This summer, and in his first few weeks of the school year in office, President Joseph Urgo has already implemented many subtle changes to the way administration deal their business, and restructured the administrative duties of multiple offices.
Perhaps the biggest change has been the creation of the President’s council, which consists of the Dean of Faculty, the Vice President for Development, the Vice President for Business and Finance, the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, the Dean of Students, the Faculty Senate President, and the Assistant Vice President for Trustee Relations. This council reports directly to Urgo, and has been tasked with such duties as staffing the faculty senate and providing recommendations as to the college’s future direction.
This new administrative structure is a far departure from that under former President Jane Margaret O’Brien, who has a reporting structure in which all deans and vice presidents (save for the Vice President of Business and Finance) would report to the Provost, who in turn would report to O’Brien.
Perhaps the most striking change that has occurred as a result of these administrative changes is the discontinuation of the term Provost itself, to be replaced by the title Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. Urgo stated in an all-faculty email sent during the summer that, “The [discontinuation of the title] is more in keeping with the reporting structure we have in place now, and indicates my desire to work closely with student affairs, admissions, and all other campus constituencies.” He further stated that it was more in keeping with what he saw as the purpose of a college like St. Mary’s, and said, “At a small school, I’m more used to [the deans] all reporting to the President.”
Larry Vote, who has taken on the new title, said, “it is a symbolic change in that…the President has decided to accept more direct responsibility.” He further stated that he would retain many of his current duties outside of this reporting hierarchy, such as oversight of academic programs, as well as new duties such as working with the Athletic department (formerly under Vice President of Planning and Facilities Chip Jackson) and continuing education/life-long learning. He stated special interest in taking over the athletic side of things, saying that he felt it would better align academic aspirations with athletic aspirations and would exemplify the NCAA model of the “Scholar-athlete”.
Vote is not the only member of the administration to have experienced a shuffling of responsibilities, which have in turn taken the burden off administrators such as Vote and Vice President of Business and Finance Tom Botzman who had to do multiple jobs during the transitional period between O’Brien’s and Urgo’s presidencies. There are now, for example, separate personnel for trustee relations and development, duties that were both taken over by Botzman in the transition.
The office of trustee relations specifically is a “function we haven’t had [at St. Mary’s] for a while…it had always been an additional responsibility”, according to former assistant Vice President for Life-Long Learning and new Vice President of Trustee Relations Kathy Grimes. She further said that, “having someone that is focused on [trustee relations] lets us brainstorm how students can get involved with trustees [and] how we can expand the relationship with trustees.” Beyond just this focus, Grimes also is in charge of managing Urgo’s commitments to students and making sure that the lines of communication between him and students remain open. She emphasized the desire her and Urgo have to hear from the campus community, and mentioned the ability to contact Urgo directly and anonymously through the web site (http://www.smcm.edu/president/sendanote.html).
Other notable changes include the movement of Public Safety management to Dean of Students Laura Bayless, management of the Waterfront to Jackson, and management of the Department of New Media to the new Vice President of Development Maureen Silva. Silva, who arrived at the college this summer, said, “to be embraced by the community has been quite gratifying…I am incredibly happy to be here.”
Although many of these changes seem mostly inconsequential to the average student, the sum total of these changes will mean a more streamlined and effective administration. Jackson said, “[It] all has to do with aligning different departments in ways that provide the most efficiency and effectiveness.” Botzman pointed out that, ultimately, a more streamlined and effective administration means less tuition increase from year to year, and an all-around more affordable collegiate experience.
He also said that, “[it] was not so much about budget, but about building a team and hopefully being more efficient.”
Many administrators were very optimistic about the changes taking place under Urgo. Botzman said, “I was doing three jobs, and now I’m only doing one; I’m ecstatic!” He added, “We can do a better job about what we need to do.” Vote said, “I think with this President, who is very proactively student-concerned, [these changes] should be a good thing.
Silva echoed these sentiments, and said, “There’s tremendous opportunity for success here…there is fabulous work being done.”