CLA dean candidate visits Main Campus

Susan Roberts, one of the four candidates for the dean of College of Liberal Arts, met with students, faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon.

Susan Roberts, one of the four candidates selected to replace interim dean William Stull in the College of Liberal Arts, met with faculty, students and staff on Tuesday afternoon.

From 3:30-4:15 p.m., she spoke to about 15 undergraduate and graduate students in Room 1221 of Anderson Hall, addressing their questions and concerns.

Roberts is currently the associate dean for international affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, as well as the director for the international program and a professor of geography.

“I’ve been working at the same place for 25 years,” she said. “I’m a loyal person … [but] I enjoy this phase in my career by giving back to public higher education and making a difference.”

Roberts said she was drawn to Temple because of the momentum it has gained as a research one university, the good press it has received and the university’s leadership.

She said some of the values she would bring to the dean position are integrity, an interest in fairness and transparency.

Roberts also emphasized interdisciplinary study for scholarly and professional success.

“One of the things I like about being a scholar and geographer is it’s wild and rangy,” she said. “We owe it to our students to think across the boundaries of their disciplines. … Strong departments and interdisciplinary [study] can go hand-in-hand.”

Many graduate students asked about the structure of the master’s and Ph.D. programs in CLA, expressing concerns about curriculums and possible instability with a primarily non-tenure track faculty.

Roberts’ background includes experience in graduate student admissions, funding and graduation rates. She said the University of Kentucky has “always involved the graduate students in decision making,” and “treat them as junior faculty.”

She added that graduate students and faculty share a common cause and have “many alignments and overlap”.

Graduate programs should recruit “really good students who are a really good fit for their program” and can support them “for a sustainable number of years,” Roberts said.

She added she encourages each department to have a vision of how to help graduate students complete their degrees in a timely manner, along with preparing them for job opportunities, including building connections and resources.

“There’s no excuse now in the present job market to not help students think about job options,” she said.

Roberts asked students about their involvement within CLA and said she would be open to suggestions for further participation, including a graduate student leadership committee similar to “a think tank for the dean’s office.”

Finding a balance between tenured and non-tenure track professors is important to the financial and academic stability of a school or college, Roberts said. She added the University of Kentucky’s budget is currently suffering because much of its faculty is tenured—meaning they are “locked in” to university contracts. According to the university’s website, 69.7 percent of the faculty is tenure or tenure track. 

Temple’s current faculty is 45.8 percent tenured or tenure-track. More than half of the faculty are adjuncts.

Roberts said she takes a “consultative-style leadership” approach and is an “open-door person,” including outside of office hours.

“I don’t think it’s the dean’s job to tell the department to change, it’s the dean’s job to prod … to help the department to figure out how to make the department better,” she said. “I would hope [being dean] would be intellectually, personally and professionally rewarding.”

Lian Parsons can be reached at on Twitter @Lian_Parsons.

CORRECTION: The original article stated that Susan Roberts said 69.7 percent of the University of Kentucky’s faculty is tenured. She did not say this and the figure was obtained from the university’s website. The Temple News regrets the error. 

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