Deans take charge of newly minted colleges at Metropolitan State University
Structuring the academic units at any university seems to be a delicate combination of deference to tradition and a search for the logical placement of related disciplines. As Metropolitan State University's new president Virginia "Ginny" Arthur took office in July, the university's colleges shuffled into new configurations. One change involved splitting the College of Arts and Sciences into a more typical alignment: the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Sciences.
Another shift created the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS), encompassing the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene Department and the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs (CCSPA), containing the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and the departments of human services, psychology and social work, as well as several graduate programs. Buzz writer Matthew Spillum ('06) sat down with the deans of these new colleges to get a sense of the vision, challenges and improvements these changes bring to Metropolitan State, to be presented in two parts. In this first installment: Dean Judith Graziano and Dean Francis Schweigert.
In a lot of ways, the creation of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences is "coming back home," according to Graziano, who began her time as faculty at Metropolitan State in 2006. "Not long ago, we had our own dean, we were our own independent college that included nursing and dental hygiene, for around two to four years before we were reconfigured and placed under the College of Health, Community and Professional Studies (CHCPS)." Given the growing importance of the health sciences field, with a growing nursing program providing entry into one of the state's fastest-growing health professions and the nation's first Advanced Dental Therapy program, Graziano notes that "there is enough going on in nursing, dental hygiene and health sciences that we would be better off in our own college."
The transition to the new college structure presents exciting potential for the former CHCPS associate dean: "I see a lot of opportunities for the education of students for health care-related careers, not only in nursing and dental hygiene, but other health care professions. We are forming new partnerships with our dental hygiene programs with our community college partners, likewise with our nursing programs such as the Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education (MANE) program, which is a partnership with seven other institutions." The new college can also build on its already outstanding position as a leader in terms of health professions serving critical segments of the population, such as the aforementioned dental therapy program and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which produces much-needed family nurse practitioners. "It is exciting to be leading in these efforts," Graziano says.
Looking to the future, Graziano sees the college moving into other program opportunities in the health sciences. "We are interested in expanding the health sciences part of the college," she says. "This year we will be focusing a bit more on doing some market analysis and evaluating student interest in other possible programs
in the health sciences."
CCSPA Dean Francis "Frank" Schweigert is enthusiastic about the vision for the new college. "Initially, this idea was brought to me with an interest in raising the public, urban profile of the university...making itself better known through the kinds of programs we have here to prepare people for public service, public leadership and solid citizenship." Having come to Metropolitan State as faculty in the College of Management, teaching in the Masters of Public and Nonprofit Administration program (now located in CCSPA), Dean Schweigert looks at the core element of the new college as being "an outward-oriented academic focus toward leadership and service in this public urban arena."
The community-engaged focus of the college embodies both the initial charge given the college at its creation and the best aspects of the university's core mission and vision. Nonetheless, "integration is a challenge for a college spread out over 25 miles and three different sites," Schweigert says. "I'm in a different office almost every day; so is the office manager. The associate dean is spread across three sites. In that way, it is not very efficient. It also cuts down on interaction time. The interaction of faculty with each other is absolutely essential for the strength of an academic program." As a result, Schweigert notes that one of the university's priorities is to move toward coming together in the same location to facilitate that strengthening.
As for the future of CCSPA, Schweigert is most excited about the answer to the question, "What is the excellence toward which each department is aiming?" He says, "This provides focus for engagement for the faculty; for me, it highlights what we (in the college) really are, going forward; and for the university it meets the goal of raising the urban profile, giving it real substance, grounded in the faculty and in the disciplines that we are teaching."
As Metropolitan State reorganizes the array of programs offered throughout the university, it is apparent that a good deal of that organization, at least in these two colleges, has landed on the side of creating logical relationships within fields with operational similarities.
*This article originally appeared in the fall edition of Metropolitan State University's alumni magazine Buzz.