Creating or Changing a Center in L&S
Faculty and staff often pursue interdisciplinary research, outreach, and outward-facing service activities under the auspices of formally organized units described as "centers" or "institutes". These tend to be flexible organizational structures that allow department-based individuals to cross department, school, and college boundaries to pay focused attention to an interdisciplinary topic, often supported by research grants and other sources of funding. Centers and institutes play an important role in the university's research activity and public profile, and campus policy governs their creation, review, and discontinuation. All centers and institutes that present themselves as formal UW-Madison units must be approved and recognized through formal governance processes. These processes signal the interest and intention of the faculty, which has created guidelines governing creating, changing, and discontinuing these units.
Guidelines for Establishing, Renaming, Reorganizing, or Discontinuing Centers, Institutes, and Center-like Units were approved by the University Academic Planning Council. These guidelines require that many organizational and administrative aspects of the unit be clearly articulated prior to establishing a center. Topics range from clearly establishing the unit's mission and purpose to articulating unit governance, administrative location, procedures for submitting regular reports or ensuring periodic evaluation, and conditions that would provoke discontinuation of the unit. All of these details must be considered prior to approval, and faculty are expected to alert their department chairs and associate dean about developing centers early in the process. In general, careful planning and thorough discussion lead to a smooth approval. (The link above includes a proposal template that should be used to ensure that all relevant questions are addressed.)
In L&S, the approval route begins at the level of the participating/convening faculty and staff before flowing through the participating departments and sponsoring units to the College. Requests should be addressed to the dean (usually via a memorandum to which a formal proposal addressing the elements required in the guidelines is attached). The dean will ask the appropriate associate dean to present the proposal to the L&S Academic Planning Council. Depending on the proposal and the degree of integration with other school/college units, the L&S Dean will confer with other schools and colleges to seek their comment, support, or concurrence; and in all cases, consultation across the schools/colleges will occur before the request moves to the university level.