Photo courtesy of Drake University
On Jan. 22, Drake announced that Dr. Gesine Gerhard would be the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She has been a history professor and associate dean of General Education at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. The Times-Delphic caught up with her and asked her about her plans for the new program after she takes over on July 1.
How long have you held both your jobs as both a professor and assistant dean of general education at the University of Pacific?
I joined Pacific in 1999 as an assistant and have been in my current position as associate dean since 2012. I become a full professor in 2015.
How did you hear about Drake?
I went to the University of Iowa for my Ph.D., so I was in Iowa for five years in the mid-90s. And I only made it out to Des Moines once. I’d heard about Drake. Iowa is a great place, let me check it out. I just loved that position and the description of the place. I’d heard of Drake, here at (the University of the Pacific) we talk about similar institutions, and Drake came up repeatedly, and that’s why when I saw the job description I clicked on it. That was my first repeated introduction to it, but I’d never been there until I came for the interview.
How was that?
I loved it. I really thought it was really warm in terms of human interaction. It was a kind of energetic place. During those two-and-a-half days of interviews, I talked with a lot of people from faculty to staff to directors and the provost of course, and I talked to several students.
They were all very energetic, very committed and also very positive about Des Moines and about Drake. I really liked that, what they talked about for values. It seemed like it was not some “buzz word” that people would use to describe a place outside there.
Everybody used those same kinds of words for the place, so students had done learning, citizenship, the liberal arts, to value the liberal arts with professional education, and I just thought it was a very honest place. It spoke to me. It seemed like a really good fit.
What did you like most about the College of Arts and Sciences at Drake?
I took a tour also of the buildings, I saw the new science building, which I thought was wonderful. People were practicing here, and people singing there. I really liked the energy that came from this classroom and we heard practice, studios, etc. Those are the things that I really thought were remarkable.
What are your current plans to work on once you take over in July?
Of course, the provost at the university has certain expectations of me and things that they want to see. For me, I also want to see a reinvigorating of the liberal arts in the 21st century what are the values and skills students need to succeed in this global and fast-changing world.
I want to work aggressively (and) proactively on the liberal arts and their strengths on helping students in this world.
Often now the current discussion in higher education is “Oh, what do you do with a liberal arts degree, etc.” It’s the best preparation for a job in this world.
It’s the preparation for a job in certain skills in this world. It’s best for learning on how to be adaptable, and also to be fulfilling, to have a fulfilling personal life, to have a fulfilling professional life both in the community and in the world. The liberal arts are really the best position to do that. I thought commitment was very strong at Drake.
What strategies do you plan on bringing that you learned at the University of the Pacific?
I think to be a good senior leader at any university it is important to be good at communication, and I think I am good at that. And also to be a team builder I think it is incredibly important to have good leadership, and good leadership includes being a good team player and a good team leader.
I think there needs to be a rule for all different positions as well. Everybody needs to be heard, everybody needs to be valued and acknowledged. I think that’s one of my strengths as well. I see myself as a promoter of the faculty, the admissions and the students in the college.
We need (the ability) to come up with new programs, new majors, new combinations. General education is the biggest program. I oversaw those, I oversee curriculum changes. That is what I see myself bringing to Drake. On a smaller scale, continually … looking for ways to improve. I see myself as doing and leading that effort together with faculty and students, and come up with changes as necessary.
Correction: In the print edition of this article, wording implied Dr. Gerhard received an email directly from Dean Joe Lenz; she actually saw an advertisement. The Times-Delphic regrets the error.