Campus Notebook Dean searches, legislative successes, new Skaggs Pharmacy Institute, and more

Dean Searches at the U Bring Opportunities

The University of Utah is currently searching to fill eight dean positions, a little less than half the institution’s total number of 19 deans.

Many of the departing deans have gone on to greater administrative responsibilities. Three searches—for the College of Education, the Graduate School, and the Marriott Library—are being supervised by Michael L. Hardman, the U’s interim senior vice president for academic affairs. Two more searches are being overseen by Vivian S. Lee, the U’s senior vice president for health sciences: for the College of Nursing and the U’s new School of Dentistry. And three additional searches—for the colleges of Law, Social and Behavioral Science, and Architecture + Planning, will begin this fall, under the new senior vice president for academic affairs, Ruth V. Watkins.

It’s a key moment that provides the University with the chance to bring in fresh ideas, says Gretchen Bataille, senior vice president of leadership and lifelong learning with the American Council on Education. “It should be viewed as an opportunity,” she says, to hire people who will bring greater diversity to the University, to look at how programs are aligned, to hire deans who have a good track record in fundraising, and to forge new teams across the institution.


The American Council on Education does studies of college presidencies every five years, and one recent trend has been that an increasing number of deans have been moving on to become college presidents, Bataille says. In the past, the majority of presidents came from provost positions. But the changing role of deans has made them attractive candidates for presidencies. “It used to be that deans were glorified department chairs,” she says. “Deans are now being asked to do a lot of fundraising and strategic thinking and data-based decision making.”

Because of that experience, they can be attractive candidates for college presidencies, she says. “When they go out to interview, they can talk knowledgeably about fiscal realities in higher education, and fundraising. It’s a relatively new training ground, because the old thinking was that they didn’t get involved in those duties.”

Two of the current U vacancies were created when University of Utah deans went on to college presidencies. Charles A. Wight, who was the dean of the U Graduate School, became president of Weber State University last fall. Hiram E. Chodosh, dean of the U’s College of Law, will take office as president of Claremont McKenna College on July 1.

Some U deans went on to other senior leadership roles. M. David Rudd, who was dean of the U College of Social and Behavioral Science, became provost of the University of Memphis this past March. The U College of Education deanship opened when Hardman moved from that job to be the U’s interim vice president of academic affairs. Joyce L. Ogburn, who was dean of the Marriott Library, became a special assistant to the U’s senior vice president for academic affairs, leading interdisciplinary projects. Maureen Keefe, dean of the College of Nursing, will be stepping down at the end of June to move into a new job assisting Lee with special projects, interprofessional education, and the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership (UCAP), which is a statewide effort to accelerate key industry sectors as engines of job creation and economic growth.

The Dentistry deanship is a new position for the school whose creation was approved last year. And Brenda Case Scheer, dean of the College of Architecture + Planning, announced in March that she would be stepping down to take a sabbatical to write a book, and then return to the U as a professor.

“In my previous role as senior vice president for academic affairs, I worked closely with all of these deans and know of their tremendous contributions to the U,” says U President David W. Pershing. “I’m not surprised to see new opportunities coming their way and look to their successors for continued achievement and academic excellence.”

Illinois Dean Named U’s Chief Academic Officer

The University of Utah has selected Ruth V. Watkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to become the U’s chief academic officer. Watkins was selected to be the U’s vice president for academic affairs after a national search. David W. Pershing held the position for 14 years before becoming president in 2012.

RuthWatkins2013redicationWatkins, who is a professor of speech and hearing science, will begin work at the U in August. “I’m honored to be joining a Pac-12 university that is growing in stature nationally and internationally,” she says. “I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Utah to implement President Pershing’s vision for delivering a high-quality academic experience that prepares students for meaningful roles in the global community.”

As the liberal-arts dean at the University of Illinois, Watkins has been a leader for 600 faculty members and has ensured quality in education for nearly 12,000 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students.

She also has overseen a budget of approximately $142 million per year and has promoted the college’s fundraising and advancement efforts. During her time, the college exceeded its fundraising goal of $250 million.

She joined the faculty at Illinois as an assistant professor in 1993. She served as associate dean for academic and research affairs in the College of Applied Health Sciences from 2000 to 2003. She became an associate provost in 2003 and then served as vice provost from 2006 to 2008, when she became a dean.

“Ruth is a superb administrator with a strong academic background, including major external research funding and a focus on the undergraduate experience,” Pershing says. “I am confident her collaborative leadership style and commitment to providing exceptional educational opportunities will enable her to enjoy continued success here in Utah.”

Watkins graduated with highest honors from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor of arts in speech-language pathology. She received a master of arts in child language at the University of Kansas and continued there to obtain a doctorate in child language.

Legislative Successes Include Med School Funds

Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah State Legislature demonstrated unprecedented support for the University of Utah during the 2013 legislative session. The University received funding increases that will allow it to restore and increase the Medical School’s class size, implement a small pay increase for employees, and provide continuing support for USTAR, as well as other initiatives.

capitolfront“It was a great year on the Hill for the University of Utah and higher education in the state,” said University of Utah President David W. Pershing, in a letter thanking the many political advocates who helped advance the U’s causes during the 2013 legislative session. More than 400 volunteers—alumni, present and former faculty and staff members, and students—have signed up to be political advocates for the University, and they helped by contacting lawmakers at key junctures to voice their support for the U. Their efforts were coordinated by the U for Higher Ed Committee through a program sponsored by the University of Utah Alumni Association and the University’s Office of Government Affairs.

The advocates’ efforts were well received by the Legislature, says Jason P. Perry JD’99, the University’s vice president for government relations: “All of our top priorities were accomplished.”

The 2013 session of the Legislature ended in March. Thanks to the efforts of Pershing and Health Sciences Vice President Vivian Lee, the Legislature passed S.B. 42, which appropriates $10 million in ongoing funding, with $6.5 million in the first year, to expand the Medical School’s class size from 82 students to 102, starting this fall. The class size will then increase an additional 20 slots in 2014, bringing the total number of annually admitted students to 122.

Lawmakers also approved partial funding for a 1 percent compensation increase for public higher-education employees. In a clear sign of support for the USTAR initiative, which continues to bring world-class researchers to the state, the Legislature appropriated $5 million in ongoing funding that will help restore some prior budget cuts and allow the U to fund new research teams. And as requested by the Utah State Board of Regents, legislators appropriated $18 million to help fund distinctive mission initiatives as well as growth at each public institution of higher education.

U Named Pac-12 Champion in Green Power

Windmill-powerThe University of Utah’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which announced in April that the U is the Pac-12 conference champion for the 2012-13 College & University Green Power Challenge. The U beat its conference rivals by using more than 93 million kilowatthours of green power, representing 31 percent of the University’s annual electricity usage.

The U purchases a combination of renewable energy certificates and utility green power products from 3Degrees and Rocky Mountain Power, which helps to reduce the environmental impacts associated with electricity use on campus. In addition, the U generates green power from an on-site renewable energy system. The green power purchases were motivated by a studentled campaign to create a fund for clean energy purchases.

L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Institute Opens at the U

The L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Institute at the University of Utah was opened in April, providing a new, 150,000-square-foot home for pharmacy research and teaching, as well as the Utah Poison Control Center.

The $75 million-plus building was created through the generosity of the late L.S. “Sam” Skaggs and stands as a tribute to Skaggs’ dedication to scientific discovery and many years of involvement with the University’s College of Pharmacy. A businessman and philanthropist who led one of the country’s largest food and drugstore chains, American Stores, Skaggs and charitable organizations he created donated more than $50 million to help construct the new U institute. Skaggs died on March 21.

Master’s Degree in Entertainment Arts Approved

RPECrop2The Utah State Board of Regents in late March approved a master’s degree in Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) at the University of Utah. EAE is an interdisciplinary program between the U’s colleges of Fine Arts and Engineering and will provide the first advanced degree for the discipline in the state.

The new degree approval coincides with the program being recognized for the number one undergraduate and number two graduate game degrees in the nation by the Princeton Review in its 2013 rankings, released in mid-March.

Previously, U students in the EAE Master Games Studio graduated with a master’s degree in computing or a master of fine arts degree in film and media arts, with an emphasis in game arts, game engineering, or game production.

Read the Continuum feature package on the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering program here.

Honorary Degrees Bestowed at Commencement

A physician, a mountain climber, and an executive specializing in environmental sustainability were presented with honorary doctoral degrees at a revamped University of Utah commencement ceremony in May.

In an effort to attract greater participation, the U this year moved the ceremony from a daytime slot to a Thursday evening, and incorporated multimedia elements, including an Instagram photo contest in which students were invited to submit photos, with the winning shots displayed at the ceremony.

Thomas D. Rees MD’48, a U alum and physician who co-founded the Flying Doctor Service of East Africa, received an honorary doctorate in science. Mountaineer Apa Sherpa, who has summited Mount Everest a world-record 21 times, received a doctorate of humane letters. And Andrea Brantzeg Thomas BS’88, a senior vice president of sustainability for Walmart Stores, received a doctorate of humanities.

Natalie Gochnour Named Associate Business Dean

NatalieGochnourThe David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah has appointed Natalie Gochnour BS’84 MS’88 as an associate dean. A 28-year Utah public policy veteran, Gochnour’s U job will involve enhancing the relevance, reputation, and relationships of the school with business and community leaders throughout the state.

Gochnour will report to both the dean of the business school and the president’s office, and she will plan and implement a new public policy initiative focusing on serving Utah businesses and community leaders. For the past seven years, Gochnour has guided the public policy work of the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s largest business association, representing 7,700 member businesses. She will continue to advise the Salt Lake Chamber and serve as their chief economist.

U Neighborhood Partners Opens New Center

University Neighborhood Partners celebrated the grand opening of the new 10,000-square-foot Hartland Partnership Center in April. The center brings together University of Utah faculty members and students, nonprofit organizations, and residents of west Salt Lake City to address economic, linguistic, and social barriers.

The partnership provides help with English language acquisition, family financial literacy, citizenship issues, afterschool programs, employment skills, health-care education, and life skills training.

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