Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Guiding Principles in a Merger of Allied Health and Nursing Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Guiding Principles in a Merger of Allied Health and Nursing Schools

Article excerpt

Mergers have long been a reality in higher education during periods of financial challenge. More recently, academic mergers have evolved to become a strategy for achieving academic excellence, broadening institutional vision, and solidifying the competitive position of the merged entities. This report summarizes literature focused on critical considerations when evaluating and implementing mergers in an academic environment using a conceptual model adapted from Kotter. In addition, this paper reports on the planning and initial 9 months of the merger between the Edward and Margaret Doisy School of Allied Health Professions and the School of Nursing to form the Edward and Margaret Doisy College of Health Sciences at Saint Louis University. J Allied Health 2007; 36:24-29.

THE SAME FORCES driving mergers within business are driving mergers within academia. Just as businesses often merge to expand market share or to increase the array of complementary products offered, so too educational institutions are using mergers to better serve and reach their target audience:

.. . mergers at the collegiate level have become one of the most creative, effective vehicles academic planners now have to achieve academic excellence, to articulate a broader institutional vision, and to solidify the strategic position of the combined institution locally and regionally. More significantly, the motive behind merging institutions to achieve academic excellence rather than avoid bankruptcy, signals the arrival of a new way to think about U.S. higher education managerially and strategically.1

Foster described four reasons for mergers. Those were (1) need for increased central administrative capacity, (2) changing philosophies in the health care professions, (3) external forces, and (4) expansion of the influence of the units involved.2 The latter reason in particular may resonate with allied health. Allied Health entities often live realities comparable to those described for social work by Halter and Gullerud as small units that produce relatively little research and rarely cross-list course offerings across other units.3 A merger can be an important step in increasing status in an institution with the additional altruistic goal of better meeting student needs and expectations by synthesizing educational services from formerly autonomous units.

In January 2005, the Edward and Margaret Doisy School of Allied Health Professions and the School of Nursing at Saint Louis University were combined to form the Edward and Margaret Doisy College of Health Sciences. The letter to the faculty and staff from the president and provost announcing the merger identified three key elements to the rationale for the merger. Those elements included the Pew Commission report calling for "new approaches, new priorities, and new ways of thinking,"4 the institution's goal of becoming the finest Catholic university in the United States, and the extensive overlap in the core values of the two units (Biondi L, Weislmann J: Personal communication, 2004). The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of general issues associated with academic merges, a summary of the realities the leadership of the new college has faced in the initial months of the new merger, and anticipated considerations as the merger matures.

Conceptual Model for Mapping the Merger Process

We based our merger process on the model originated by Kotter.5 That model contains eight phases that must be moved through sequentially. Moreover, the temporal dimension of each phase of the change process is idiosyncratic to that phase and to that organization, and not all persons involved will reside in any given phase at the same time. We added emotion, the human players, and the need for ongoing systematic evaluation to Kotter's model.

EMOTION

Organizations are often discussed in sterile, inanimate terms. Moreover, institutions of higher education are often perceived as bastions of rationality. …

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