COLUMBIA — UM System President Tim Wolfe announced a series of organizational changes Wednesday that would realign and consolidate administrative offices at the system level.
Plans include merging the office of vice president of academic affairs with the vice president of research and economic development. A nationwide search will be conducted to fill the position, to be called the vice president for academic affairs and research.
Strategic communications and government relations will be combined into a department called university relations. Steve Knorr, current head of government relations, will lead the department. Jennifer Hollingshead, now in charge of strategic communications, will report to him.
Wolfe outlined the changes in a Wednesday letter to University faculty and staff: "This means adapting our organizational structure to better meet both the opportunities — and challenges — that come with change so that our institution can be as efficient and effective as possible."
The changes were precipitated by the announcement of Nikki Krawitz's upcoming retirement from her position as vice president for finance and administration in June.
Krawitz is responsible for the university’s $2.5 billion budget, as well as investments, university debt, internal auditing, facilities planning, procurement and institutional research and planning.
A certified accountant, she has 30 years of experience in higher education, according to her biography on the UM System's website, and has been with the university system since 1996.
Uniting academic affairs and research is designed to align resources where several of the priorities are, said UM System spokeswoman Hollingshead.
"Marrying the organizational structures will allow the office to be more efficient and competitive, especially in our core mission areas," Hollingshead said.
The intent is to work with research units on all four campuses to be more effective in competing for the pool of research funding, she said.
Michael Nichols is vice president for research and economic development, but the office of the vice president for academic affairs has been vacant for several years, Hollingshead said.
A search will begin shortly to fill this post, she said, in order to devote sufficient time to identifying the right person.
"It's an important position embodying many of our core missions," she said.
Wolfe noted in his letter that this person will work with the chief academic officers on each campus to address the continuing evolution of higher education.
He or she will also be charged with strategic planning, helping each campus secure federal research dollars and promoting economic development in the state.
The office of university relations will be responsible for strategic communications, government relations and external affairs at national, state and local levels, Hollingshead said.
"We will be talking with a unified voice to all constituencies," she said.
In the search to replace Krawitz, Wolfe said the system is focusing the responsibilities for the role on university-wide financial planning, including budget, management of the endowment, retirement trust funds and debt, accounting, procurement, risk management and facilities planning and development.
At the end of his letter, Wolfe wrote that he is "confident these changes will be instrumental in ensuring we remain on the forefront of change as we continue to fulfill our statement mission and serve the people of Missouri."