Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Leighah Beausoleil / THE GATEPOST
By Leighah Beausoleil
Framingham State President Nancy Niemi announced organizational changes to the University’s executive staff in an Aug. 30 campus-wide email.
Niemi said the adjustment will “bring fresh perspectives” as well as allow staff the opportunity to “realign services and operations.”
Included in Niemi’s reorganization is the creation of a new division, which will be known as Academic Enhancement, according to the email.
“The Division will center services that are integrally tied to students’ learning success by intentionally bridging Academic Affairs and Student Affairs through strong collaboration for holistic student support and advocacy, and through the intentional use of data analytics and measure of student progress,” Niemi said in the email.
This new division will be under the direction of Lorretta Holloway - no longer the vice president of enrollment and student development, Holloway will now serve as vice president of academic enhancement.
In this position, Holloway will now oversee CASA, Academic Advising, International Programs and Study Abroad, Retention and Graduation Success, and Family Engagement, according to the email.
Holloway’s former division of Enrollment and Student Development will no longer exist as enrollment management and student life will now report directly to the president, Niemi stated in the email.
Therefore, Dean of Students Meg Nowak Borrego will now report directly to Niemi and hold the additional title of chief student affairs officer.
Sara Gallegos, who served as director of student involvement and leadership development, will now serve as executive director of student experience and careers, and will be “overseeing Student Involvement, First-Year and Transfer Orientation, and Career Services.”
An interim chief strategic enrollment management officer will be appointed while the University undertakes a search to permanently fill the position, according to Niemi.
Other structural modifications include more changes in division reporting. University Police will report to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel as they did prior to reporting to Holloway.
Leah Mudd, assistant director of orientation, now reports to Gallegos.
“The Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs will now report to Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni relations,” Niemi explained in the email. “The AVP [assistant vice president] of Human Resources & Equal Opportunity and Director of Communications will report directly to the president.”
With Patricia Whitney, associate vice president of facilities and capital planning, retiring in November, Danny Giard will take over as executive director of facilities Nov. 7, and a search is currently in progress for a director of capital projects management, according to the email.
In an interview, Niemi said the changes were “all student focused.”
She said, “We had a very big division of enrollment management and student experience and the vice president, Dr. Holloway, in charge of that, had so many responsibilities that it was very difficult to do all of them justice - not because it was her - but because there's just so many pieces to student life and enrollment.”
Niemi explained there were multiple departments that reported to Holloway that were important to the University, such as University Police, but were unable to receive enough attention due to other areas frequently requiring immediate attention.
“We were able to give different parts of it more energy and more light and more impact,” she added.
Niemi said although not many universities have a division of Academic Enhancement, she has seen it implemented successfully.
She added Georgia State University was one of the models that demonstrated “using data to help measure and putting these students' success measures together in one location to really work with each other.
“They've had wild success with that,” she said.
The formation of this new division will allow the various departments to “work even better together to help students have a wildly successful academic experience and really be able to improve our graduation rates or retention rates and just have better mentoring, better tutoring - all the things that we know help students have successful college lives,” Niemi said.
This decision to restructure the University’s administration came two months into Niemi’s presidency and all of the executive staff were involved in the discussion. She said some FSU employees believed the action was taken too quickly, while others praised it as efficient. However, she believes there were more people who appreciated the quickness of the change.
“I felt it was time to take some serious action,” she said, emphasizing the importance of enrollment management given the University’s drop in enrollment in recent years.
Niemi said the University will be using The Registry, an organization that provides higher education experts for interim positions, to fill the chief strategic enrollment management officer position.
“I don't know who it is yet,” she said. “We tentatively are looking at the beginning of October, but as soon as we can get someone here, we will.”
Holloway said, “I think people were expecting change,” but not “as much change or as quickly.”
She said her former position “was just too big and I used to joke that I had become the junk drawer of the University where people didn't know where to put stuff so they put stuff in there.”
Holloway added because of this, she was only able to focus on areas that needed immediate attention rather than areas that involved long-term planning such as orientation.
Her new call to action is to strategize ways to implement an academic-support network for students not only as they enroll, but throughout their education until graduation. The second piece is to assist faculty and staff in developing “improved systems for family outreach and support in their divisions,” she said.
She added she is sad she will not be working with some staff she has been working with for years - or at least not on a regular basis.
Benjamin Trapanick, who was director of new student and family programs, will now be the executive director of family engagement.
He said the original program is now “essentially dissolved.” He will have less involvement with students and will focus primarily on families.
“A lot of that has to do with the fact that Rams  has been gearing up to include more courses and therefore, there’s less of a need for Foundations courses,” Trapanick added.
“With that being the case, some signs are pointing that it might be done after this semester.”
Because of this, Trapanick said it was a “good time” for new focus and new responsibilities.
Trapanick will no longer be overseeing orientation and Foundations if it continues as a program, he said. He will also no longer be overseeing the Tau Sigma and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies.
“I've been doing the same things for many years, and it was time for me to do something different just for my own professional needs,” he added. “I'm excited about the opportunity to build on family engagement - just the next step of my career.”
Executive Vice President Hamel said, “Restructurings are typically undertaken to address specific needs,” and the University needed to address enrollment management.
Hamel added, in the short term, he will need to re-work and adjust budgets for areas in the University that were affected by the changes.
“We'll be making those changes and in the interim, we'll just be bypassing the structure that had been set up until those can occur.”
While the University awaits a new chief strategic enrollment management officer, he said, “We've got a couple of large projects going on, such as the strategic enrollment planning process, and all of us will have to step in to assume some of the responsibilities related to those projects.”
He added he believes the inclusion of Nowak Borrego in the executive staff will be beneficial when considering decisions that will affect students.
Nowak Borrego said, “I think it's a good thing that the person whose job is to focus on student affairs and student life - that is their focus fully - reports to the president and is at the executive staff table when decisions are being made and the student experience will be impacted.”
Having been a vice president of student affairs for 10 years at her previous institution, Nowak Borrego said she sees it as an easy adjustment to be back on an executive staff.
“I respect the president for taking such a bold approach, and an early approach, to reorganizing in a way that she and the Board [of Trustees] believe will best impact our student experience and the University and recognizing some of the areas that we've struggled with, and then making change to address them,” she added.
Vice President Gustafson said, “I think it's very positive for Framingham State. I think it makes a lot of sense on every level. I love that we're putting students' success front and center with the new Division of Academic Enhancement.”
Gustafson added a lot of the changes made put parts of the University “where they belong.”
He said including the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs under his division makes sense given that his focus is on fundraising.
“It's a little different than the fundraising work we do in development, working with government agencies and private foundations, but it really is part of our overall fundraising picture,” Gustafson said.
About the restructuring decision, Niemi said, “We didn't do it lightly. I hope that we never do.
“They affect people's lives, and even though my team felt like it was the very right thing for us to do,” she added, “it affects people, and we want to make sure that we have the University's best interests at heart, even as we act boldly and go move in a direction that we hadn't before.”