By Jacob Abrahamson–
The third finalist for the position of dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, visited campus and held an open forum today.
Kempf-Leonard seemed to pride herself on being a reformer who is unafraid of making tough decisions and facing new challenges. Much of her talk focused on the issues she has faced at SIU and how she believes they have prepared her for a bigger school like Louisville. She cited examples such as the mediation of a faculty strike, the reorganization of the college accounting system and the implementation of retention initiatives.
Calling herself a “lifelong learner who loves college,” she appeared excited at the broad array of educational programs available in A&S. However, one of the concerns about her candidacy, which she acknowledged early on, is her lack of experience in the natural sciences due to the separation of colleges at SIU.
Natural science professors in attendance asked her about her specific understanding of the structure of their departments. Citing her work on a tenure committee and with starting labs in neuroscience and physical anthropology, she attempted to alleviate any doubts about her lack of experience in this area.
She expressed enthusiasm to work in an environment such as Louisville, because the budget and number if faculty is much larger than that of SIU, allowing her more opportunities to improve education.
While she acknowledged budget cut difficulties, she paid more attention to the challenges of developing and executing new academic initiatives. One of the biggest challenges, she said, is encouraging faculty to change the status quo in order to adapt to new initiatives that are required by an increasingly diverse student body.
Many of the initiatives she discussed dealt with retention and graduation timelines. She feels that campus engagement is the key to retention and graduation. Campus engagement, she says, involves changes in how students are advised and how classes are scheduled. Some examples of these changes are block scheduling, which is similar to a learning community, and classes which start mid-semester.
Kempf-Leonard is the current dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, a position which she has held since 2011.
More than 30 faculty members attended the event, which included a short talk by the candidate and a question and answer section.
More information on the A&S dean candidates can be found on Louisvillecardinal.com
Photo by Jacob Abrahamson / The Louisville Cardinal.