University Makeover

UTSA restructures its colleges and divisions, adds School of Architecture

University Makeover

UTSA restructures its colleges and divisions, adds School of Architecture

[ This article was originally published in Sombrilla Magazine, Fall 2000 ]

A year ago [in 1999] President Ricardo Romo appointed a committee to gather faculty input on remaking the academic structure of the university. This fall a sweeping reorganization of the university’s academic structure—bearing the UT System’s stamp of approval—is well under way.

To date, UTSA has reconfigured its division-based academic structure by renaming and reorganizing all but one college, resulting in the creation of six colleges and a School of Architecture [within the new College of Liberal and Fine Arts]. Only the College of Business remains relatively unaffected by this round of reorganization; its name and divisions are intact.

This academic year’s students are the first to take classes in the College of Sciences, the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, the College of Engineering, the College of Education and Human Development, and the College of Urban Professional Programs. The latter is the academic anchor of the Downtown Campus.

These five new colleges grew out of a reorganization of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, the College of Sciences and Engineering, and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Despite the rapid progress on the president’s directive, restructuring is far from complete. Faster than you can say “transitional period,” more changes are coming.

Departments, not Divisions

Romo’s committee, led by Professor Blandina Cardenas, found strong support for adopting a discipline-based academic structure.

A convincing majority—90% of the faculty who contacted the committee—thought restructuring in general was necessary, if not long overdue. The committee issued a 37-page report detailing college-by-college recommendations for restructuring, with a move to discipline-based units being central in every case.

Faculty and administrators say they hope the changes will align UTSA with more typical academic structures and provide some programs and colleges with breathing room to grow.

“Programs that have been previously kind of stuck in an administrative unit where they can’t flourish will be able to get separate identities and build their student following more effectively,” says David Johnson, executive vice provost.

Johnson cited the engineering program as one that had suffered in terms of faculty recruitment and retention under division status. The report issued by Cardenas’ committee also mentioned the burgeoning communication program in the Division of English, Classics, Philosophy, and Communication as one needing administrative room.

Accreditation issues are another driving force behind the reorganization. National professional organizations for fields such as business, architecture, and engineering view independent administrative structures as an indication of program quality, Johnson says.

Faculty and staff in each division, along with college deans, will meet throughout this year to develop plans to convert to a departmental structure. By next fall most divisions will be dissolved, according to timelines circulated by the office of the provost.

But the distance from point A to point B is never a straight line. Johnson, who is overseeing the restructuring process, expects bumps. “A lot of what people are going to have to cope with here,” he said, “is basically uncertainty. I’m sorry, but that’s change.”

Some issues that will have to be resolved are faculty governance and representation and student record transfers. Some staff are transferring to other departments; others need to be hired. There’s office space to find, equipment to buy, websites to update, budgets to realign, and ultimately, faculty to hire.

That Was Then

In 1971 Arleigh B. Templeton, the president of a university that had yet to hold a class, boasted about the “simple, efficient structure” of the then-five colleges and 17 divisions planned for the state’s newest university.

“The university will be able to control programmatic obsolescence with a freer hand and better determine that all its faculty resources are being utilized,” he said in an article that appeared in the San Antonio Light. Ironically, this structure itself has become obsolete and may have limited faculty and student programs.

Faculty and administration hope the new structure will promote UTSA’s development into a research institution that offers more doctoral degrees. Johnson sees benefits for students and faculty in this pursuit. “Running Ph.D. programs is more fun,” he says, “because you have the opportunity to work with students on research projects. There’s an opportunity for students and faculty to have a wider array of experiences and to engage in training, and that loops back into our mission to the region and the city.”


The change to the departmental structure from divisions took effect in Fall 2001.

The School of Architecture was created under the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, effective Fall 2000. It was given autonomy as a freestanding school, effective Fall 2002. It became the College of Architecture, effective Fall 2006, and was renamed the College of Architecture, Construction, and Planning, effective Fall 2014.

The College of Urban Professional Programs was renamed the College of Public Policy, effective Fall 2002, when the Honors College was also created.