Deans usher in new era

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David Matty, the new dean of the College of Science, sits in his office.

The fall will usher in a new era of deans as four of Weber State University’s seven colleges will have a new top dog.

“I don’t think we’ve ever hired four deans at one time,” said Michael Vaughan, WSU provost. “I don’t think it will be challenging. I think they’re all competent people and will come up to speed very quickly.”

WSU hired outside candidates for the College of Science, the John B. Goddard School of Business and Economics, and the College of Social and Behavioral Science, and hired an internal candidate for the College of Applied Science and Technology.

“I think it will be good for the university,” Vaughan said. “They bring experiences from other institutions that we may be able to learn from.”

Vaughan chalked up the four deans’ departures in the same year to catching up from a slow rate of turnover in recent years. He explained that two of the deans stayed years beyond the average term of employment and happened to retire the same year.

“Our turnover is actually less over a longer period of time,” Vaughan said.

David Ferro — hired as the dean of applied science and technology — was the only internal hire. He was formerly employed as a computer science professor.

“As a college, we’re not just interested in creating technology for its own sake,” Ferro said. “We’re realizing the possibilities for people, the economy and society as a whole. You have to understand the greater context of your work. When you do that, you can see opportunities.”

The three outside hires were Francis Harrold for the College of Social and Behavioral Science, Jeff Steagall for the College of Business and Economics, and David Matty for the College of Science.

Matty is the latest dean to move into his office. His latest work was to review and select research proposals that people had submitted to the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. Before that, he chaired the geology department at Central Michigan University.

“I think the expectation is that my expertise from NSF is going to be helpful in helping others get external funding,” Matty said. “It has not actually been stated as an expectation, but I’m pretty sure that it is.”

Another goal  is to make WSU’s undergraduate science programs the best in Utah and the region, Matty said.

“One of the things that really attracted me to this position was the strong focus on undergraduate education and the great things that many of the faculty are doing to bring that to a reality,” Matty said.

With an office on the north side of the sixth floor of the Science Building, Matty has a panoramic view of the Ogden mountains. It’s a view for Matty that, coupled with his educational training and professional experience as a geologist, “makes me want to be out there rather than in here,” he said.

His office could change in a few years because next on WSU’s wish list for buildings is a new science building that would be constructed where building four and six currently stand, Matty said.

Harrold — formerly the dean of social sciences at St. Cloud  State University in Minnesota — said he came to WSU because the faculty really care about student success.
“I hope we can foster more research by the faculty and the students as well,” Harrold said, adding that he’d like to build on the trajectory established by his predecessor while bolstering certain departments with faculty.

“Due to the effect of the budget cuts there’s a few places where we’re short on faculty,” Harrold said. “Over time my goal is to get us up to strength in every department.”

After working as an economics professor at the University of North Florida for 21 years, Steagall will lead a discussion this fall to choose a theme for the Goddard School of Business.

“The vision really is to identify what it is we want to be known for, and then to start working on it,” Steagall said. “We’re at the point where it’s time to define a theme or maybe a couple themes for the Goddard School of Business and Economics.”