Franklin Pierce President Kim Mooney

Franklin Pierce University President Kim Mooney talks about the school’s new academic structure, announced last week, which organizes programs by discipline into the College of Health and Natural Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

RINDGE — Franklin Pierce University President Kim Mooney says the school’s new academic structure will streamline continuing education opportunities for students and encourage collaboration among faculty.

Previously, the university’s two colleges — the College at Rindge and the College of Graduate and Professional Studies — were separated by location and degree level. The new structure, announced last week, organizes programs by discipline into the College of Health and Natural Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

Mooney said Tuesday that Franklin Pierce began thinking about reorganization partly because of the success of programs such as health sciences — the university’s most popular major — that provide logical pathways to the school’s graduate programs.

“When we really started to see the strength of our health programs and the interest the undergraduates had in pursuing their graduate degrees with us, we started to think about, in some ways, a lost opportunity to not have those two groups of faculty where the disciplines aligned actually become one faculty,” Mooney said.

Under the old structure, undergraduate and graduate faculty within the same discipline reported to different deans. They’ll now report to the same dean, Mooney said.

Divisions have also fallen away between online and on-site programs, she noted, with more undergraduates opting to take some of their courses online. A few years ago, the university changed its online course calendar to more closely align with the on-site calendar.

That’s just one example of the ways the university has already been thinking about having faculty work more closely together across the school’s different locations throughout the state and in Goodyear, Ariz., she said.

“So even though there are proximity differences, I think the effort from the faculty to really see themselves as one faculty has really been taking shape over a number of years and a number of initiatives,” she explained.

The university first piloted the new disciplinary structure with its business program, Mooney said, forming the College of Business and appointing an interim dean.

Franklin Pierce has now made the change official by appointing deans of the three new colleges, as well as a fourth executive dean who will oversee student support services such as the Center for Academic Excellence, which provides tutoring and disability services, among other resources.

One of the college’s two previous deans, Maria Altobello, is continuing on as dean of the College of Health and Natural Sciences, while the other three are newly appointed.

Each college will also have an advisory board that brings industry leaders together with faculty, undergraduates and graduate students to help the university understand what employers are looking for in potential employees, Mooney said.

“I do think the advantage of having colleges based on discipline is to be able to bring those disciplinary business leaders into conversation and really learn from them,” she said. “The flip side is it also gives those business leaders an opportunity to think about Franklin Pierce students as their interns, as their co-op students and as their future employees.”

In terms of cost, Mooney said the reorganization will have a net neutral impact on the university’s budget because of some positions being shuffled around in the process.

“It really wasn’t about funding or budgets or cost-cutting; it was very much about wanting program alignment and just better streamlining of what we do,” she said.

For now, the university’s academic programs themselves remain unchanged, but the hope is that the new structure will encourage faculty to collaborate on research and program development.

“The new synergies among faculty — I’m imagining they will impact one another’s work and one another’s thinking. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the faculty came up with curricular changes or new programs,” she said. “In fact, we’re really hoping that that’s one of the outcomes.”

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or mmcintyre@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MMcIntyreKS.