UB unveils plan to restructure
BRIDGEPORT — The University of Bridgeport on Tuesday will officially announce the consolidation of 14 distinct schools and programs into a three-college structure, a move administrators said is designed to save money and lead to better student outcomes.
The change will immediately eliminate 11 deans, some of whom may take other roles under the new structure. An email announcing the change went out to UB alumni on Monday.
Going forward, UB will have a College of Arts and Science, a College of Health Sciences and a College of Engineering, Business and Education, each headed by a dean who answer to a provost.
“Belonging both to the university and their colleges will create a more intimate space for students to learn, to grow and begin their careers,” Laura Skandera Trombley, UB’s new president, said.
Trombley said she had been struck by the number of administrators at UB shortly after she was hired in March.
“Fourteen deans for 5,000 students is an unusual ratio,” Trombley said. “I think it may be a record.”
She said the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, even took note of the larger structure in their most recent accreditation report.
Trombley maintains that over time, the savings will be in the millions of dollars, though she could not be specific. The revamped structure will allow the university to increase full-time faculty, address faculty loads and make salaries more competitive, she said.
Robert Berchem, co-chairman of the UB Board of Trustees, called the move outstanding.
“I wouldn’t back it if I didn’t think it would work,” said Berchem. “With the benefit of President Trombley’s experience and expertise, we have been able to streamline our administrative systems and allow our gifted and talented staff to return to their classrooms.”
Under the restructuring, all undergraduate and graduate programs will be maintained. Even though 14 programs are being regrouped into three, Trombley characterized the new structure as more intimate.
“There will be a greater sense of place,” she said.
The Arts and Science dean will be Manyul Im, according to Trombley. Tarek Sobh will lead Engineering, Business and Education. Carol Papp will head Health Science. All are current deans or directors at UB.
Most of the rest of the affected staff, Trombley said, will return to the classroom. It is unclear how many support staff positions beyond the 11 deans will be cut.
Trombley said the change is not to address a specific budget shortfall but to reduce top-heaviness, boost the university’s national profile and ultimately keep students on campus.
The retention rate from freshman to sophomore year at UB is about 56 percent, compared with a national average of 71 percent. Just over 41 percent of students who start at UB graduate within six years.
The hope is that the money saved can be reinvested, over time, into more full-time faculty and instructional technology support.
Jennifer Widness, president of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, said UB’s move is not unusual in an age where the college-aged population is shrinking and what once was a steady pool of international students is on the decline. Consolidations and restructurings are taking place in increasing frequency, she said.
“Like the University of Bridgeport, the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford similarly announced a restructuring of its schools earlier this year, from three to five,” Widness said. “It’s a balancing act for schools who need to remain competitive, offer the degrees that are needed and keep costs down.”
Trombley officially took over as president of UB in July, replacing Neil Salonen, who retired. She had a reputation for raising funds and the profile of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., during a 12-year run there but also departed with a vote of no confidence by faculty upset that they were not consulted when the college did not reappoint a popular dean of the faculty before she left.
Founded in 1927, UB has a large international population among its 5,400 student body. It’s website boasts more than 125 programs.