PULLMAN, Wash. — Dr. Erich Lear, currently a professor and graduate studies director for the Washington State University’s School of Music and Theatre Arts and former director of the school, has been named director of the Liberal Arts General Studies program.

“Erich Lear brings to this position many years of administrative experience and a genuine interest in and concern for students and their liberal arts education,” said Liberal Arts dean Barbara Couture.

General studies is the college’s third largest major just behind communication and criminal justice. The major typically accommodates students whose primary interest in the humanities or social sciences requires interdisciplinary programs and course selections. Students help create their own programs in the major.

After long being considered a “catch all” major for students who couldn’t make up their minds or couldn’t progress in traditional majors, Lear’s appointment is a substantial indication attitudes are changing. “Some of our most successful alums are general studies majors,” the dean said.

“This is the optimal position for me,” says Lear, “because I’ve always wanted to work in more than one field. I’m excited about working with students who have a variety of interests and goals, and choose this major hoping those interests will be fostered. This has always been my main commitment in higher education.”

Lear has demonstrated a wide range of interests and abilities since coming to WSU in 1989. During his tenure as director of the School of Music and Theatre Arts, he developed music degree options with business, theatre, electrical engineering and computer science. He was instrumental in planning for the school’s new digital recording studio and in securing a $625,000 grant from the Allen Foundation for Music to pay for equipment and studio maintenance. Lear was program committee chair for the Kimbrough Music Building remodeling project that was rededicated in 2002 and heavily involved in pre-design, design and construction of the state-of-the art facility.

“He is both an ‘idea’ person and a ‘can do’ person,” said Dr. James Schoepflin, current director of the School of Music and Theatre Arts.

Although Lear is already setting up in his new office in Smith Gym, he will maintain participation in a half dozen graduate committees and Honors College student projects tied to the music school and will teach one upper-level or graduate-level music class every other academic year.

Lear’s goal for the General Studies program is “a clearer and more visible identity that prizes the multi/inter/cross-disciplinary nature of the program which is currently not well described by the title, ‘general’ education.”

“He will help create a liberal arts identity for our general studies program and its students, and he will provide the faculty leadership we need to build and maintain a top-quality undergraduate program,” said Couture.

Lear is assisted in his efforts by academic adviser Mark Moreno, and Tom Whittaker, the General Studies program assistant.

Born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa, Lear got his bachelor’s and advanced degrees from the University of Iowa.