On July 1, Cameron University President John McArthur, in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma, Cameron University and Rogers State University Board of Regents, began reorganizing CU academic schools and departments due to the FY2017 budget reductions at the state level.
The Board of Regents and McArthur decided to consolidate Cameron University’s four schools into two, which include the School of Arts and Sciences, under the leadership of Dean Von Underwood, and the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, which is led by Dean Lisa Huffman.
The university will continue to have the Office of Teaching and Learning, headed up by Dr. Margery Kingsley; the Office of Extended Learning, guided by Dr. Sylvia Burgess; and Academic Affairs, under the leadership of Vice President Dr. Ronna Vanderslice.
McArthur said without the financial budget challenges of the past two fiscal years, the dramatic decision to consolidate four schools into two would most likely not have been executed.
“I think a lot of these organizational changes are going to make a lot of sense and be better for Cameron,” McArthur said, “but you don’t make big changes like this lightly.”
According to McArthur, he has been striving to make the academic reorganization feel seamless to students.
“Some of the departments have new names, and some of the schools have new names,” McArthur said, “but none of the students’ majors should have changed, so if a student was an art major six months ago, they’re still an art major.”
McArthur said he hopes faculty and staff are able to embrace the changes, despite the obstacles.
“I know change is hard on a campus,” he said, “but with those changes, our faculty have the opportunities to rethink their paths and habits. … Those new meanings – the separations, the getting back together – I think that’s good for Cameron. It helps us know more about each other.”
McArthur said he used the library archives to research the number of academic reorganizations the university has undergone over the years.
“It was fun for me to go back and look,” he said. “In 1968, we had one dean for the whole college. In 1974, we added a second dean when we added bachelor degree programs. In 1980, one of the deans became a vice president, so we had one dean and one vice president.”
McArthur said in 1983, the university had one vice president for academics, along with seven divisions, instead of departments and schools. In 1989, the academic structure began to resemble a more recent structure of the university: one vice president and five deans.
“In 1999, [we had] one vice president and three deans – all of them named David,” McArthur said. “We had David Carl, who was dean of graduate and professional studies… David Miller was the dean of liberal arts, and David O’Keith was the science and technology dean.”
When O’Keith retired, McArthur became dean, and now, as president of the university, McArthur said he has the opportunity to teach a UNIV101 course, which enables him to engage in conversation with freshman.
“I get to hear firsthand from the freshman what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Being able to see Cameron each year through the eyes of new students is always the best part.”
McArthur said he also enjoys seeing new faces and hearing new ideas from students each semester.
“I’ve been walking around campus for 13 years,” he said, “and this is the first year on the first week of school I’ve walked around campus and saw more people in Cameron t-shirts than in OU and OSU t-shirts. I think that says a lot about how our students feel about Cameron.”
McArthur said he is curious to know how the academic reorganization has affected students, and he hopes they offer feedback.
“Were we able to make this seamless to them,” he asked, “not only in terms of their courses but [also] in terms of their student organizations and their campus experience overall? We’ll see.”