After submitting a proposal to change these departments to schools, the Texas A&M system and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved it in August to take effect the 1st of September.
“What changes is the prestige of the program and it’s attractiveness to prospective students, so going forward, we are probably going to be able to recruit more students who are advanced and higher quality students,” said Dr. Robert Hansen, Regents Professor of Music & Director of the School of Music. “It’s a change that is going to inspire growth of the program.”
The transition to a School from a Department makes Music, Engineering, Computer Science and WTAMU more visible to prospective students and staff.
“One of the things we realized was that students who were searching for schools of music will type in schools of music and since ours was a department it often wasn’t coming up, sort of a standard for high quality music programs,” said Dr. Wade Shaffer, Interim Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs.
There are going to be some staffing increases to accommodate the increased workload the School of Music anticipates because going forward, the program does not have unlimited capacity to grow without adding faculty.
“For instance, we have the Franklin Chair of Music now because somebody made a very generous gift to the University and we got to hire an addition faculty member because of those resources,” said Shaffer.
With the change from a department to a school, there is also an opportunity for the new school to receive a name.
“The program has high visibility and a long-standing reputation for excellence so we have a lot of people who are supporters of the program, said Hansen. “The School of Music presents a naming opportunity so we’re hopeful to find a donor who’s going to give us a substantial gift so that we can name the school of music after them just the way the college of Fine Arts and Humanities is named for Mrs. Harrington.”
Dr. Jessica Mallard, Interim Dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities agrees with Hansen.
“Naming a school is a $5 million proposition and if we could get someone interested, that will be $5 million that is coming into the School of Music, which will then be used for scholarships,” she said.
The School of Music was recorded as a change with no increase financial obligations so most of its funding will still be coming from tuition, legislation, and donors. The budget session takes place in April where the school can ask for money for the following year.
“Our money comes through tuition and legislative appropriations so we are affiliated with A&M but unfortunately they don’t really fund us,” said Mallard. “A percentage of the funding will be from the legislator that gives WT a budget and a good portion of it would be the money we get from student enrollment, which kind of gives us the ability to hire faculty or things like that.”
“It’s not our intention to take money away from another department and give it to the School of Music,” said Shaffer. “It’s not designed to do anything else other than to reaffirm the quality of the music program and its status as one of the best programs on our campus.
One advantage of the switch to a school is the staffing changes. The department head is now called a Director, which is Dr. Robert Hansen.
“A director moves from being a nine-month employee to a 12-month employee, which means there is always a director on campus year-round to assist students and faculty,” said Shaffer. “Most departments have a nine-month Department Head, so during the summer, the Department Head has limited obligations and limited responsibilities.”
Another advantage that the department of music did not have that The School of Music will also have an Associate Director, Dr. Mark Bartley; a position that did not exist before.
“The Associate Director of the School of Music is additional support for the students and offers additional fundraising opportunities,” said Shaffer. “He’ll have responsibilities not just for doing the things that a typical department head will do, but he’ll have responsibilities for maintaining the quality of the program, bringing in external funding, fundraising and linking to the community.”
The standards for the School of Music are going to increase because the School of Music is going to be recruiting more students.
“Over the next two or three years it might become a little more difficult to be admitted into the School of Music,” said Hansen. “The curriculum is the same and there will be some courses that we would be adding to the curriculum, but essentially, the day-to-day course load and the requirements for the degree are not changed by this.”
In the near future, WT could quite possibly see many more departments switch into schools.
“We will explore the possibility that other departments, nursing for instance, might become a school at some point to sort of highlight those larger growing high quality programs we have,” said Shaffer.