New colleges bring focus to programs


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The former College of Integrated Science and Technology has split into two units, bringing James Madison University’s total number of colleges to eight, including the Graduate School.

The new College of Health and Behavioral Studies (CHBS) houses the departments of psychology, graduate psychology, communication sciences and disorders, health sciences, kinesiology, nursing, and social work, while the College of Integrated Science and Engineering (CISE) consists of integrated science and technology, engineering, and computer science.

The new structure ensures that both colleges are leaner and more agile. It will also help better identify and market their various programs to prospective students, parents, faculty and donors.

The College of Integrated Science and Technology began as a pilot program in 1993 and initially was made up of the Department of Computer Science and an innovative new undergraduate degree program known as ISAT. Over the years, CISAT would come to anchor JMU’s sprawling east campus, developing its own programs, absorbing departments within the growing health and human services fields and providing a home for JMU’s cross-disciplinary engineering program.

But the size and scope of CISAT made it difficult to manage. “It was a large enterprise with a lot of distinct and diverse moving parts,” said Dr. Bob Kolvoord, interim dean of the new College of Integrated Science and Engineering. Some outsiders were surprised to learn that CISAT housed departments such as psychology and social work.

At a meeting of CHBS faculty and staff on Friday, interim dean Dr. Sharon Lovell spoke of the opportunities that the new college provides. “It’s a time to think creatively, to think with a lot of energy about what we can be that we haven’t (been) in the past. … We’re able to make our work more visible to others, and we can think about different ways to engage and work with each other.”

“CHBS recognizes the role that human behavior plays in overall health and quality of life, and the professions for which we prepare students are in demand,” said Dr. Michael Stoloff, head of psychology, who presented the proposal for the new college to the JMU Board of Visitors. Nearly a quarter of all JMU students currently major in CHBS’ programs, and the supporting pillars of scholarship and service are already in place, along with a commitment to professional development for faculty, many of whom are licensed practitioners in their fields.

Meanwhile, the ISAT and computer science programs continue to be popular among JMU students, and the university graduated its first engineering class in May.

“One thing we are hoping to do in the College of Integrated Science and Engineering is really take advantage of that founding spirit of CISAT, to be innovative, to be out there trying things, and I think we're really hoping to continue the grand experiment,” Kolvoord said. “What's out there? What are new ways of doing things? What are new kinds of topics, new kinds of majors? What are different kinds of scholarship that our faculty and students can do? What opportunities are going to be out there in the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years?”

That’s not to say the new colleges will put up walls. “There hasn’t been a divorce,” Lovell said. “They’re our friends. We will continue to have connections with them.” A joint Faculty Research Day is planned for Oct. 5.

“So much of the reform in health science and in health care is going to be technology based,” Kolvoord said. “We're going to continue to foster those connections and really take advantage of the great faculty we have across the campus, including in science and math and business and education, where we have strong connections already.”

Stoloff added that in today’s competitive research climate, grants tend to be awarded to those studies that employ a cross-disciplinary approach.

For students and faculty in the new colleges, the changes should be largely transparent. “Hopefully this will help steer students in the right direction and find their way into the right programs,” Stoloff said.

Published: Monday, August 27, 2012

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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