Over the summer, Lenoir-Rhyne University underwent a reorganization to the layout of its academic structure. A few simple name changes. Mostly paperwork.
But the results are completely overhauling the academic day-to-day and providing transformational opportunities to students.
By transforming the previous academic structure, which featured four colleges, into a six-college format, LR has begun to evenly distribute programs, faculty and funds, which opens up opportunities for research and discovery for students and faculty.
"The college structure grew out of the program chair structure, which was the governing ethos of the day," said LR Provost Dr. Gary Johnson. "When we started adding graduate programs, there was a recognized need for deans. In some ways, there wasn't an even distribution between number of faculty and programs in those colleges. I also sensed that there were some faculty who were interested in administration and governance in ways that could be productive for the institution."
Typically, in higher education, a program chair serves in a leadership role developing policy for an individual program, whereas a dean oversees an entire college promoting programs, research opportunities and development initiatives.
"We've had a lot of really great ideas, but — until now — we haven't had the opportunity to harness that creative energy and move it forward," said Dr. Veronica McComb, who is the new dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "Now we have a college that has a little more ability to leverage some of the talents we have in terms of scholarship and research."
In addition to McComb, Dr. David Jones has been selected to serve as the interim dean of the College of Business and Economics. Dr. Jennifer Heller is leading the College of Fine Arts and Communication, and Dr. Shaun Williams was selected to oversee the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
Dr. Michael McGee and Dr. Hank Weddington remain as deans of the College of Health Sciences and College of Education and Human Services, respectively.
Education and Human Services
Education and Human Services
Professional Studies and Mathematics
Business and Economics
Arts and Sciences
Humanities and Social Sciences
Fine Arts and Communication
Natural Sciences and Mathematics
"With the six-college structure, I wanted to increase the responsibility and autonomy of those deans," Johnson said. "We have more deans and fewer school chairs now. We also have deans over academic units that have the ability to manage and lead more effectively. Under the old College of Arts and Sciences, we used to have everything from theater to physics."
Johnson spent a full year surveying the previous structure, speaking with professors, students and school administrators gathering information and determining the best way to proceed. After submitting a recommendation to Lenoir-Rhyne President Dr. Fred Whitt, the two went to work moving forward with the changes.
Candidates for the new dean positions were either nominated by colleagues or expressed interest to go through the interview process fully with a resume, letter of interest and presentation for the faculty they were called to represent.
"I'm a very big proponent of collaborative teaching and collaborative projects," McComb said. "There are some exciting things we can do. Since we have so many dedicated scholars, I'd like to provide more mentored research opportunities for our students. We have that in the sciences, but I think there's no better time for students to work on projects with our faculty, too."
McComb said upon her selection, she and her fellow deans were given two clear charges: to be champions and stewards of academic excellence and visionaries for innovative leadership.
"For someone like me who enjoys problem solving and helping people," McComb said. "It's a great fit."