University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley has approved a new organizational chart for the top leadership of the new three-campus Georgia Southern University being formed by the merger with Armstrong State University.
A mission statement for the consolidated university goes to the state Board of Regents for approval next week. Although these steps are farther removed from the everyday concerns of students than previous decisions about academic and athletic programs, officials refer to the mission statement as a milestone in the consolidation process.
Meanwhile, the chart shows that the university will have at least five vice president posts, down from eight vice presidents currently at the two universities. But a new leadership position, which may or may not carry a vice presidential title, will be created for oversight of the Armstrong campus in Savannah and the Liberty campus in Hinesville.
“I think once we have a mission statement, we have our senior-level administration, and then out of the academic operational working groups, once we have the college structure, that will really give us the mechanisms through which we can gain some traction and then really start bringing this new institution to life,” said Georgia Southern University President Jaimie Hebert.
The Board of Regents set the process in motion with a vote in early January to consolidate the two universities under the Georgia Southern name. Hebert and outgoing Armstrong State University President Linda Bleicken lead the 40-member Consolidation Implementation Committee. Many more faculty and staff members and some students are participating in working groups that make recommendations about specific areas of concern.
Answering the “college structure” question will mean deciding what subject-area colleges, headed by deans, will exist after the merger, and on which campuses.
Georgia Southern currently has seven subject-area colleges. Armstrong has four. Its College of Education, College of Health Professions, College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Technology all have counterparts or areas of overlap among the colleges on the Statesboro campus.
Those decisions remain to be made. But Wrigley confirmed the organizational chart for the “new” university’s executive leadership team in a letter Hebert received April 6.
After taking office as Georgia Southern’s president last July, Hebert had downsized his cabinet from seven vice president posts to four by not refilling vacancies.
The new chart splits the role of vice president for student affairs and enrollment management into two separate vice presidential posts.
Enrollment services includes recruiting, admissions, financial aid, registration and programs that keep students in school and help them find careers, “the whole gamut,” Hebert said.
“So it’s a far more complex beast, if you will, when you’re looking at a strategic enrollment management plan that incorporates three different campuses rather than a single campus, and so I really feel it’s necessary to isolate just the enrollment management aspect under a single vice president, and likewise for student affairs,” he said.
The student affairs component includes offices that work with student organizations, student government and extracurricular activities, as well as those that provide health services and counseling.
Currently, Armstrong also has a vice president for student affairs who likewise oversees its enrollment services division. Whether the new roles of vice president for enrollment management and vice president for student affairs will be filled by the two vice presidents currently over both areas at the separate universities remains to be seen.
“We are going into a vetting process right now where we’re looking at résumés of all of the senior leadership at both campuses, and in conjunction with (the University System of Georgia), I’m going to make those decisions,” Hebert said Wednesday.
The other three vice presidents designated for the new cabinet are the vice president for academic affairs, who is also the provost, the vice president for finance and operations and the vice president for university advancement and external affairs.
The new chart also shows a “campus lead for Armstrong/Liberty” with an asterisk noting that the actual job title hasn’t been determined yet. So far, this official is not shown as a vice president but as one of several other executive team members, such as the athletic director, chief auditor and chief information officer, who report directly to the university president.
“But what we’re indicating on that chart is that we know we must have a point person with ultimate responsibility on that campus who reports directly to the president, whether that’s a vice president or not, we’re not sure yet, but we do recognize that there has to be a person who can ultimately take charge on a campus where you have over 7,000 students,” Hebert said.
Armstrong State had 7,157 students fall semester, including at its main campus in Savannah and its Liberty Center in Hinesville. Georgia Southern had 20,674 students enrolled last fall. So, the consolidated university could be in reach of the 28,000-student mark.
Approval of the new mission statement, recommended by the consolidation committee last Friday, will be on the agenda when the regents meet Tuesday and Wednesday at the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick.
Armstrong previously had mission and vision statements, of one sentence each, totaling fewer than 50 words. Georgia Southern’s current statement runs to 263 words. The proposed statement for the consolidated university consists of 156 words. It retains a sentence about embracing “the values of integrity, civility, kindness, respect, sustainability, citizenship, and social responsibility,” which Hebert has repeatedly cited as the core purpose of a public university.
Where Georgia Southern’s old statement refers to advancing the state and region and Armstrong’s targets “the Savannah region and beyond,” the new statement has the university seeking to enhance the quality of life and drive economic development “in the Coastal Georgia region, the State of Georgia, and beyond.”
Links to both the entire mission statement and the organizational chart can be found at http://consolidation.georgiasouthern.edu in the “Latest News” column on the right of the page.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.