Messages to the Community

Strengthening Our Academic Core: The Work Ahead

A Message from Dr. Renée T. White, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues, 

‌President Shalala and Mark Diaz shared messages last week outlining the next phases of the work underway to ensure the university’s long-term sustainability. We are now beginning the second phase of this work, which will focus on our academic offerings and programs. At the direction of the Board of Trustees and President Shalala, I will work closely with the Executive Deans over the coming weeks to develop and propose a plan for a new academic structure for The New School of the future, with the understanding that the future of The New School may involve a reduction in the number of colleges. The goal of this work is to propose a structure that supports increased enrollment, enhances the student experience, and makes the university’s offerings more accessible and relevant, thereby improving student retention across the university.

‌Many initiatives over the past decade—such as the Cost of Education exercise led by the provost in 2013, the Financial Sustainability Working Group (2016), The Centennial Project (2019), the Liberal Arts+ Task Force (2020), and the Expanded University Budget Committee’s (UBC+) call for proposals (2023)—invited community members to propose alternative structures and visions for the university. In 2023, the Board of Trustees tasked President McBride and me with exploring key areas with the Executive Deans centered on the structure of academic units and reducing duplication of degree programs to improve student yield, retention, and degree completion. With the arrival of President Shalala, this early, ideation-oriented stage of the work was paused to first focus on financial stabilization. 

‌Each of these initiatives surfaced insightful thinking but little was implemented. We are again at a moment in our institution’s history where The New School must move from ideation to clear direction and decision-making. Each college has a significant role to play in contributing to The New School’s future—this includes strengthening academic programs, improving inter-college links, and enhancing the student experience. Our current charge means we have the opportunity to build upon our historic mission and the totality of ideas generated over many years which can serve as a foundation for what we will produce by May 1. We must do this with a full acknowledgement and centering of our rich histories of curricular innovation and the range of our academic and creative practices. 

‌I know that, even with the purpose of ensuring The New School’s long-term sustainability, the prospect of change unearths many old wounds, concerns, tensions, and skepticism, and reinforces the importance of clarity and transparency. With this in mind, I want to offer a comprehensive overview of the work ahead. President Shalala stated that the work in front of us, while having an impact on the entire university, should focus on strengthening the undergraduate experience and building additional potential for our graduate programs. There is significant opportunity in looking for program alignment between colleges. 

‌The Executive Deans and I will keep you updated on our progress and areas for your feedback and participation as this work develops. I want to be clear that the work between now and May 1 is the first step in a longer term plan that will be developed over the coming year. You can expect to hear more about this undertaking in the weeks and months ahead. 

The Work Ahead

Charge: Develop a proposal that strengthens our academic offerings by focusing on opportunities for growth and stability, identifying areas of alignment and overlap. Present proposal for a new academic structure to President Shalala on May 1, 2024.

‌‌What the charge is not: Delivering a plan to close academic programs. The Provost’s Office already has an academic program review process which we will continue to implement, with a regular schedule of reviews each year. These will continue to inform future planning. 

Vision: Focus on the existing strengths at The New School that must be reinforced and supported as we tend to our reputation as a leader in innovative transdisciplinary scholarship and creative practice. We must also build an institutional academic structure which supports students, the student experience, and retention as the essential priority. 

Core principles: Safeguarding the academic core, including our renowned programs and institutes; respecting and protecting faculty and staff positions; and focusing on areas of opportunity that advance the university’s mission. Plans must make us a more transfer-friendly university; equity, inclusion, and social justice must remain a core lens for the work we do; and we must focus on integration of both graduate programs with undergraduate liberal arts degrees and of undergraduate liberal arts programs with each other. 

Immediate implications: The Executive Deans will collaborate on a strategy to identify program pairings and alignment, and propose rehoming academic programs in other colleges. This will involve (and depend upon) the full engagement of the leaders of academic programs, staff in the Deans’ offices, and all of the Deans. 

Who will lead this work: The Executive Deans, their academic leadership, and the Provost. 

Faculty and staff involvement: I have asked the Executive Deans to schedule meetings with each academic program within their college so that every program has an opportunity to directly provide thinking and insight into this important project. I have also asked them to create opportunities with their respective staffs for input. 

‌The Executive Deans and I will use this input to inform a proposal for the new academic structure. Additionally, I have begun meeting weekly with the co-chairs of the University Faculty Senate (UFS) and the University Staff Senate (USS) to ensure this process reflects community input and investment, and will continue to provide these groups with updates for their input as the work evolves. I am committed to sharing this proposal with the community for open comment in a way that supports transparency before it is submitted to the President and Board. 

Working Groups Charge after May 1: Following approval by the Board of Trustees, we will enter the next phase of the planning and implementation and launch working groups to consider the implications for all of the colleges on topics including: operational transactions and planning, staffing and resourcing needs for the new support structure, additional opportunities for strengthening our approaches to the undergraduate and graduate experience, expanding transfer initiatives, and bringing our structure into alignment across our global and New York campuses, as well as the integration of research centers and institutes into the college structure. 

‌Implications for Fall 2024: Academic program offerings will continue as planned for the 2024-2025 Academic Year.

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