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Chemeketa splits department

Chemeketa’s Science, Math, Engineering & Computer Science department splits apart. 
Photo by Taylor Wynia

For the upcoming Fall term, Chemeketa plans to split the Math and Science department, a choice coming in the wake of a budget crisis which has caused the school to lay-off multiple employees. 

With Michael Milhausen’s retirement at the end of Spring term, Chemeketa began to plan for the future. They are currently in the process of hiring two new deans, with two additional salaries and benefits packages, to oversee this structural shift. 

“We tried to make this as cost-neutral as possible,” said Don Brase, Chemeketa’s Executive Dean of General Education and Transfer Studies. 

“There was a lot of conversation about work that needed to be done in math, math progression, a lot of work in redesigning the math program,” said Miriam Scharer, Chemeketa’s Vice President Chief Financial Officer. “It was enough work that it was determined that it would be better suited to have two deans, one focusing on Math and [one on] Science.”

Milhausen was the dean originally overseeing Science, Math, Engineering and Computer Science for Chemeketa Community College for almost a decade. The department had 43 full-time faculty members under his management, double the amount of full-time employees other departments had employed, Brase said. Because the department was so comparatively large, Milhausen had assistance to help with the day-to-day operations. 

“The Academic Coordinator positions were supporting each of these previously very large departments,” said Brase. 

The position, held by Aspen Padilla under Milhausen, provided managerial support for the dean. Chemeketa’s Liberal Arts department, second in terms of highest full-time faculty with 25 employees, also had an Academic Coordinator, Matt Blankenship.

“Their positions were eliminated,” said Brase. 

“Rather than having an academic coordinator and a dean, it was just better to have two deans that supervise all the faculty,” said Scharer.

One Academic Coordinator was able to find a new position on campus. The other was a casualty in this department overhaul.

“You had two employees that had been long term employees here, so they were up at the higher range of salary,” said Scharer. “Those two positions were eliminated, and two were created…That’s a reduction in cost.” 

The ex-academic coordinator salary of $104,402, combined with Milhausen’s end retirement salary of $163,138, equals $267,540. This is almost the same amount of both new deans’ budgeted salaries of $134,551 each, totaling $269,102. 

The college also removed two front desk positions, Brase said. “Budget-wise, if anything, we are going to save money for the department by doing this.” 

Job postings for the positions found online advertised the new yearly salaries between $79,000–$115,000. The leftover allocated budget goes toward fringe benefits, Scharer explained. 

“You have your salary, but then you have your health insurance and your workers’ comp and your Social Security and your PERS,” she said. “That’s usually around 30 to 33 percent depending on how it compares, because our health insurance is a fixed cost, whereas the others are a percentage of the salary.”

Going forward, the focus for the departments is “really just reemphasizing responsibilities,” said Brase. “What we do have to figure out is that the support positions we lost were very helpful. So, now that’s falling on the dean more, and we’ll have to see how that goes.”

Students and faculty can look forward to the new Math, Engineering and Computer Sciences (MECS) and the Life and Physical Sciences departments coming to Chemeketa in Fall term of 2019. 

MECS will now have 18 full-time faculty members, leaving Life and Physical Science with 25, putting them on par with other educational departments at Chemeketa. 

Brase hopes the focused initiative will help the departments thrive. “I think a dean that understands their discipline well can help them continue to be the top,” he said.

The MECS dean’s first job will be revamping Chemeketa’s math progression pathway. Brase hopes to see more support programs added to help students finish their math requirement credits. 

“I think we’re shifting as we’ve seen a drop in enrollment at this school and as we pick up this Guided Pathways and Hispanic Serving Institute. We’re shifting our focus from filling seats to retaining students. It’s about providing enough support so that the students can stay in and get done what they’re hoping to get done,” said Brase. “The plan is [to hire] somebody that understands that kind of innovation.”

Brase and the hiring team are still finalizing who will oversee MECS, but he said they’ve found a great candidate for Life and Physical Science. Chemeketa hopes to announce the new deans within the next few weeks.

If all goes according to plan, students and faculty can find the new deans in their offices just in time for Fall term.

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