New deans reflect on year

Last summer, six deans were appointed at WSU. Below are their answers to a few questions WSU Today posed about their first year:

1. You’ve been in the dean’s position for about a year. In that time, has your perspective changed about the college or this position?

* James P. Kehrer, College of Pharmacy: Yes. I was told that “no matter what they tell you, what they really want is someone to raise money.” That turns out to contain a lot of truth, but what they did not tell me is that the position is largely meetings. My perspective on the college, however, has not changed. It is a place brimming with motivated students and faculty, and with untapped potential.

* Erich Lear, College of Liberal Arts: When the “interim” designation left my title, my meeting schedule, e-mail and voice mail tripled. The big issues remain consistent; however, my perspective has changed in that it is clearer, not surprisingly, that the liberal arts dean’s job is, at present, too large.

* Linda Kirk Fox, WSU Extension: My perspective hasn’t changed as much as it is reinforced time and again about the magnitude of our reach and the positive impact of our programs on businesses and communities. My perspective has changed in that we are an unknown quantity to many within the university — and that has got to change.

* Eric Spangenberg, College of Business: Yes. There is a lot of responsibility associated with the position that can be overwhelming if you think of it all at the same time. I like to do as great coaches do and break the challenges down into manageable chunks or timeframes and work on a few things at a time. Kind of like eating an elephant.

* Candis Claiborn, College of Engineering and Architecture: I feel very fortunate to step into this position at this time in our college. There are many great opportunities for us for the next 5-10 years. Students graduating with engineering degrees have a wide range of potential careers ahead of them. State budgets are significantly improving, and the upcoming foundation campaign will be really exciting.

* Daniel J. Bernardo, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences: Not really. Our college is very mission-driven, and the challenges we face in addressing the needs of the agricultural, natural resource and human science-related industries in our state are large and complex. I knew this coming in to the position.

2. In order of priority, what are your top goals for your college right now?

* Kehrer:
1. Hiring new chairs in the departments of Pharmacotherapy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
2. Developing and implementing a completely new curriculum and laying the ground work for re-accreditation.
3. Successfully implementing the recommendations for the realignment of health science units at WSU.

* Lear:
1. Our students, faculty and staff connect with the public on major issues and help facilitate change.
2. Our budget supports these issues and connections.
3. We help the university focus on people — who we are, how we interact, what we create.

Everyone benefits by knowing more about himself or herself and about others. Some will complement their major work with this knowledge, and others will emphasize this knowledge in their major work. Our college provides both paths.

* Fox:
1. Completion of the integrated marketing plan we launched last year to establish WSU Extension as a strategically-focused, impact-oriented resource for the state and its citizens.

* Spangenberg:
1. Increasing opportunity, support and desire for College of Business students to study abroad. 
2. Increasing development activity and results.

* Claiborn:
1. To produce more engineers, architects and construction managers from WSU, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

* Bernardo:
1.Garnering new resources through an initiative being prepared for the 2007 Legislative session and the upcoming foundation campaign. 
2. Obtaining a better understanding of, and serving the needs of, Washington’s agriculture and natural resource industries. 
3. Increasing undergraduate enrollment in the agricultural and natural resource sciences.

3. What are your college’s greatest strength and greatest weakness?

* Kehrer: Strength: quality of the students. Weakness: faculty shortages and faculty turnover.

* Lear: Strength: renewed focus that is allowing us to do more, with greater visibility, based on our existing capacities. Weakness: the length of time it sometimes takes to describe all that we do — we so often find ourselves having to detail what we do.

* Fox: Strength: our people and our strategic placement in both the academic departments on campus(es) and in the communities throughout the state. Weakness: faculty turnover we are starting to experience due to retirements. 

* Spangenberg: Strength: Our great faculty, staff and students. Weakness: the number of faculty available to meet the growing demand for both undergraduate and graduate student instruction and training.

* Claiborn: Strength: Our faculty and staff, and our successful student groups and activities that consistently win regional and national awards. Weakness: the small size of our college. We are working to build critical mass in more signature areas.

* Bernardo: CAHNRS’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: the size and breadth of its programs. Its disciplines range from biochemistry to interior design. Our goal is to make this breadth an asset in addressing society’s problems in an interdisciplinary manner.

4. What’s your greatest challenge right now, personally or professionally?
* Kehrer: Personally; getting our house completed so we can move out of the apartment.

* Lear: Professionally, and in some ways personally, balancing economic development with societal impact is a struggle. In higher education, we do many things that are “priceless,” but they sometimes also are hardest to fund.

* Fox: Professionally, adequate time to attend to the leadership agenda while balancing the management issues that are a natural part of the organization of our size.

* Spangenberg: Balancing my family life and demands with those of the college and university. 

* Claiborn: Professionally, how to inform the layperson, and the graduating high school senior, about the impacts that engineers have on society and the just-plain-fun nature of engineering as a career.

* Bernardo: Professionally, balancing my internal college responsibilities with externally focused activities, such as time with agricultural producers, natural resource groups, etc.
5. What one thing that happened in the past year surprised you or was something you did not expect?

* Kehrer: How much I loved snowshoeing. (It only snowed four times in my 25 prior years in Austin, Texas).

* Lear: It’s a wonderful dilemma. At present, four families in our dean’s office are expecting or have recently had new babies. This happened once before, but only three, when I was in the music and theater school here at WSU. I never thought I’d see it again.

* Fox: I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the fact that extension receives more than $9 million dollars annually from county government in support of our faculty salaries and operations. This is an especially pleasant surprise in light of the fact that extension is a discretionary item, not mandated service, in county operations.

* Spangenberg: The amount of support for where the College of Business is headed both internally and externally has been overwhelming. I’m not so much surprised at the support in general, but I guess I didn’t expect such strength and willingness, from all the parties, to pull together for our common purposes. 

* Claiborn: On a personal note, I discovered that I could still take a spill on a horse and not get hurt! (Well, except for a couple of bruises and my pride…).

* Bernardo: Probably the number of external groups that wanted to visit with me. Once I made myself available to the outside constituents, the demands on my time were overwhelming. 

6. If you could add one position to your college staff right now to have the most impact, what would that position be?

* Kehrer: A faculty position.

* Lear: Along with a diversity leadership position, leadership for a center for the arts, needs in the Murrow School and others, I think what we need most, perhaps, is a very highly qualified grant writer.

* Fox: An extension health specialist.

* Spangenberg: The answer to this question will get me in trouble with whatever group isn’t named in my choice.  Most of all I wish I could clone myself so I could be managing internally at the same time I am working externally.

* Claiborn: I would hire a recently graduated WSU engineering student to help us with our recruitment and retention initiatives.

* Bernardo: a communication coordinator. Communication — both internal and external — is critical.

7. If you could have everyone in your college faculty and staff read one book this year, what would it be?

* Kehrer: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulghum.

* Lear:  Well, it wouldn’t be a book. The time to read a long book would be about the time it would take to listen to Gustav Mahler’s symphonies and song cycles with orchestra: great music with many messages in the poetry.

* Fox: “Good to Great and the Social Sectors,” the supplement to Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great.”

* Spangenberg: Everyone expects me to say “The World is Flat,” by Friedman, but I think people would get more out of “Let My People Go Surfing,” by Yvon Chouinard.

* Claiborn: “Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century,” by the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Engineering Education.

* Bernardo: “Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” by Michael Lewis, about how the Oakland A’s baseball team is run. It’s the story of how a smaller entity can successfully compete — and there are obvious lessons in that for WSU.

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