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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

BW to witness mergers among schools, departments in academic year 2024-25

Four entities merge into two, forming the Conservatory of the Arts and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Marting+Hall%2C+a+building+where+the+School+of+Arts+and+Humanities+is+located.
Alexis Watkins
Marting Hall, a building where the School of Arts and Humanities is located.

Four different academic entities will experience “merger and acquisition” in the upcoming school year, ultimately forming two schools on campus, namely the Conservatory of the Arts and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.  

The Conservatory of Music will acquire the Theatre Department currently housed in the School of Humanities, while the School of Humanities will merge with the School of Social Sciences to form a new school named “The School of Humanities and Social Sciences.” 

“[We have been] working closely with the deans and the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, we have entered into conversations about a wide range of ways to spend more efficiently across Academic Affairs,” Provost Stephen Stahl said.

For the Conservatory of the Arts, such a plan has already taken place, said Susan Van Vorst, dean of the Conservatory of Music.  

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“We had a three-year strategic plan called Amplify 2024. Theatre and dance faculty and staff have already joined our forces and we have different task forces on different initiatives,” Van Vorst said.   

This merger will not only bring collaboration opportunities among instrumentalists, vocalists, thespians and dancers, but it will also bring a new name for the department: The Conservatory of the Arts.   

Ultimately, in common parlance around BW, it [the newly formed school] will [still] probably be known as ‘The Conservatory,’ but I think it makes all the sense in the world for the first few years until people learn about it or are comfortable with it that we can spell it out for them and say, ‘The Conservatory of the Arts,’” Van Vorst said.  

Van Vorst said that with the merger, new opportunities and spaces for collaboration can flourish.  

Last year, we had a pop concert that fell on the evening of Ovation. It happened in Gamble Auditorium last year but will be on the mainstage of Kleist this year. We’re already in talks about ways to infuse dance [students] and a theatre student or two into that production,” Van Vorst said.  

The Conservatory has already seen collaboration among multiple departments. During the holiday season last year, the Conservatory collaborated with dancers from the Theatre Department to feature ballet dancing with wind ensemble performances. 

The results are already showing and are out. We’re already living some of them. So, it’s just going to continue to grow and increase,” Van Vorst said.  

 As the plan comes to its conclusion next semester, the Conservatory of the Arts will begin its new beginnings with future projects and collaborations that will bring musicians, thespians and all others in the performing arts together.  

Meanwhile, the School of Humanities and the School of Social Sciences have also begun its merger process. Thomas Sutton, interim dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said that this process had already begun but that it had initially included the STEM disciplines.  

“We had been part of what was called the College of Arts and Sciences. It was [There used to be] three schools: the humanities, the social sciences, and what was then called math, natural sciences and computer sciences,” Sutton said.   

Sutton said that the STEM disciplines had later wanted to separate themselves from the College of Arts and Sciences because of the “STEM grants they were receiving.” Another deciding factor was the dissolution of the economics major due to lack of students and professors, he said. 

“When we heard about the Conservatory and Theater and Dance merging, that kind of started the catalyst. That left social sciences and humanities saying, ‘Okay, what do we do in the meantime?’”  Sutton said.   

With this department merger, Sutton said there is also an opportunity for new majors and new developments to existing majors.  

On the one hand, we have to consider the enrollment issues and how we can develop some majors into minors or specifications. On the other hand, there’s also the potential for some new programming that might really interest students and have some potential career objectives,” Sutton said.   

Just like with the Conservatory, there are many current majors that did not exist 10 to 15 years ago. With this idea, the merged school for Humanities and Social Sciences plan is to develop the majors that they have and build a curriculum with the new additions that could benefit students in new and unique ways.  

 Sutton said that an example of this would be adding two philosophy courses to a nursing major, which he said has been proven to be beneficial when working with patients of different beliefs or walks of life.  

The two mergers will jointly conclude between spring 2024 and fall 2024 semesters. Developments involving these collaborations and combinations will be announced as they evolve. 

“[We have been] working closely with the deans and the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, we have entered into conversations about a wide range of ways to spend more efficiently across Academic Affairs,” Provost Stephen Stahl said. 

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