Monday, January 08, 2007

Chatham University?

For those who missed it, here's a letter to the Chatham Alumni about the creation of Chatham University with 3 Colleges inside it... One being Chatham College the undergraduate women's college.

For my two cents...I'm sure this will be great for the overall health and "marketing image" of the institution as a whole, but I'm concerned about the traditions of Chatham College, (the undergraduate women's college) which makes it so unique. I hope the "University Transition Team" won't take this matter lightly and address it without being partial or indifferent. (see the last question for more on this)

Check out the original letter below (IT's a doozy! But I learned alot about the difference between a college and a university, which has apparently changed over the years...)

Dear Chatham Alumnae and Graduate Alumni,

I hope each of you had a healthy and peaceful holiday season.

As president of the Alumnae Association, I am excited to advise you that Chatham is starting 2007 in a big way. As you know, we have been talking about the possibility of Chatham becoming Chatham University for well over a year now, and a major step in that direction will take place on the campus in less than two weeks.

During the week of January 16, 2007, an evaluation team organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and comprised of seven individuals involved in higher education throughout the Commonwealth will be on campus interviewing faculty, staff, students and trustees as part of their consideration of our application to the State.

There will be two all-campus public meetings about the potential change from College to University on Tuesday, January 9 at 11:30 a.m. in the Eddy Theatre and Thursday, January 11 at 4:00 p.m. in the Welker Room, Laughlin Music Center. You are welcome to join the campus community in these discussions.

President Barazzone has prepared the following questions/answers about the potential transition and has asked me to share them with you. I hope that you will take the time to read these materials and stay engaged in the process. I have been asked to serve on the University Transition Team referenced in the answer to the last question and look forward to working with faculty including Liana Dragoman ‘98, staff and current students in this process.

Thank you in advance for your participation. Happy New Year!

Kim Francis '80

President, Alumnae Association Board


Q: Why does Chatham want to become a university?

A: Primarily because it will help us be better understood for who we are today as an institution.

Chatham wants to become a university because “university” best describes what Chatham has become. We are many things. We are an historic women’s undergraduate college, one of the oldest in the nation. We are also a graduate institution with nineteen masters programs and three doctoral programs serving men and women. Our “on the ground” enrollment of 1,000 full-time students is evenly balanced between graduate and undergraduate students. Graduate students make up 50% of our total enrollment, a percentage that compares favorably with the percentages at other Pittsburgh institutions that recently became universities (e.g., 24% at Carlow; 22% at Robert Morris; 13% at Point Park). Finally, we have a new and promising virtual and world-wide campus on-line, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees to both men and women.

It is the opinion of many, and of the College’s Board of Trustees who voted to apply to become a university last summer, that we already are a university, as defined by all the characteristics above.

We believe people will understand better what we are – a coeducational university with a women’s college within it – if 1) we are recognized by the state as a university and 2) we change our name to Chatham University.

There are other reasons, too: the image will help us more effectively market the institution, and it will create better circumstances within the institution for all who work or study here by the changes it will bring about.

Q: What is the difference between a college and a university?

A: It depends. Times are changing in the way the words are understood, as well as in the development of higher education institutions.

This is a question that is very subject to history at this dynamic time in US higher education, and especially in Pennsylvania higher education. The Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently reclassified all US higher education institutions because the old, simple, distinctions between colleges and universities just don’t hold any more. The Foundation, for example, classified Chatham this year in the “Masters Colleges” and “Universities/Medium” category, after having identified us since our founding as an undergraduate institution.

Historically, colleges have been institutions that award only or primarily bachelors degrees to students after four years of study. Colleges do not generally award graduate degrees.

Universities are usually more complex and sometimes larger institutions than colleges. A university is often a collection of “colleges” – each focused on one area of study (e.g., “Teachers College” of Columbia University). Universities usually offer graduate degrees through the masters and doctoral levels (although in Pennsylvania it is not required that an institution already have a doctoral degree program to be designated a university). Some institutions have the further distinction of being called research universities for obvious reasons.

In recent years, the definition of “college” has become blurred as institutions have begun not only to change in the nature of their offerings, but also in the way they wish to be perceived. For example, most community colleges have dropped “community” from their names in part to reflect that they now offer four year degrees and not just the associate degrees of the past. Today “junior colleges” are virtually unheard of after being very common until the 1970s or 80s. Many institutions, and not just Chatham, are offering more graduate programs, as the demands on higher education for preparing students for the workplace change.

Finally, just to add to the confusion, the word “college” has entirely different meanings outside the United States. In many places in the world, the term “university” is the equivalent of the term “college” in the United States, with “college” referring more to a secondary or vocational school.

So, this is all to say that both the reality and the perception surrounding the words “college” and “university” have changed in recent years. It is important for Chatham, which is even more graduate intensive than many other colleges that have added graduate programs in recent decades, to be recognized for what we are, especially when there are distinct advantages in terms of public perception to being a university rather than a college.


Q.: So are you saying this is all about marketing?

A: Marketing IS an important part of it, but this is also about the future in other very important ways.

This is about marketing because we need for people to understand who we are in order to keep recruiting great students and faculty. It is so much about marketing that some of you know we have retained Red House Communications, a terrific marketing firm, to help us prepare the branding and marketing efforts for Chatham when we become a university. However, it is also about taking the “next steps” as an institution that will permit us to grow in size and in quality in the future.

Q: Next steps? I thought we already WERE a university? What really are the criteria to become a university in Pennsylvania, and do we have to make a lot of changes to fulfill them?

A: We believe we basically fulfill the criteria set out by the state. (Of course, the review team coming in mid January will make that final determination.) However, there are some things that we need to do to meet the state’s requirements fully. Where we don’t yet meet the criteria, changes are required that we should want and need to make anyway.

Pennsylvania defines a university as “a multiunit institution with a complex structure and diverse educational functions, including instruction, promotion of scholarship, preservation and discovery of knowledge, research and service.” (22 Pa. Code Section 31.2.) We certainly meet that definition.

The same section states that a university must also have a minimum of three administrative units: one unit providing for study of the arts and sciences at the graduate level; a second unit providing advanced degree programs through the doctorate; and a third unit providing a minimum of five professional programs at the graduate level.

Chatham has all the academic offerings and degree levels that are required to meet these criteria. However, we do not have the organizational structure that seems to be required to meet the definition of a university (the three “units”). We need to create these three administrative units to meet the criteria for a university.

Q: What will these new administrative “units” look like? And would we create them if we were not applying to become a university?

A: We are creating three “colleges,” each with its own dean, to represent and better serve the different types of students, with their different needs, who are enrolled at the institution. We will need to go from being a place that has a pretty simple organizational structure to a more complex one that corresponds to the complexity of our programs and student body. This is a need that has been developing and something we would need to do even without becoming a university.

Our College has evolved mightily since the early 90s when there was basically only one type of student, and even one type of degree, on the campus. At that time, we had fewer than 500 full-time students, all in baccalaureate degree programs. Today we have about 1000 full-time students (and a total of 1600 students, including part-timers), many more programs and degree levels, but pretty much the same organizational structure. Dr. Armesto, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, still has an office staff the same size as the one that existed in the early 90s. About 18 months ago we recognized the need to begin to create some additional structures and created the School of Continuing Education with its own dean, and began to search for a director of graduate studies.

The colleges that are now being created will matriculate students and have alumni/ae. There will be Chatham College (the women’s college), Chatham Graduate College (for graduate students) and Chatham College for Professional Studies (the former School for Continuing Education, to serve on-line and continuing education students.) Each will have a dean who is responsible for the educational experience of students in that college.

The faculty structure will remain essentially unchanged, with one Vice President for Academic Affairs who will continue as Dean of the Faculty. Faculty and programs may serve more than one college. The main difference is that there will be two more deans, reporting to Dr. Armesto, than there are now: the Dean of Chatham College, and the Dean of the Graduate College (the position of the Dean of the College for Professional Studies already exists in the Dean of the School of Continuing Education).

With the restructuring of the institution into Colleges the three “units” described in the statute will be clearly reflected in the structure of the new Chatham University.

Q: Why didn’t we take these steps sooner?

A: We had started somewhat down this path, but had not reached the critical mass of students to make it worthwhile. We always try to stay as administratively lean as possible.

Two things needed to happen, beyond applying for university status, to make the creation of Colleges the right thing to do. First, we had to get a positive growth in the undergraduate college to make sure it was not going to be swamped by the growth in other programs; secondly, we needed to see the graduate programs prove that their growth was going to persist.

Both things have happened in the last few years. Undergraduate enrollment has begun to rise dramatically, experiencing a 35% growth in the last five years. And graduate programs have had a steady and dramatic rise.

Probably the time to make this organizational change was yesterday, but it is certainly now! This is a change which should both serve the College’s students better, as well as satisfy the state’s requirements for three units.

Q: Please say more about how will this be good for the students who will be in the various colleges. Why, for example, will this be good for women undergraduates, and will we lose our character as a women’s college?

A. The main reason that it will be good for the undergraduate women is that it will preserve Chatham College for Chatham undergraduate women.

Undergraduate women will be the only people enrolled in Chatham College, whereas other student populations will be enrolled in Chatham University, in either the Graduate College or the College of Professional Studies.

There is nothing implied in university status about class size, course requirements or anything else that will affect the quality of the academic experience. The Dean of Chatham College should have deep experience in women’s education and commitment to women’s colleges to perpetuate the historic foundation of the institution.

Q: How will this be an improvement for the graduate students and programs?

A. The graduate students should have a significant improvement in their experience and feel more directly their relationship to the institution.


Graduate programs at Chatham have not always received the attention that they deserve, despite the fact that their high quality has brought the institution additional public recognition, and that the contributions of both graduate students and faculty have added greatly to the intellectual vibrancy, as well as to the overall financial health, of the institution.

Program directors have worked hard and well to support their students in their individual programs without much central support directed exclusively to graduate students irrespective of program. The addition of a dean for the Graduate College will mean that graduate programs and graduate students receive the attention they deserve both as individuals seeking further education and as the integral part of the institution that they are.

It may also remove confusion in the public to be able to say that men and women go to Chatham University and students in the women’s college go to Chatham College.

Q: What difference is this going to make for faculty?

A: Basically, none.

Dr. Armesto will remain dean of the faculty, existing faculty committees will remain intact, and faculty will still meet as a whole, so little will change in the academic governance of the institution.

Q: So what are the next steps, and what is the timeline to become a university?

A: If all goes well, March or April.

Our application has already been submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). A copy of the application and the appendices has been placed on reserve (behind the circulation desk) at the Jennie King Mellon Library. I encourage you to read it.

Chatham’s application will now be evaluated by a team of higher education administrators who will visit our campus from January 16-19. The seven people on the team (six administrators from higher education institutions and one representative from the PDE) will interview faculty, administrators, students, members of the Board of Trustees and other campus constituencies.

The various steps involved in writing reports, publicizing findings and so forth will take us until about mid-April to get a final decision if the schedule is used fully. Should things move more quickly than the maximally required calendar, it could be earlier. Thus, sometime in March or April is probably when we will get a final answer.

Q: Other than creating three colleges, what changes will come with becoming a university?

A: No doubt there will be more changes than we can imagine. However, the changes we anticipate are invigorating and necessary for the recognition and positioning of the institution for the future.


Becoming a university is more than a name change. It is, I am sure you will agree, a psychological change, toward something larger, that knits us together more fully as an institution, while also acknowledging the differences within our institution. It will gain us a greater reputation in the community, as it comes to be understood that our students include not only the wonderful women graduates who are such great community leaders and alumnae, but also masters and doctoral students and their faculty.

In addition to the organizational changes that will add deans and colleges, there will be changes large and small in the actual operations of the institution. For example: what will the colors of the University be? What will the alma mater be? How will the diplomas for the Colleges read? Will we reissue diplomas for those alumnae and alumni who graduated from the College and may want to have a new diploma from the University? A University Transition Team has been created that will look at questions like these and help guide the institution through the transition.

There will be other challenges, too, that we will successfully address. For example, although being a university means being part of something larger, we must still preserve the treasured spirit of the residential liberal arts college which has been the foundation of this institution. And, even as we acknowledge that having doctoral students means having faculty who do more scholarship, we must continue to preserve the values of the institution that say teaching and learning matter above all.

These are all issues that we already confront, but they will be magnified with the arrival of university status. They suggest that the change to university status will be invigorating, even as it acknowledges the changes of the last decade. It will be a change that encourages us to take nothing for granted, but to talk and plan together for a future that is worthy both of the name “University” and of the name “Chatham.”

We did change our name 50 years ago, from Pennsylvania College for Women to Chatham College. Now, as we seek to change our name again, we are undertaking a more profound change than we did in 1955, as we seek both to recognize a very successful past and create the conditions for an even brighter future.

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