MSU combines two colleges over the summer

On July 1, Minnesota State University, Mankato combined their College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Social and Behavioral Science to now officially become the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). 

The two colleges merged to facilitate collaboration amongst faculty. HSS Dean Christopher Brown noted how since both of the colleges have a liberal arts curriculum that the joining of the two colleges will give students more options for their academic careers. 

“When I was the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, students talked about interdisciplinary [learning], wanting more of those connections. With these colleges, the goal is to initiate more of those kind of connections,” said Brown. “I learned from my Student Advisory Board that they desire to get out of their department silos and see what’s going on in other departments and so hopefully [with the new] college, we can create those connections.”

With two large colleges joining as one, the university made the decision to have a dean and associate dean. Former Psychology Department Chair Chip Panahon recently took his new title as HSS Interim Associate Dean on Aug 15. Panahon shared how honored he was to receive his new position. 

“I was one of the candidates nominated for the [Interim Associate Dean search] and I interviewed with the HSS Dean Staff as well as the Provost Hood,” shared Panahon. “I’m excited and humbled to be starting my work in this new role.”

Panahon complimented the faculty, department chairs and college work group that consisted of students, faculty and staff for their diligence, despite the initial hesitant and fearful feedback about the merging of the two colleges.

“Once [the university] found out that this merger was going occur, many people spent hours upon hours trying to have this transition go as smooth as possible,” said Panahon. “They took time out of their busy weeks to meet [with both colleges] to really try to sit here and say ‘When July 1 comes, what do we need to know? How are we similar and how are we different?’”

Since the two colleges combined, there haven’t been any new roles for professors. Brown and Panahon are hoping that the new college will facilitate some co-teaching opportunities by having different departments work together. Brown and Panahon are currently in the process of combining two departments into one: Mass Communication and Communication Studies. They plan on merging other programs as well.

“I think there’s a lot for each department to learn about each other before we facilitate bringing [certain] departments and programs together,” said Brown. “There’s a lot of synergy that needs to happen before we move in that direction.”

With the amount of students that are currently enrolled in each college, the plans for graduation are still underway. Panahon explained how HSS is still working on the particulars of the ceremony, making sure each student gets their proper recognition.

“I believe graduation is all about celebrating the student’s success and how they earned their degree, so we are still trying to cross our t’s and dot our i’s about some of the pomp and circumstance of each college and how we plan to make it a unified ceremony,” said Panahon.

Brown is optimistic about the integration of interdisciplinary collaboration and all the possibilities the new college will offer students.

“It will give students a greater opportunity to utilize a variety of sources from other departments in ways that will only help them as they move forward in their career,” said Brown. “I think bringing both colleges together will only enhance the student’s learning experience.”

Header Photo: Previous Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Christopher Brown, became the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Services on July 1. (Courtesy Photo)

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