- What is the Academic Redesign Project?
Through an inclusive process that started in December 2015, the Simmons community has been engaged in discussions about our signature strengths and how those strengths can best be linked in a sustainable financial structure. We want to find the best way — academically and administratively — to be distinctive and competitive in the 21st century.
The new academic structure of Simmons should:
- Support current program distinctiveness and strengths
- Enhance the student experience
- Enhance faculty and staff experience
- Improve our external reputation
- Provide long-term sustainable finances
- Provide the professional marketplace with trained, thoughtful candidates for leadership positions across industries such as healthcare, business, nursing, etc.
View the academic redesign timeline to see where we are in the process.
- What are the challenges with the current academic structure at Simmons?
The current organizational structure is quite complex for our relatively small size. The individual schools vary greatly in size, complexity and resources. It can be difficult to engage the entire Simmons faculty around interdisciplinary priorities and opportunities and to make important connections between undergraduate and graduate programs because most of our schools have relatively narrow disciplinary focus.
The Redesigning Simmons Project will look for a new academic structure that:
- Adds to Simmons’ distinctiveness
- Facilitates creative approaches to the curriculum
- Supports the institutional priorities of interdisciplinary and integrative learning
- Aligns liberal arts and professional programs effectively
- Will programs be eliminated as a result of this project?
Program prioritization is not the work of the Academic Redesign project. The Simmons Faculty, Deans and Provost are responsible for program reviews, which help us understand how we need to resource programs in order to build excellence. Their work on program reviews is separate from the academic redesign project.
- Are schools being merged or eliminated? Will school and program names change?
As a result of this academic redesign process we expect there will be fewer than five schools. but we will not know the final number of schools, their configuration, or what the final school names until financial analyses of various academic structure options is reviewed and the academic redesign process is complete.
- How will the Academic Redesign Process help Simmons arrive at a sustainable financial structure?
A new academic structure will enhance our distinctiveness and strengths and cost less in terms of materials, services and personnel. This work will help ensure that the College’s expenses do not exceed our revenue. And the work will require that we determine the number of administrators, including academic administrators, we need to run our programs optimally. Achieving the outcomes of the academic redesign work is important in order for Simmons to thrive as an institution in an ever more competitive higher education market.
- Will positions be eliminated as a result of the Academic Redesign project?
We anticipate that some positions will be eliminated as we become a more efficient organization. Without becoming a smaller organization, we cannot be confident in our financial ability to achieve our mission, deliver rigorous and quality educational programs, and attract and retain the best undergraduate and graduate students and faculty and staff to the College. A revised structure also will create flexibility to reinvest in new positions to achieve our academic goals.
- Why now?
Simmons has a long history of innovation. Over the past (five) decades, we have moved from 12 “schools” to an academic department structure at the undergraduate level, to a three-dean Undergraduate College and three graduate schools, to our current model of five schools, each with undergraduate and graduate programs. The current academic redesign project continues our 100+ year practice of adapting to best serve our students.
Our Trustees, Ops Team and Deans believe we must take steps now to strengthen our competitive position and our financial model; allows Simmons to attract and retain top academic and administrative talent; and helps us promote our strong academic programs to prospective graduate and undergraduate students. By recommending a new structure in Fall 2016, we will have the time to plan for careful implementation to begin July 2017 with the goal of having the new academic structure in place by Summer 2018.
- Who is on the Academic Design Team and what do they do?
Members of the Academic Design Team included Provost Katie Conboy (Chair); Deans Eileen Abels, Judy Beal, Cathy Minehan, Renee White, and Cheryl Parks; Deputy Provost Stefan Krug; Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Donna Ng; Dean of the Undergraduate Program Catherine Paden; Professors Elizabeth Scott, Janie Ward, Jane Mooney, and Patricia Rismiller; Assistant Provost Richard Voos; and Vice President for Communications, Diversity & Inclusion Cheryl Howard.
The Academic Design Team reviewed Simmons’ structural history from its inception through to the present day, the interests of our current and potential students, and the needs of employers today and in the future. The team considered how structures can link strong programs to each other and how current strengths can complement an emerging strengths. The team worked to discern – with input from the community – where our strengths and our potential investments match up with the interests of students and the needs of society.
- How have faculty, staff, students and alumnae/i been involved in the Academic Redesign effort?
More than 200 members of the Simmons community have actively participated in input and feedback sessions to identify the essential strengths of the College and inform the work of Academic Redesign.
Faculty and Staff: Faculty and Staff participated in two rounds of feedback sessions – nine community sessions were scheduled in February and March 2016 and another round of meetings took place in April 2016.
Students: Members of the Academic Redesign team consulted with undergraduate students via department student liaisons and the Student Government Association and graduate students through existing student organizations in the graduate programs and in open meetings. These meetings took place in March and April 2016.
Alumnae/i: Alumnae/i were invited to participate via six webinars and one on-campus forum to offer insight into their experiences at Simmons College that they consider core to their success in life as well as to give testimony to what the professional marketplace is currently demanding of those entering the workforce. In addition, alumnae/i received a full-page article in the Simmons Magazine (Spring 2016), and emails linking to the Academic Redesign timeline and FAQs.