By Kathryn Willgus
On January 12, Dean of the College Terry Papillon announced that Associate Professor Dr. Elizabeth Skomp of the Russian Department accepted a position as Associate Dean with an emphasis on faculty development and inclusion. In his email, Dean Papillon mentioned particular strengths Dr. Skomp will bring to the office, including “energy, vision, the respect of the faculty, attention to detail, [and] sensitivity to a variety of issues.”
Recently, Dr. Skomp expounded on her new position dealing more specifically with broad faculty development. Skomp mentioned a larger question of inclusion she wishes to answer and put into practice through her new position: “How can we make sure that we are bringing people to the college that represent and value a wide variety of background and perspectives?” The three main tenants or professorial responsibilities–teaching, research, and service–will provide a framework within which Skomp will work to develop the faculty at the college. She hopes to take a holistic approach to development and inclusion, focusing particularly on new hires, as well as working closely with faculty in the first six years of their Sewanee careers–from the time they begin to the point in which they go up for tenure. Skomp will also be coordinating closely with the Center for Teaching, currently directed by Dr. Betsy Sandlin of the Spanish Department and Dr. Deon Miles of the Chemistry Department.
When asked why and how the position was created, Skomp looked back to the evolution of the Dean of the College position upon Terry Papillon’s arrival. Differing from his predecessors, Papillon is responsible for many of the organizations within the college, including Student Life, Admissions, and Athletics. Dr. Skomp’s position was created in order to emphasize areas not necessarily covered in Papillon’s current office. She will be working closely with existing Associate Deans Summers and Jones, and says, “There are plenty connections with the University’s Strategic Plan.” The beginning of the 2012 Strategic plan, found on the webpage for the Office of the Provost, summarizes four ways to make the University “a better, stronger, truer version of itself: developing an exemplary learning environment, realizing the potential of the Domain, extending the University’s reach locally and globally, [and] fostering a diverse, cohesive, and inclusive community.”
Skomp says of the Strategic Plan, “That last mission is something that faculty, staff, and students can contribute to,” and shows a particular interest in pursuing that goal. Skomp, expressed that “The position is still taking shape,” but sees herself in this position trying to accomplish a sort of melding of departmental and institutional ideals in faculty development and inclusion. One way to accomplish this, Skomp says, is to “develop goals for the way in which we fill faculty positions,” as well as who they fill them with. “As our student body has begun to look like the rest of the world, I think our faculty need to catch up to that,” Skomp said, rein-forcing the goals stated in the Strategic Plan as well as carving a path for them to be reached.
Dr. Skomp will still be teaching one course a year, while the Russian Department will begin the process of hiring a visiting professor to teach Russian courses for the duration of her position. “It is very important for me to maintain ties with students,” Skomp said on her new position, being a distinguished professor with many advisees. In conclusion to the inter-view, Skomp remarked, “I’m excited for the possibilities [the position] will bring.”