First LAS dean candidate visits, speaks at open forum

Jennifer Nacin

A round of campus visits from College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean candidates began Monday with Peter Sherwood, who presented high ideals for the college he said he believes is most important at a school.

An open forum for students, faculty and staff Monday in the Gallery Room of the Memorial Union offered a chance for members of the university to hear a brief presentation from the British-born Sherwood, university distinguished professor and head of the department of chemistry at Kansas State University.

The audience asked questions and voiced concerns about the current position of dean and how Sherwood would navigate the college if he were chosen for the position. Sherwood is one of four candidates up for the position.

Sherwood focused his ideas on how important the faculty was within the college.

“It’s music to the ears of anyone in the humanities to hear a scientist say that the research generated by somebody in the humanities is just as valuable as that generated by somebody in the sciences,” said Constance Post, associate professor of English.

His presentation on the role of liberal arts and sciences in a modern research university touched base on several issues and challenges facing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the central role of the college to students, the importance of land grant universities and Sherwood’s background.

He addressed issues, changes and improvements he feels are necessary for the college and those affected by it.

“Well, there are faculty and education issues, improving the quality of undergraduate education, improving the quality of graduate education, hiring and maintaining outstanding faculty … [and] taking every opportunity to attract more women and minorities into the faculty,” Sherwood said.

He said he would focus on being proactive in hiring more women and diverse faculty and creating a “more friendly environment.”

He did not elaborate on how he would get more women and minorities and said the topic would be discussed further at a diversity forum at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Oak Room of the Memorial Union.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a central part of undergraduate and graduate study because it provides a vast number of core classes for students, he said. Humanities have been the heart of education for the past eight centuries, he said.

He said he sees a need to increase the size of undergraduate programs and the number of distinguished members in the college. He did not specify how this goal would be reached.

“The central role of the college is fundamental to the future of any modern research university,” Sherwood said.

Making a case for maintaining and gaining greater state support is an important ideal in a time of minimized budgets, he said.

Sherwood said he encourages students to interact with faculty and to not be intimidated by them. He said he plans to increase student-faculty interaction through non-graded tutorial groups, recitation sessions and honors programs. Concerns about the departmental cooperation and support were answered with Sherwood’s hope for unity.

“When tough decisions have to be made, they can’t be made without an appreciation of the great value of departments,” Sherwood said.