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WSU merger would add to environmental studies

Separate plan joins statistics programs at Pullman school, UI

A departmental merger years in the making is finally moving ahead at Washington State University after being put on hold since 2008 by budget cuts.

The proposal would create a new unit focusing on environmental studies by combining a school in one college with a department in another. It apparently has the blessing of Provost Warwick Bayley and will go before the faculty senate this fall.

The new unit involves the School of Earth and Environmental Science within the College of Science combining with the Department of Natural Resource Science in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Science.

It would help address increasingly important environmental issues, said Michael Griswold, professor and former dean of the College of Science.

“There will be more interaction on the research side,” he said. “It’s going to force (faculty) to interact.”

Griswold said the new school has the potential to be a strong unit. He said there is somewhat of an overlap in current offerings and combining them will create efficiencies.

This is the third or fourth attempt to merge the two units, Griswold said. Budget cuts stalled the merger during the last attempt in 2008.

Griswold said Bayly has already approved the proposal, and the plan is to have something in place by January or June if it’s approved by the senate.

“Everybody is pretty happy with this,” he said.

Griswold said the University of Washington recently went through a similar merger and created the College of the Environment.

Another proposal would merge the statistics departments at WSU and the University of Idaho.

WSU Department of Statistics Chairman Michael Jacroux said WSU and the UI want to increase graduate education. If the proposal is approved, both universities combined would have more resources for a doctoral program.

A separate proposal would be made for the doctoral program, he said.

Jacroux said money isn’t necessarily the driver in the possible merger, but it’s certainly a potential benefit for both universities.

“There’s all kinds of benefits,” he said.

For example, he said if a student can’t enroll in a course at WSU because of a conflict in schedule, the student will also have the option to enroll in the course at the UI if the time fits better with his or her schedule.

Jacroux said undergraduate students would not notice any changes, but the situation could be different for graduate students.

“There could be … changes at the graduate level,” he said, adding that by combining experts at both institutions, more in-depth courses would be offered.

Jacroux said the new unit would have a single chair, but said he is not aware of any job losses as a result of the merger.

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