Initial framework and next steps for establishing a human health-related college at UTSA.
I write to provide an update on the Human Health Initiative, including an initial framework and next steps for establishing a human health–related college at UTSA.
As you know, I convened the Human Health Planning Advisory Task Force in November 2018 to gather data related to 1) the landscape of human health related academic programs and scholarship at UTSA, 2) partnership opportunities relative to the community, and 3) best practices at peer institutions; and then translate those findings into notional organizational structures. In March 2019, the Task Force completed its work, which is detailed thoroughly in their report and other materials posted on the Initiative website. I am grateful for their intensive efforts and thoughtful deliberation, and I want to thank Dean Margo DelliCarpini for expertly guiding this process.
After the Task Force concluded its work, we initiated the outreach phase, including meeting with each academic department implicated in the various notional models to gain the collective input on the advantages and disadvantages for their units and the preference for college affiliation, as well as the individual perspectives of each departmental meeting participant. Two open forums for UTSA students, staff and faculty were held at the Downtown and Main campuses in April, and the same information was sought from the meeting attendees. The Faculty Senate, Chairs Council, Student Government Association and Deans also were provided opportunities to share their perspectives. Throughout the process, Academic Affairs and the Task Force also received individual input from members of the campus community as a result of updates that were sent out and posted on the initiative website.
Over the course of my meetings during the outreach phase, there was widespread enthusiasm for the overall benefits to students, faculty and staff of intentionally creating a visible college hub to advance health-related academic programming, scholarship and partnerships.
Second, there was a high-degree consistency and eagerness expressed by those in the departments of Kinesiology, Health and Nutrition; Sociology; Psychology; Social Work; Criminal Justice; Public Administration; and Demography to join a new college administrative structure oriented around health. Finally, there was consensus across the board to unite the two concentrations of our current undergraduate degree program in Public Health in order to pursue the needed efforts to obtain Council on Education for Public Health accreditation to benefit our students and to establish a new Department of Public Health as its administrative home.
Taken together then, with the groundwork that was laid by the Task Force and followed by the campus-wide input received during the outreach phase to guide us, we will proceed with the deliberative planning to establish a college administrative unit to be centered on an overarching concept around “Health” — inclusive of its broader elements of wellness and well-being — and grounded in the multi-dimensional social determinants, contextual contributors and embedded ecologies of “Community” and “Policy.” This modern, transdisciplinary, inter-professional conceptualization reflects our current state of knowledge at population scale, and all of the aforementioned departments have confirmed their commitment to the deliberative planning needed to realize the vision for this new college. This overarching concept capitalizes on and leverages unique UTSA assets and approaches, connects to our roots, and projects forward an exciting future, internally and externally poised to successfully realize new opportunities.
We now have an initial framework, and a number of steps will be undertaken before the new college will be established formally. Over the summer, Academic Affairs will hold meetings and events focused on outreach to the community to further advance partnership opportunities. In the fall, we will begin a process for selecting a college name that reflects the core and thrust of the work of the faculty, the degree programs offered, and the collective identity. At that time, we also will initiate the planning for the national search for inaugural leadership of the college in the founding dean.
I concur with the departments’ preference to remain organized as discrete units in their current configuration and at the current campus locations. Therefore, the proposed leadership of the health-related college will have responsibility for administering academic programs and faculty activities at both the Downtown and Main campuses to the individual, shared, and collective benefit of all.
This process has been an invigorating one, and I am excited to now begin the next steps in deliberative planning to create a college structure that prepares our students to pursue careers in modern healthcare settings. I must emphasize that none of these potential changes should negatively impact the current availability of robust advising, coaching, and assistance for undergraduates planning careers in health-related professions. There will always be strong pathways and support for UTSA undergraduates to successfully pursue health-related professions, regardless of their chosen major.
With warm regards,
Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D.
Peter T. Flawn Distinguished Professor
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs