Twelve years ago I “temporarily” left the classroom and the Economics Department to serve as the associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. It was meant to be a short change of pace that would allow me to better understand the workings of the college and the university beyond my own department. After six years as associate dean and six years as dean, my time in this office has not been short. However, as is always the case it has proven to be temporary. In September, I announced that this would be my last academic year as dean. I am headed back to the classroom and to the Economics Department to engage in the real work of the university. Though I have enjoyed my time in administration supporting the efforts of the college’s 460 full- and part-time faculty members, now it is time for me to re-engage in that work more directly.
I have learned much during my time in the dean’s office. First and foremost, I learned that the positive things happening in the Economics Department were only a small part of the many wonderful activities taking place throughout the entire College of Arts and Sciences. Further, I learned that the college is filled with dedicated faculty and staff who devote themselves daily to providing to our students a high-quality and life-changing education. I also learned that the dean is well-positioned to support their work in numerous different ways, and I have worked hard to do just that. As part of that support, I have enjoyed sharing stories of the accomplishments of my colleagues with alumni, prospective students, parents and potential donors. Some of those stories have appeared on the pages of this magazine, but those represent only a small fraction of the many extraordinary achievements of our faculty, staff and students!
At this time of transition, I have been asked to reflect on my accomplishments as dean. Most, if not all, of those that I might list would be achievements made possible through the collaboration with and hard work of many others. I discovered that deans are able to accomplish very little on their own and that any successful administrator must learn this lesson quickly. Among these shared accomplishments, I am proud of our hiring of and support for terrific new faculty, made necessary by the retirement of valued colleagues. Careful attention to hiring is necessary to maintain the student-centered environment that has made us successful in the past. And, if you will permit me one more, I am excited by the interest we have generated in new buildings for the fine arts and for the sciences, about which I wrote in my most recent column. I look forward to watching from my faculty office as those efforts come to fruition in the years ahead.
One challenge that I have faced throughout my time as dean has been to articulate a clear identity for my college. On many occasions when I have explained to alumni that the College of Arts and Sciences encompasses 22 departments and 14 interdisciplinary programs in the humanities, including theology and philosophy, the arts, the natural sciences and the social sciences, their reply has been, “But that’s St. Thomas!” In fact, the College of Arts and Sciences is so much a part of what St. Thomas is, that it is sometimes overlooked or taken for granted. I wish the next dean success in making certain this does not continue to happen in the future. For me, the College of Arts and Sciences will always be the very heart and soul of the university that I have served and come to love over the past 27 years.
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