Cowen Reshapes Administrative Structure

June 1, 1998

Nick Marinello

In the half-year since he was named the next president of Tulane University, Scott Cowen, working with top university administrators, has mobilized a process to shape his administration, which begins July 1. In a letter released to deans, directors and department heads in late May, Cowen announced the results of that effort--an overhaul of central administration that will not only recast the way Gibson Hall operates, but will also have an impact on several administrative departments throughout the university.

"Normally a new president would take a year or two years before he or she might make any significant changes to the central staff," admitted Cowen. "In the case of Tulane, however, I found myself in a situation where three of our senior people had declared they would be leaving their positions. I therefore had to decide whether to simply restaff those positions or do some reorganization of central staff; I opted for the latter."

Ron Mason, senior vice president and general counsel, and Bill Bertrand, vice president for institutional planning, research and innovation, will leave their positions on June 30. Both will remain on campus, however: Mason as director of the National Center for the Urban Community and Bertrand as director of the Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer.

Julie Walker, vice president of Institutional Advancement, has announced that she will leave the university in August. Cowen said he used the opportunity to reorganize his central staff as a way to create a simple structure around five senior officers: medical school chancellor, provost, senior vice president for finance and operations, vice president for institutional advancement and a new position, senior vice president for planning and administration, which will be filled by Yvette Jones, who is currently vice president for finance and operations.

The five senior officers, along with the vice president for human resources, director of intercollegiate athletics and Cowen's chief of staff, will comprise the President's Cabinet, which will replace the Executive Working Group as the university's highest administrative body.

In addition, Cowen announced the creation of the Management Committee, which will oversee Tulane's four universitywide centers: Center for Bioenvironmental Research, Payson Center, National Center for the Urban Community and Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

"It is my firm belief that the centers ought to be well-grounded in both the academic and administrative sides of the university," said Cowen. "The Management Committee will ensure a closer relationship between these centers and the rest of the institution."

The committee will be composed of the medical school chancellor, the provost, the senior vice president for finance and operations and senior vice president for planning and administration. The new administrative structure also reflects several important changes at the departmental level, many of which are represented under the position of senior vice president of planning and administration.

Technology and Infrastructure Services, the descendent of Tulane Computing Services that was previously under the Office of Institutional Planning, Research and Innovation, will now report to Jones and, according to Cowen, will comprise networking, telecommunications, and administrative and shared system services. Instructional and learning technologies will report to the provost through the newly created position of executive director of information resources.

All public relations, publications, media relations and university communication will report to Jones through the Office of Communications and University Relations. Medical Center Public Relations will report to the chancellor and, via a "dotted line," to Jones. The Office of Government/ Agency Affairs which had previously reported to the general counsel, will also be located in the planning and administration area.

"Publications, public relations, community service, government relations, are all part of the same bailiwick," said Cowen. "There are natural linkages between all of them."

Human Resources, previously under the Office of General Counsel, will now report directly to Jones. So will the newly formed Office of Research Administration, comprised of offices previously distributed across the uptown campus and the medical school. Universitywide research policy and compliance will continue to be determined by the provost and the chancellor. In addition, Jones will oversee the newly created Office of Institutional Planning and Budget.

"I want to institutionalize the discipline of continuous planning," said Cowen, who looks to coordinate short- and long-term strategic planning with both annual budgets and projected five-year budgets. Other shifts in reporting include the offices of general counsel, risk management and internal audit, which will now report to Tony Lorino, senior vice president for finance and operation. "You look at Tony's job and you now see these three functions are consistent in the purview of the CFO," said Cowen.
Cowen considers such overlap and association of departments to be essential to a successful organization. "You try to couple functions that relate to one another and try to locate them with the people who have the expertise and interest to fulfill those functions," he said. At the same time, Cowen said he wants to create an organization that is "robust and flexible" enough to change over time. "What people see on July 1 will probably evolve over the next couple of years as we go through strategic planning," he said.

Cowen also believes that what people will see on July 1 is a frank, straightforward model of how the university operates. "I always refer to it as a simplified and straight-line structure," said Cowen. "People may not agree with it, but I don't think they will have a hard time understanding it."

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