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Consultant report on UNH Manchester issues almost done

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 14. 2013 11:03PM
The main entrance of UNH at Manchester is on Commercial Street, and is a renovated mill building. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader file)

MANCHESTER - A remake may be in store for the struggling University of New Hampshire at Manchester, which is the subject of a consultant's report, now nearing completion, that has been in the works for months.

The University of New Hampshire commissioned the report in April, and the Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group agreed to address problems such as budget deficits, competition, enrollment and frosty relations between the faculty and the recently departed dean at the Millyard campus, according to a scope of work that Huron drafted.

"We plan to focus the majority of our time on assessing the administrative, financial and governance issues between UNHM and UNH, and crafting and evaluating strategic alternatives for the campus," says the outline of the work, or work scope, the consultant is doing.

UNH at Manchester bills itself as the urban campus of UNH with a heavy emphasis on science and technology. Recently, it launched an Emerging Technology Center and a STEM Discovery Lab, which offers technology classes to area high school students.

However, internal struggles came to the fore in early November when the top administrator at the campus, Dean Ali Rafieymehr, abruptly resigned his $204,000 a year position. The Internet performance company Dyn subsequently scooped up Rafieymehr and named him director of instructional design.

It appears that the Huron effort was initially an attempt to bolster Rafrieymehr.

In its work scope, Huron noted "issues on campus between the faculty and the new dean."

It said university President Mark Huddleston and Provost Lisa MacFarlane had spent time with the Manchester faculty and staff "to support the new dean's leadership, and are now intervening formally, expressing continued support for the dean in the context of engaging Huron to help, and making clear that the future of the Manchester campus depends upon everyone coming together around a solid, fact-based plan."

The scope was drafted and signed in April, seven months before Rafieymehr's departure.

The university agreed to pay Huron between $125,000 and $175,000, as well as expenses, which could run as much as 18 percent of the contracted amount. A formal marketing study may be required, and if so an additional work scope would be developed, Huron wrote.

A finished product was expected in August, but the university opted to slow the process to obtain broad faculty participation, said spokesman Erika Mantz. The consultants gathered data during the summer and interviewed people. Then it engaged with an advisory committee in the fall, Mantz said.

"The work is almost complete," she said.

The advisory committee comprises:

. Mark Rubinstein, university vice president of student and academic services

. Todd DeMitchell, chairman of the university education department

. Gary Goldstein, chairman of the university psychology department

. Doreen Palmer, associate registrar at the Manchester campus

. Kathy Braun, director of administration and finance services at the Manchester campus

. Stephen Pugh, division chairman and biology professor at the Manchester campus

. P.T. Vasudevan, UNH senior vice provost of academic affairs

. Ted Kirkpatrick, UNH associate dean and director of JusticeWorks

. Susan Walsh, associate professor of English at the Manchester campus

. Ryan Pitts, alumnus

. Frank Wells, corporate representative and senior vice president at Hoyle, Tanner and Associates.

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