The University of Hawaii at Hilo will establish a new academic college when the Division of Natural Sciences, School of Nursing and Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences merge to become the College for Natural and Health Sciences on July 1.
According to UH-Hilo, the goal of reorganizing the three academic units from the College of Arts and Sciences to CNHS is to provide “greater focus for affiliated programs to chart its futures through improved representation of student, faculty and budgetary issues.”
“With a stronger focus on natural and health sciences, we can better direct our resources to the areas of greatest need and where they will have the biggest impact,” said Ken Hon, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We expect this to create new educational and research opportunities for students, foster greater interdisciplinary teaching, and lead to new and improved career pathways.”
Jim Beets, professor of marine science and chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences, will serve as interim dean while the university searches for a permanent leader.
UH-Hilo’s plan to reorganize was approved last year and called for dividing the widely varying College of Arts and Sciences into two separate colleges: the College of Natural and Health Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Administrators said in early 2017 that the reorganization could help reverse the campus’ declining enrollment and eliminate administrative layers between its deans and departments.
The entire plan was slated to take effect July 1 of this year, but many faculty members opposed the idea and timeline, citing concerns that the final plan didn’t have enough input from faculty.
Many faculty members presented a petition last year asking that the reorganization efforts cease immediately.
In January, it was announced that the first half of the university’s plan to reorganize the College of Arts and Sciences would proceed as initially planned, calling for the creation of the College of Natural and Health Sciences by July 1.
The other half of the plan, which called to create a College of Humanities and Social Sciences by combining the current Social Sciences and Humanities divisions, was halted at that time.
This fall marks the first semester of classes under CNHS. According to the university, plans call for the first year to focus on integrating units, strengthening collaboration among departments and fine-tuning operations for the new college.