon said that the expansion of her portfolio was driven in part by changes in Barker’s portfolio, as some of these departments were previously overseen by him.

McMahon added that these were positive changes that would make for a more common sense approach to administrating. She pointed out, for example, that it makes sense for the Career Center to connect with ORLL in order to create programming that is more in touch with the student experience outside of the classroom.

“[These changes] align the departments that work on the experience outside of class in a more holistic way,” McMahon said. “The different departments in all of this have been working together for a long time. I think it will benefit those of us who do the work to have good information about what each other is doing.”

Glaser noted that organizational issues may not seem profoundly important to students, but they affect how the university operates.

“[The system] functioned very well for a long period of time, but we see opportunities for there to be change and improvements and meeting new challenges, and we’re confident about the people we have in place,” Glaser said.

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