Shake Up in the College of Arts and Sciences

A new report recommends splitting the oldest college at SLU


Andrea Porter

Photo by Andrea Porter

In a recently released preliminary report from a College of Arts and Sciences’ task force, it is recommended that the oldest college on campus become two separate entities in order to better accommodate the needs of the STEM-related departments.


In the current proposal, the College of Arts and Sciences would be split into two divisions, one focusing on humanities and the other focusing on the sciences. In addition, a small number of departments, namely the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, will transition from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology.


Chaired by Mardell Wilson, Ed.D., Dean of the Doisy College of Health Sciences, the task force was commissioned to determine whether the college should restructure to “better ensure the success of all programs, departments and of the University.” The findings, released on Aug. 10, are a culmination of 28 meetings over the last eight months.


The transition follows “intense and longstanding dissatisfactions among the sciences with the current . . . structure,” the report stated, along with stressing the need for the university to stay competitive among the ever-changing STEM field. 


Among the three sections of the current College of Arts and Sciences, surveys conducted revealed that the Natural Sciences were disproportionately dissatisfied with the college’s structure and yielded far fewer divisional strengths compared to the two other sections. While the Natural Science division has a larger number of students enrolled, it has less faculty compared to the others. 


The Task Force hopes their new approach will allow divisional leadership to respond faster to departmental demands and help foster inter-departmental communication.


The commission also explored numerous different possibilities for recommendations. One of the included ideas was a STEM College, which would have combined the Parks College with the Natural Sciences division of the College of Arts and Sciences. 


Another possibility was to spin-off the largest majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, Psychology, Biology and Neuroscience, into a new Life Science College.These proposals were ultimately not recommended by the committee as they posed numerous separate challenges. 


The report is the result of the conclusions published in a final report from the Science and Engineering Task Force in 2018. The final report noted that SLU “lack[ed] major elements needed to develop both a culture and a structure for support of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, research, and outreach efforts.” The report also added that further research would be needed to determine the feasibility of a new college model to accommodate the needs of the STEM majors.


On Sept. 1, the task force will hold a student forum before submitting a final report to the Provost’s Office on Oct. 1 of this year.