Discussions with New Deans

By Jordan Unger

As the year comes to an end, three new Youngstown State University deans shared their experiences during their first year and talked about some upcoming changes to their colleges.

Phyllis Paul, dean of Creative Arts and Communications.

Phyllis Paul, dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communications, began her position in July. She said her time at YSU has been terrific so far.

“I think it’s one of the most creative places I’ve ever been,” Paul said. “I enjoy the collaboration that we have between the departments and across campus.”

The College of Creative Arts and Communications is working to make itself more visible to area schools and the community. Paul said this is something she hopes to see develop in the future.

“In many ways, I think we’re the best kept secret on campus,” Paul said. “They know we do a lot of stuff, but they don’t really know what goes on.”

Paul said CCAC wants to showcase its internal internships and student successes. One of the ways to do this is through the Presidential Gala on April 27, which will present the five departments of CCAC to the public.

Paul said the department chairs do a great job to keep her informed.

“The chairs are outstanding,” Paul said. “I meet with them regularly, and I make a conscious effort to know what the departments [are doing].”

Mini-grants are being launched next summer to encourage more interdisciplinary courses, Paul said. This could lead to an interdisciplinary degree collaborating with all the CCAC departments within five years.

“It broadens their horizons in different kinds of ways,” Paul said. “It’s a very transformative time to be alive.”

Wim Steelant, dean of STEM.

Wim Steelant, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is also excited about the progress his college has made since he started in March.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Steelant said. “I’m working on improvements of the facilities where I can.”

One of the largest investments in STEM since March is the renovation to the third floor of Moser Hall, Steelant said.

“We [now] have state-of-the-art physics research labs up there,” Steelant said.

Other changes to STEM facilities include improvements to the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum, a new 360-degree camera for the planetarium and the upcoming second manufacturing lab. Renovations to Ward Beecher and Moser Hall are underway, he said.

Steelant said he would like to use the Mineral Museum’s success to invest in a student-run store in Moser. The store would sell mineral samples and STEM apparel to raise money for the departments.

A bachelor’s of engineering in manufacturing was recently approved for STEM students. Steelant said it’s exciting, and people are waiting to get started with the program.

Kristine Blair, dean of CLASS.

Kristine Blair, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, started in May. Blair said she spent considerable time learning about the components of the college and connecting with the community.

“It’s been a busy but productive time,” Blair said. “I’ve been exceptionally impressed with students on campus.”

Blair attended CLASS student activities such as an ethics bowl practice, the Jenny release party and Moot Court. Blair said she continues to be impressed by student accomplishments.

“I’m really impressed with the extent to which students in CLASS are engaging in undergraduate research,” Blair said. “I’m aware of students who regularly go to conferences or work on poster sessions.”

It is important for a dean to remain visible to students and faculty on campus, Blair said.

“The work balance issue is always a challenge,” Blair said. “It is really important for a dean not to sit in her office all day long.”

A recent project will migrate the bachelor’s of general studies into online delivery, which Blair said is thanks to a partnership associate’s degree from Eastern Gateway Community College.

The bachelor’s of general studies will become available online starting fall 2017, Blair said.

“Online courses have become so popular for a diverse range of student populations,” she said. “Many students … like the idea of being able to take courses online, because they help with things like scheduling.”

A first-year experience course is under review to help orient students in CLASS to understand the mission of the college. Blair said the course will look at social issues and how each major and minor would approach the issue.

“We have nine academic units with diverse majors and minors,” Blair said. “I think the idea of trying to find something that fits every student is a real challenge, so we thought this would be a way to orient students about what CLASS is all about.”