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October 9, 1997

Interim Dean Daniel confident about future of General Studies

Rumors to the contrary, the College of General Studies (CGS) is not being absorbed by the College of Arts and Sciences. Nor is CGS closing or floundering, the college's interim dean says.

"There are all of these crazy rumors about CGS being closed, merged or whatever. All of that is just junk," Jack L. Daniel told the University Senate's budget policies committee Sept. 26.

"There is no confusion in the College of General Studies. People there are excited about the college's future. I'm telling you, it's a new day in CGS. You go ask the staff there if you don't believe me," Daniel said. He was smiling, but spoke so intensely that some members of the Senate committee flinched. Others gestured to indicate they weren't doubting Daniel's word.

CGS has suffered enrollment declines and staff layoffs in recent years, and its last dean, Robert L. Carter, resigned Sept. 1 after one year at Pitt to return to his former deanship at Wayne State University.

But according to Daniel, the college is well on its way to expanding its traditional role of serving Pitt evening and part-time students.

Rumors that the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) was taking over CGS probably stemmed from the fact that, starting this year, General Studies no longer offers degrees that are available through CAS or other Pitt units, Daniel said. But General Studies continues to offer degrees in programs that are distinctive to CGS, and the college probably will develop new programs aimed at part-time students who take evening and weekend classes, Daniel said.

Last month, a CGS planning group drafted a new mission statement for the college. The same group is working on a CGS five-year strategic plan.

Provost James Maher and former Dean Carter had failed to agree on such a plan. Maher appointed Vice Provost Daniel, who has worked extensively with CGS for years, to fill in until a new, permanent dean is hired — that is, at least until spring, and probably later. The provost's office hopes to finalize search plans by the end of the fall term.

Maher says he wants CGS to be more creative and ambitious in serving non-traditional students, perhaps helping to launch new majors and programs in collaboration with Pitt units that haven't fully tapped the growing market of evening students and part-timers.

To bring the University's various non-traditional student programs together under one roof, the provost last month made the two-year-old Office of Summer Sessions and Continuing Education part of CGS. Maher appointed the office's director, Darlene Zellers Samelko, as CGS associate dean. Samelko will continue to coordinate Pitt summer session courses. She also will coordinate CGS long-range planning.

Completing the CGS plan is one of Daniel's top five goals for the college this year, he said in an interview.

"We're fortunate that when [the college's associate dean] Bob Comfort was interim dean, he prepared a draft which the Provost's office held in abeyance upon the hiring of Dean Carter. And then Dean Carter himself had submitted the draft of a planning document. So we already have two pretty good drafts from which we can work," Daniel said.

"Every CGS staff member will have an opportunity to see every aspect of the plan and comment on it before it is sent to the provost," Daniel emphasized.

Daniel's other goals for CGS include: * Maintaining appropriate enrollment levels.

"By appropriate levels," Daniel explained, "what I mean is this: The College of General Studies has experienced an enrollment decline over the past decade. I don't have an ideal number of students in mind. What I'm concerned about is providing the academic courses and services that non-traditional students want and need, and then making sure those courses are adequately enrolled." That dovetails with another goal: * Identifying academic programs that non-traditional students want and Pitt isn't already offering.

"We've got to find out exactly what programs non-traditional students in Allegheny County in particular would like this University to deliver," Daniel said. "Then we've got to find out which of those courses our faculty can deliver in a quality fashion, and then we have to develop cost estimates. Based on those three factors — what the market wants, our faculty's abilities and cost-effectiveness — we will submit proposals to the provost and get on with developing an appropriate set of programs for the college.

"We will do market research and consult widely with potential students, alumni, faculty, with the corporate community and other Pitt offices," he said.

* Ensuring high-quality student services.

Daniel said he's begun talking with CGS personnel and has requested reports on current services. "Until I've done some more homework, I can't give you a rating or report card" on CGS services, he said. "But I can say that I don't think our services are bad or seriously inadequate. My concern is with having the best services possible."

* Making sure that CGS staff function within a cohesive and integrated system.

"What I'm aiming for is to have the staff work as a team rather than as members of individual units," Daniel said.

"For example, CGS has an office that focuses on admissions and registration. It has another unit for recruiting students, and another that works on marketing and publications. I'm not prepared to say that those three units are not working well together already, but that's an example of three units that definitely should be functioning as part of one, seamless, overall system.

"If units like those are already functioning in that fashion, I'll congratulate them. But if they need some administrative help to do a better job, I'll be talking with the provost to see what we can do to help them improve their operations."

–Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 4

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