After a nationwide, six-month search, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has announced its new dean: APU’s very own Dr. Jennifer Walsh, current CLAS associate dean and political science professor.
“We’ve got a fantastic year ahead of us,” Walsh said. “This is a great time to be in higher education because the landscape is changing. There’s a lot of discussion happening nationally about how to keep colleges affordable, how to address employer needs, how to make sure our students are getting a firm foundation but also the hands-on experience they need to be successful in the workplace. … It’s a really exciting time to be in the liberal arts and sciences.”
Dr. Mark Stanton, university provost, sent an email to faculty last Wednesday, March 26 announcing Walsh’s appointment and praising her commitment to leadership, scholarship and faith integration.
Walsh will oversee CLAS’ nine departments and lead more than 130 full-time faculty members, tasks she said she does not take likely.
“When I stop and think about just how many faculty members and students are housed in CLAS, it doesn’t make me nervous, but it does make me mindful of the responsibility,” she said. “I think my prayer life will be much more active in the coming years as I go before the Lord and seek his wisdom on these things.”
Walsh came to APU in fall 2005 as a political science professor and took up the CLAS associate dean role in September 2011. She said she knew in March 2013 that Dr. David Weeks, who was CLAS dean for 17 years, would be leaving to head the new Honors College, which started September 2013.
“At that time I knew that my colleague Don Isaak, who’s the interim dean, was not interested in applying for that position, and so I thought, ‘Well, maybe I will,’” she said. “So it’s been about a year that I’ve been praying about it and planning.”
Weeks wrote in an email to the Clause that he is pleased with Walsh’s appointment as his successor and pointed to her accomplishments as a scholar and teacher.
“Her work in faculty governance and in the CLAS dean’s office have prepared her well,” he wrote. “I wish her the very best.”
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs Vicky Bowden headed the search committee to find the new CLAS dean. Applications were posted last fall and first round interviews took place in February. After two Skype interviews, Walsh and one other finalist, a dean of a college at Union University in Tennessee, then participated in daylong interviews with faculty, students, staff, the president’s council, the provost and the president, Walsh said.
Walsh will officially assume her new role June 1 and said she is excited to step into the position.
“Deans often deal with a lot of headaches and a lot of problems. And … I actually enjoy problem-solving, and I find that it’s intellectually challenging to try to look for creative solutions,” she said.
Dr. Daniel Palm, chairman of the Department of History and Political Science, has worked with Walsh since she joined his department eight years ago and said she is “an excellent listener” who assesses situations quickly, as well as an extremely organized and talented administrator and manager.
“She’s very good at finding solutions to things before they even get to the problem stage, I think,” Palm said. “I’m sure she’s going to be a fantastic dean.”
Upcoming CLAS changes include a four-year engineering program, a stronger focus on internship experience and yet-to-be-determined accommodations for future changes to APU’s general-education requirements, according to Walsh.
Walsh used to teach four classes per semester, but has been warned that being a dean is “more than a full-time job.” She still plans to teach at least one class per year as dean, most likely on criminal law, her area of expertise.
“I think it’s a good reminder of why I fell in love with academia in the first place. I love being around students; the energy is infectious,” she said. “It helps me remember why we’re doing all the things that we’re doing.”
This year, both CLAS and the School of Business Management have formed committees to search for new deans. The SBM search is still ongoing, said Dr. Diane Guido, chair of that search committee. Guido, who serves as vice provost for Graduate Programs and Research, said committee members are still reviewing applications and interviewing candidates.
About Dr. Jennifer Walsh
Favorite food: Anything Mexican
“I can eat Mexican six days, seven days a week. Tortilla chips three times a day, if I could.”
Favorite color: Purple
“I have a purple car. I just like that color. I find it’s not too girly, but at the same time, it’s not too somber.”
Favorite music: Alternative rock
“My husband and I are huge music fans. Our CD library, for example, is probably a couple thousand CDs large. … We’ve got everything from classical and jazz all the way to country and rap.”
Pets: Two cats named Oreo and Scooter.
“You can guess what color Oreo is.”
Fun fact: She testified before the New Zealand parliament in June 2009 on a criminal-sentencing law.
“It changed a little bit after I testified and highlighted a few things that could work a little bit better for their system.”
Craziest thing she ever did: Paired up with Chozen hip-hop dance team for Dancing with the Profs in March 2011
“I did a krumping routine in UTCC.”