With ideas of how to change the general education program in the works, one Baker professor is leading the way for the university on this path.
Associate Professor of French Erin Joyce will become the first-ever assistant dean of liberal studies July 1, making her head of the general education department.
Joyce said this is a brand new position, no one person has ever actually been in charge.
Last spring, a university search committee conducted a national search and didn't have any luck finding a person for this job. Joyce said she was approached last fall after it had been suggested by University President Pat Long to use a faculty member. She got the official word Feb. 12.
"I'm very honored to have been asked," Joyce said.
Right now, Joyce said she is in a transitional phase, meaning she is still teaching classes, but also attending meetings and brainstorming ideas for new programs. Joyce said this has been really beneficial to her, giving her more time to learn about the program.
"I'm really lucky to have this transitional period," Joyce said.
Similar to the way her schedule has been changed this semester, Joyce will still be teaching, just not as much, even after taking this position in the summer.
"It's going to be weird not teaching full time," Joyce said.
Provost Randy Pembrook said having someone like Joyce providing an identity for this program will give the program momentum.
"I'm excited about Erin taking the position," Pembrook said.
Pembrook said Joyce is a great academic leader with great ideas, is optimistic and using that optimism to inspire others, has creativity to think outside the box and is a reasonable person.
"She is well-respected by her colleagues," Pembrook said. "That will be very important."
In addition to working well with colleagues, Pembrook said she has the ability to think from the students' perspective, and working with students while serving in this position is something Joyce is excited to do.
Rand Ziegler, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said it was her excitement that made Joyce a great candidate for the job.
"She's let me know for some time if there's opportunities around where she could kind of wear some of those other hats, to let her know," Ziegler said at the announcement Feb. 12. "Her work, in various components of committee work, and other types of initiatives certainly qualified her for consideration anytime something came up that was administrative."
As assistant dean of liberal studies, Joyce's main and immediate goal will be to have a model of the new program by the end of the semester to present to the faculty and student senate. She also hopes to see the new program in process in the next two years with a 100 percent phase out of the old program by Fall 2011.
To do this, Joyce will be working on gearing the new liberal arts program toward three themes: abilities in writing and speech; understandings in fields such as science; and experiences, such as study abroad, service work and team projects.
Joyce said she also wants to change how students get their general education credits covered and have them apply more to specific majors.
"There's an attitude that, ‘oh, I got to get my gen eds done,'" Joyce said.
She said some students usually take classes at a junior college or summer courses to get them taken care of.
"That's a sign that something needs to change," Joyce said.