Board to vote on new division

Joe Lord

Safety classes for business. Online courses. Summer school.

All these classes may soon have something more in common than their non-traditional status — the same boss.

The creation of a Division of Extended Learning and Outreach will be voted on by the Board of Regents at Friday’s meeting. It will reorganize 15 university departments into one division under one dean.

Programs such as Western’s extended campuses, International programming and summer classes will be overseen by the new division, said Jim Flynn, assistant to the provost for planning.

The Carroll Knicely Institute for Economic Development, the Small Business Development Center and the Center for Training and Development will also be a part of the new division.

Previously, all of these departments reported to other college deans or directly to Provost Barbara Burch.

The move was approved Jan. 10 by the academic affairs committee.

“This will be anything that would come under the rubric of distance learning,” said Faculty Regent Robert Dietle, who is a member of the academic affairs committee.

The division will try to expand Western’s presence outside the main campus, Flynn said. That includes offering classes, like safety courses, for businesses through the university.

Community outreach is part of Western’s mission statement from the state, Flynn said.

Flynn said there is a fee on distance learning courses that would partially go to the division to help fund it.

The division is expected to be a money maker, President Gary Ransdell said. All revenue generated by the division would stay in its programs.

A national search for a dean will begin as soon as the division is approved by the board, Burch said.

Flynn said it’s important to remember that these programs already exist.

“It would be erroneous to see this as a wholesale new division,” Flynn said.

Start-up money for the new division will come from the existing programs’ budgets, Burch said.

Dietle said he supported the creation of the division, but suggested the regents set goals for its leadership to meet.

“I think we can’t just create it and let it go and not worry about it,” he said.

Flynn said other Kentucky state universities have similar programs.

“This is a division that’s very common,” he said.

Byron Bond, dean of the Division of Continuing Education and Outreach at Eastern Kentucky University, said his division has existed for more than a decade.

He said pooling resources together from different programs allows Eastern’s outreach programs to continually expand.

“I think it can serve the region of the university very effectively as far as its mission of outreach,” he said in reference to the state mandate for its universities to support education in their region.

Richard Horn, director of the Small Business Development Center at Western, said the new division may allow better communication between Western’s outreach programs and university officials.

“Within the university itself, it will give us a better voice,” Horn said.

The SBDC takes as many as 300 clients a year, helping them establish small businesses, he said.

Ransdell warned the academic affairs committee that some schools are moving into Western’s region of the state to offer similar programs.

Flynn said the new division is meant to bring all its elements together under one boss who can be held responsible for its success.

“This does not mean Western has been inactive,” he said. “… What we have not done is brought it together in a way that makes it comprehensive and focused.”

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]