University System of New Hampshire

N. Interdisciplinary Schools

(Note: OLPM sections on this page may be cited following the format of, for example, "UNH.II.N.1.1". These policies may be amended at any time, do not constitute an employment contract, and are provided here only for ease of reference and without any warranty of accuracy. See OLPM Main Menu for details.)


1.   Background and Rationale

1.1   This document is informed by the 2003 Academic Plan and the 2010 Strategic Plan which call for increased interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teaching, scholarship and engagement. Both documents articulate the need and value of interdisciplinary efforts in strengthening the University by weaving together the disciplinary strengths of the community, and applying those strengths to challenges faced by our students, state, region, nation and world.

1.2   UNH is already a leader in interdisciplinary scholarship and professional development, with a number of graduate and undergraduate programs that effectively cross Department, College and disciplinary boundaries. However, there remain notable areas, as specified in the Strategic Plan, in which we have achieved national prominence but lack the organizational structure that would provide students and faculty integrated access to that expertise. Our strengths are also not projected effectively externally, limiting our ability to recruit the best people, and to obtain external support, both public and private.

1.3   The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for the formation of a relatively small number of large, interdisciplinary Schools which bring together existing areas of strength on campus and enhance cooperation and integration among the relevant disciplines in order to support the advancement of teaching, research and engagement by faculty and students.

2.  Essential Characteristics of a School

  • Schools will be major interdisciplinary units focused on a common research theme and selected to assure the broadest possible faculty participation and integration across all areas of scholarship related to that theme.
  • Schools will enhance established areas of strength and be organized around innovative, multidisciplinary initiatives or focused areas of professional training.
  • Schools will reflect the full mission of the University, but may emphasize a subset of that mission, (e.g. research and graduate education, or targeted professional preparation).
  • Schools can be the organizational home of a limited number of undergraduate minors, options, or dual majors, but not disciplinary majors, which would retain their location in the Departments.
  • Graduate degrees and certificates could be proposed, developed and implemented by the Schools in accordance with current Graduate School guidelines; degrees and certificates would be granted by Graduate School, as with any graduate program.
  • Tenure-track faculty with joint appointments in Schools would retain their primary academic appointments in their home Departments.
  • Research and clinical faculty may have primary appointments within Schools.
  • Schools will have a clear budget model that offers incentives for financial sustainability.
  • Schools will offer enrichment opportunities to undergraduates, but will not detract from or reduce support for undergraduate education.
  • Schools would be eligible for naming opportunities and other forms of private support.

3.   Governance Structures and Process

3.1   Proposing and approving a school

3.1.1   It is expected that proposals for an interdisciplinary academic and/or professional school will originate within groups of interested and committed faculty and will be developed in consultation with colleagues, Deans, Directors and the Provost. The proposal must address:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Rationale
  • Goals
  • Organization and Structure, including plan for leadership
  • Responsibilities, Membership and Governance
  • Budget (3-5 year)
  • Timeline for establishment
  • Plan for review and assessment of outcomes relative to goals

3.1.2   Full proposals will be presented to Provost who will then communicate that proposal to the University Community for review by relevant faculty governance groups at the Department, Colleges, and University level. If curricula are involved, proposals will address their relationship to existing degree programs, and MOUs will be constructed addressing commitments within the College for meeting course offering requirements, and revenue allocation from tuition following current procedures. Proposals for new degrees housed within the Schools will follow existing approval protocols including review by the relevant College Executive Committees and Deans. While graduate degrees and certificates may be proposed, developed and implemented by Schools, the Graduate School will retain the same degree of oversight authority as applied to other graduate programs through office of the Graduate Dean and the Graduate Council.

3.1.3   Budgets included in a proposal for a School will be clear, transparent and thorough, and will address potential impacts, both academic and financial, on related colleges, departments, institutes and centers.

3.1.4   Final approval for the creation of a school will be the responsibility of the Provost, in consultation with the President. Approval by the Board of Trustees is not necessary.

3.2   Reporting Structure, management and faculty membership

3.2.1   Schools will be led by a Director who will be a member of the tenure-track Faculty of the University and will report through one or more Colleges, Institutes or through the Graduate School selected to enhance the cross-college and interdisciplinary focus and purpose of the School. Each School will have an Advisory Council composed of Deans and Directors of the RC units affected by the School, and others as appointed by the Provost. Membership will be specified in the School proposal.

3.2.2   Directors will be appointed by the Provost or designee, with the advice of the Advisory Council, for terms of 3 to 5 years and be classified as academic administrators with a tenure-track faculty appointment in a related Department. The search for the Director will include an open and national, or specified internal process, with substantial faculty, staff and student input. Directors may be supported by a small staff and office, but every effort should be made to avoid duplication of administrative structures and overhead expenses vis-a-vis existing units. The nature and source of funding for any administrative structures should be delineated in an MOU developed at the time of the founding of the School. Each School will have an Executive Committee chaired by the Director and consisting of core faculty and others as specified in the Proposal. The Executive Committee shall study and recommend to the Director action on any matter of administrative, or educational policy entrusted to the School and shall review the current direction of the School and plan for its future development. Action may be initiated by the Committee itself, or by the Director, or by any member of the School Faculty. No School policy shall become operative until it has been considered by the Committee.

3.2.3   The goal of the membership policy for Schools is to encourage broad participation by faculty from all across the University. All tenure-track faculty that are part of a School will have tenure homes in an allied Department, in accordance with the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This entails that Tenure Track School faculty will have and meet all normal responsibilities within the tenure home department except where stipulated otherwise in an MOU agreed to by the relevant Dean, Department Chair and School Director. Faculty will participate in the School primarily through support and advising of students and service on School Councils, as well as through coordination of, and participation in, research activities, seminars, colloquia, and other events organized by the School. Faculty will apply to the Executive Committee for membership in the School. Retention on the School Faculty will depend on degree of participation in the activities of the School, as determined by the Executive Committee. The School will comport with policies and protocols of faculty governance as elsewhere in UNH, including existing policies on joint and affiliated appointment and promotion of faculty.

3.2.4   Most faculty members participating in School programs will not draw salary from the program, but will participate voluntarily in the activities of the School. For a limited number of positions, salary support and faculty responsibilities may be shared between the School and the Colleges. Partial administrative assignments in the School may be arranged. A limited number of tenure track positions may be financially supported primarily by a School, but will have tenure homes in Departments. An MOU must then establish the financial responsibilities should the School no longer be capable of such support. Research faculty may have either primary or affiliated appointments in the School. Promotion and Tenure processes for jointly supported or affiliated positions will follow existing policies. Deans and Chairs will continue to be responsible for overseeing faculty time commitments and any changes in teaching responsibilities will be negotiated and specified in an MOU signed by the School Director and relevant Dean(s) and Chair(s). Formal joint appointment is not a requirement for participation as a core faculty member. Tenure-track Faculty who participate in schools will be represented on the Faculty Senate and Graduate Council through their home Departments.

3.2.5   All new faculty tenure-track hires for positions affiliated with or appointed jointly by Schools will be the product of consultation between the Director and the Deans and Departments, as well as the Provost.

3.3   Finances

3.3.1   A primary goal of Schools is the generation of additional net revenue which will flow to the Colleges, as well as the School. Schools will not be eligible for status as separate RC Units. Initial Financial resources allocated to Schools will be determined by the Provost and the Dean(s)/Director(s) of all affected units. Annual budgets will be submitted by the Director of the School to the Provost or designee and the Advisory Council, which includes the Dean(s)/ Director(s) of allied units. Clear MOUs describing the financial arrangements between the School and other units shall be developed at the time of establishment of a School. When Schools belong to more than one RC Unit, the MOU will be negotiated with and signed by each RC Unit Head. Budget impacts on other units, and on undergraduate education in particular, will be considered in crafting of MOUs. All MOUs will be made available to the University community.

3.3.2   The budget section of a School proposal must account for revenues with enough specificity that the School's ability to be self-supporting is clear. This will include a starting budget, which provides evidence of the initiative's feasibility, and evidence-based projections over three and five year increments of anticipated revenues and costs. A brief explanation of revenue sources must be included. For example, what endowed gifts and grants will provide revenue for the School. If tuition is a budgeted revenue source, through which programs will the tuition be generated? Will the School have its own courses or will it be involved in revenue sharing with colleges?

3.3.3   Gifts of endowments to a school should include an MOU that outlines the distribution of the gift should the faculty, curricula, and research functions return to the Colleges and/or Institutes.

3.4   School missions and strategic planning

3.4.1   Interdisciplinary and professional schools will be required to have an articulated mission and 3-5 year strategic plan, subject to approval by the relevant Dean(s)/Director(s) and Provost. Strategic plans will include specific benchmarks for measuring the achievement of goals, including goals for financial stability and revenue generation.

3.5   Governance of schools

3.5.1   Once schools are approved and become operational, the Director and Executive Committee may establish by-laws or guidelines as well as shared governance mechanisms consistent with College and university standards and the principles outlined here. The Executive Committee shall work with the Director to establish policies and procedures for curriculum development, research, engagement and outreach programs, advancement activities, external partnerships and faculty appointments. The Advisory Council shall review and consult with the Director prior to a vote on any proposed policies and procedures by the School's faculty. The Director will also develop an annual budget for the School, to be reviewed by the Advisory Council and submitted for final approval by the Provost. The Director shall seek final approval from the administrator(s) of the RC unit(s) in which the School resides and to whom the Director reports for any policies that are the purview of the administration.

3.5.2   All relevant existing University policies and practices related to faculty and staff, including promotion, tenure, workload, annual review and others will apply to all positions located in Schools.

3.6   Performance Metrics and Review

3.6.1   Schools will undergo annual reviews, a comprehensive review and assessment after the first 5 years, and again every 10 years thereafter. The review will determine the School's continued relevance to College and University missions, and success relative to both academic and financial metrics included in the proposal. Standard protocols for program review and continuation or reorganization will apply to Schools. Failure to meet stated goals for either academic or financial performance will result in proposals to maintain, scale back, or eliminate the School, or to identify alternative funding sources should the initiative be maintained without reaching anticipated levels of revenue.