New Dean of CLASS Selected Pending Board Approval


By Graig Graziosi


A selection was made in the search for a new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Youngstown State University.


Kristine Blair, chair of the English department at Bowling Green State University, was selected for the position after a five-month search and will become the new dean of CLASS pending approval by the YSU Board of Trustees.


Blair has been the chair of the English department at BGSU for the past nine years, has served on that college’s faculty senate and is currently a member of the school’s faculty association negotiating team.


Student workplace preparedness — regardless of major within the CLASS — will be one of Blair’s areas of focus upon installation as dean.  kristine_blair_Jan161-1CMYK


“[Managing CLASS] involves listening to what students at YSU need in order to be professionally successful, and — despite the difference across the curriculum — that includes hands-on or real world experiences in internships, community engagement opportunities … all things that will help them engage professionally, whether that’s for graduate school or that first job upon graduation,” Blair said.


Improving access to hands-on or real world experiences will require engagement with businesses and local government, according to Blair.


“Part of [finding internship opportunities] for any new leader, whether a dean or department chair or a faculty member, would involve getting to know the community, finding and making connections with business and industry with local government to determine what types of opportunities do exist, what types of new initiatives do develop and how we can work to make the talents of our students visible both locally and nationally,” she said.


Blair’s tenure as dean of CLASS comes following a two-year interim period.


Jane Kestner, the interim dean of CLASS, will become the interim associate dean of CLASS upon Blair’s arrival on May 16 through the end of the fiscal year.


Kestner returned to the university from retirement in 2013 to become the interim dean.


Offering her perspective, Kestner — who also served as associate dean of CLASS for nine years prior to her selection as interim dean — said a CLASS dean must appreciate both the college’s eclectic subject matter, as well as student’s practical needs.


“The individual has to have a true appreciation of the humanities and social sciences and see the value of them,” Kestner said. “They have to be aware of the kinds of careers and opportunities that students graduating with those degrees have. … I think the willingness to development with the chairs and faculty in the college so that they get to know them.”


Whether or not Kestner remains with CLASS beyond the end of the fiscal year is up to Blair.


“Beyond June 30, if I have any further role in the college, it’ll be decided by Dean Blair,” Kestner said. “I love my job, I love the university, so I’d certainly be willing to stay on in some capacity.”


Blair was selected after a five-month search. Sal Sanders, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, chaired the committee, which included members from the faculty, the student body and the Board of Trustees.


“As I mentioned during our phone conversation, our search committee completed the search process for the dean of CLASS very efficiently,” Sanders said. “We had a great committee. The committee members were knowledgeable and worked tirelessly throughout this process of searching for and identifying those qualified to be recommended for further consideration for the position of dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.”


The Board of Trustees will meet on March 16. They are expected to make a final ruling on Blair’s hiring at that meeting.