Heads of the Class

NC State's twelve deans. Front row (l to r): Dean Mark Hoversten, Design; Dean Rich Linton, Agriculture and Life Sciences; Dean Louis Martin-Vega, Engineering; Dean Maureen Grasso, Graduate School; Dean David Hinks, Textiles; Dean Mary Ann Danowitz, Education. Back row (l to r): Dean Paul Lunn, Veterinary Medicine; Dean Bill Ditto, Sciences; Dean Annette Ranft, Management; Vice Chancellor and Dean Mike Mullen, Academic and Student Affairs; Dean Mary Watzin, Natural Resources; Dean Jeff Braden, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Fulfilling NC State’s mission of academic excellence depends on strong university leadership. Deans from colleges and divisions across campus provide this leadership through their advocacy for teaching, research and service. The addition of Dean Mary Ann Danowitz in the College of Education; Dean William Ditto in the College of Sciences; Dean David Hinks in the College of Textiles; Dean Mark Hoversten in the College of Design; and Dean Annette Ranft in the Poole College of Management bolstered the university’s world-class academic reputation.

Additionally, we spoke with four deans who recently celebrated five years at NC State about what leadership means to them, what they’ve learned during their time on campus, and what the future looks like for faculty, staff and students.

Paul Lunn, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine

What success(es) are you most proud of from your time as dean?

The college achieved some major growth and change milestones in the past five years. The most impressive are that we grew our DVM class from 80 to 100 students per year in the four-year professional curriculum; this required a major effort from everyone. Second, we instituted a major change to our curriculum, adding absolutely vital new programs like communication and clinical reasoning training, and a much improved business training program. We also greatly increased the use of active-learning student centered teaching.

The third big success was recruitment and growth. If we just look at faculty, we grew our numbers by 19 percent in the past five years, largely driven by enrollment increase. Perhaps more impressive, because we have seen a number of retirements due to the age of our college (we graduated our first class 31 years ago), we have experienced significant faculty turnover. The bottom line is that today, 40 percent of our 154 faculty were hired in the past five years. Suddenly we are a young college again! Finally — just before I arrived, actually— the college opened the Terry Center, the world’s top small animal hospital. This new facility has been an enormous success, primarily because of the remarkable staff and faculty members who work there. The caseload has grown phenomenally and the whole program has an enormously positive reputation.

How do you plan to build on these success and continue to support the success of NC State’s strategic plan?

We have big opportunities in two areas in particular. First, we are committed to making our training programs the best in the nation and world, and we have the opportunity to do it. In the DVM program, for example, we can build on the new initiatives of the past five years. We need to refine the changes already made, and continue to adopt the most effective contemporary teaching modalities. Our goals is simply to provide the best veterinary education in the world, and the same goes for our graduate program and the clinical postgraduate intern and resident programs.

The second opportunity is to ensure we effectively launch and sustain the careers of all these faculty we have hired. Our faculty work across a very broad range of disciplines, and need to accomplish excellence as educators, clinical excellence in highly specialized disciplines, and to develop world-class research programs. In this last area in particular we must achieve major growth in our research programs and how they impact the region and globe.

What is your role in creating a dynamic and high-achieving college?

Much of the time, my role is to not get in the way of good ideas! Remember, all these successes belong to every one of the 1,300+ people who work and study here. Nevertheless, the dean has an important role in ensuring the organization is effective and efficient in its operation. It is frequently my job to represent the college externally, ensuring we are well connected with key regional and national organizations, and also ensuring that we are sending a clear positive message to our supporters and donors. While for the most part my job is one of facilitator, I am committed to trying to move quickly to get resources into place and working, clearing obstructions so our people can do their work.

As dean, how do you support faculty and students in their academic careers?

For our students, I’m committed to ensuring that everyone knows that education comes first in this college, and that we won’t settle for anything but the best. Beyond that, we increasingly recognize that student progress and success depends on more than just their classes. We have to pay attention to their personal development, their mental health, the impact of diversity issues, and all the para-curricular components of life in the college that support them through a testing time. For faculty, I work  to ensure they have the resources to do the job we ask of them, and above all to support our faculty mentoring programs. I know from personal experience how vital mentoring is to success and, particularly with the numbers of new faculty we have, this is an area of intense activity.

What lessons have you learned in the last five years that will inform your decision-making and engagement with faculty, staff and students in the future?

Certainly the last five years have reinforced for me how vital it is to find more and better ways to communicate, and the same goes for listening. We’ve tried a variety of strategies, but there is still room for improvement. Whenever we can get our people engaged in decision making we get better ideas and better buy-in.

The college just generated a new strategic plan, and we did a better job of engaging the community in the process. We got a much better outcome as a result, and we are trying to bring more people into the process as we move to implementation. Another lesson learned is that you need to work consistently and hard to ensure the college is well connected to the rest of NC State and beyond. There are enormous opportunities here at this university and across the region — but those connections need to be grown.

Mary Watzin, Dean of the College of Natural Resources

What successes are you most proud of from your time as dean?

I am very proud of completing a forward-looking strategic plan that focuses on grand challenges. Our faculty and staff helped to shape this plan and it is one that they fully buy into and support. I am also quite proud of the timber deed on Hofmann Forest. This solution makes the best sense for all stakeholders involved and will provide stable and consistent support for our college. Additionally, we have been able to hire fantastic new faculty and staff who represent a very bright future for the College of Natural Resources.

How do you plan to build on these successes and continue to support the success of NC State’s strategic plan?

NC State’s strategic plan is built on the good work of each college at the university. NC State and the College of Natural Resources embody to the “Think and Do” mantra, and I hope that our college will continue to grow as the go-to place for addressing and solving natural resources challenges. To achieve this goal, I am pursuing and promoting more interdisciplinary collaborations by our faculty members and more partnerships with stakeholders both within and outside the college and NC State.

What is your role in creating a dynamic and high-achieving college?

As dean, it is my job to set the standard for achievement and provide the support necessary so that all faculty, staff and students can be the best they can possibly be in the roles that they have. Everyone involved in the college should be successful, and my job is to inspire the vision, find the resources and get out of the way. Good people can do good work!

As dean, how do you support faculty and students in their academic careers?

Everything that I do as dean is geared toward helping faculty, staff and students succeed. I love to encourage professional development, which provide outlets for growth and leadership. Because of the hard work that the people in our college do, we have a very good, strong curriculum. People outside of the College of Natural Resources recognize this and we have great support from the community. I have an open door policy — I’m visible and available, and ready to help others achieve their goals.

What lessons have you learned in the last five years that will inform your decision-making and engagement with faculty, staff and students in the future?

Over the past five years, I have learned how to listen to and understand others, and how to empower all kinds of people to do good work. Everyone is different and their concerns are unique, and I want to listen to those concerns and help create a great environment for each person. You try to find the right pace for change, because you can’t do everything all at once. You have to focus on what’s most important, and the results will follow.

Richard Linton, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

What success(es) are you most proud of from your time as dean?

I am proud that we have been able to come together holistically — internally and externally with all our faculty, staff, students and stakeholders — to be able to focus on big ideas that drive our strategic plan. In our strategic plan at the college, there are five main initiatives that we’re working on: a Plant Sciences Initiative, a food manufacturing initiative, a food animal initiative, a leadership initiative and a student access initiative.

What I’ve been most proud of — especially with the Plant Sciences Initiative — is that we’ve all come together around a single, important purpose to help drive agriculture in North Carolina forward. The power of that, I have come to realize, is energizing, impressive and very significant. We have built a Plant Sciences Initiative which will result in what will be the largest building on NC State’s campus. This Plant Sciences Initiative building was pieced together with support from our internal and external stakeholders; everyone pushing together to make this amazing dream happen. This idea didn’t exist five years ago. It came from strategic planning where we asked our stakeholders where we needed to be in 20-30 years, and the answer was No. 1 in the world in plant sciences. To get there, you have to have the infrastructure, facilities and programmatic support that allow you to be the best in the world.

How do you plan to build on these success and continue to support the success of NC State’s strategic plan?

When we developed our strategic plan — which will take us to the year 2020 — five years ago, we developed it independently from the university’s strategic plan. The idea then was to bring that back to be able to see how well our plan fit with the university’s strategic plan. We actually took the last few pages of our plan to show how what we do aligns perfectly with what the university is trying to do. If you look at all the goals and the strategies of the university’s plan, we spread all of our plan out in a very even way to support what NC State is trying to do. It made us feel very good that our way of thinking is very much aligned with the university’s way of thinking.

We’re very interested in fostering an interdisciplinary way of thinking, and the Plant Sciences Initiative is one way of showing that. We’re very interested in enhancing research. In the last few years, external competitive support for research is up $25 million. So we’re making great strides forward with external funding for research. We’re trying to create leaders, not just students who get a degree, and this is an important component of the university’s strategic plan. As we enter into a capital campaign, the university has a goal of raising $1.6 billion, and our college represents 25 percent of that goal. Our expectation is that we will raise $400 million. There are so many things that our college is doing that are directly connected to what this university wants to do and that the state of North Carolina needs. We are very happy and proud to see the outcome of the strategic plan and what we’re doing.

What is your role in creating a dynamic and high-achieving college?

Ninety-nine percent of the credit for our achievements goes to the people within our organization; the faculty, staff, students and administrative team make opportunities happen. The role of the dean is to listen to what is needed and what is desired. These are the dreams that come to us, and it is our responsibility to find ways to make those a reality. The Plant Sciences Initiative was a dream and it was our job to make it happen. For it to be successful, it is about our people. The success of this college and of the university depends on the people who work each and every day to help us achieve our goals.

As dean, how do you support faculty and students in their academic careers?

For faculty, students and staff, one of the things we’ve done in this college in the last five years because of the strategic plan, is to develop a multitude of leadership opportunities. We feel like we can’t be a leading college and university if we don’t create leaders. So we have defined and created specific leadership programs for undergraduate and graduate students, for our staff (which has never been done before and is critically important), and for our faculty so they experience more success in their current role. We also want to support them if they have aspirations to be a department head, associate dean, dean, provost or chancellor; we want to be able to equip them with specific leadership skills.

For faculty, one of the early desires was that we wanted to be more successful in building interdisciplinary teams, much like with the Plant Sciences Initiative. Within the college, we created a new program called the Dean’s Enrichment Grants Program. The program provides funding opportunities for faculty in order to engage in interdisciplinary research activities. The grant requests must involve different departments on campus; they must fulfill the three missions of our college, which are research, teaching and cooperative extension; and there must be a partner involved who will provide a 50/50 funding match. For example, we have a partnership with the College of Veterinary Medicine on animal research; we have a partnership with Virginia Tech on a number of different projects, and we have partnerships with various industry groups. By putting this opportunity in front of our faculty, it meets the need of building interdisciplinary programs and fits within the partnership’s vision for our strategic plan and NC State’s strategic plan.

What lessons have you learned in the last five years that will inform your decision-making and engagement with faculty, staff and students in the future?

It takes a while, maybe a couple of years, to figure out your college, university and the state of North Carolina. There was a lot of listening, learning and experimentation over the first couple of years to be able to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. And that’s what’s exciting about the difference between what you’re able to accomplish at the beginning of a five-year term versus what you’re able to accomplish in the latter part of it. We’ve probably accomplished 95 percent of our success in the last three years versus five percent of the success in the first two years. The exciting thing for me is that I am looking forward to another five years here at NC State. I don’t have that initiation period where I’m learning about the college — I can engage in what I think will make us successful right off the bat.

Moving forward, we’re going to have the opportunity to hire probably 60-70 faculty over the next few years. That represents about 25 percent of the faculty in our college. The provides an unbelieveable opportunity to bring new energy into the college to be able to raise the level of expectations around teaching, research and cooperative extension. It will be my job to foster better research, foster better relationships with our students, and to ensure that important information is communicated throughout our state through cooperative extension. As a dean who is new versus a dean who is looking forward to the next five years, the decisions that we make will be easier because we have learned a lot in the last five years.

Mike Mullen, Vice Chancellor and Dean of Academic and Student Affairs

What success(es) are you most proud of from your time as vice chancellor and dean?

I’m very proud of everything that we do, and I don’t want to leave anyone out, as DASA oversees more than 50 programs. But when someone asks me what I’m most proud of — what I would consider the most important thing we’ve accomplished — that would be the expansion of Counseling Services. When I came here we had 18 clinicians and three psychiatrists under contract, and four interns in one building. Now we’re up to 30 clinicians, three full-time psychiatrists, and we have built a doctoral internship program in counseling psychology, which gives us 15 interns. We have embedded advisors in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Student Health Services and Athletics.  We will be embedding one in the Military and Veterans Resource Center, and we’ll be placing counselors on Centennial Campus in 2017-18. This will allow us to provide a broader range of services and to better care for our students as the demand for services continues to rise.

I’ve been really pleased with the high-impact educational practices we’ve been able to expand, including undergraduate research and study abroad. The outside funding going to undergraduate research over the past five years has gone from $50,000 to almost $150,000. We’ve worked with the Office of International Affairs to provide funding for the Chancellor’s Study Abroad Scholarship, which has helped around 35 students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to study abroad. We’ve brought a lot of academic services and pieces together under University College, increased our advising capacity, increased support for Exploratory Studies and more. We’ve expanded our Living and Learning Villages, going from 10 to 14 villages plus two other interest living groups which may become full villages. And we’ve really done a nice job of continuing to support Alternative Service Break opportunities, with 20-22 trips taking place each year. Those are all examples of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last five years.

How do you plan to build on these success and continue to support the success of NC State’s strategic plan?

We have to work within our budget to serve students as well as we can. There are two strategies we need to be mindful of. One is continuously evaluating our current programs, which we are doing regularly now through our internal assessment program. We’re evaluating three to five programs every semester, which means each program will be evaluated once every five years. We want to know that we are offering high-quality programs and services, and also to know if there are ways to strategically reallocate resources to develop new programs or improve existing programs. The second strategy is our focus on development work. We continue to look for opportunities to bring outside funding in for our programs. During the past academic year we have raised over $2 million to support a variety of programs, including the Music Department, the Career Development Center, ROTC, the University Honors Program, the Counseling Center and Student Success programs like CSLEPS.  And I am excited that we have just formed the DIvision’s first development advisory board to assist us in our work to raise funds during the Campaign for NC State.

What is your role in creating a dynamic and high-achieving college/unit?

My role is to work through my staff to create a vision for where the division is going. In some ways I’m a cheerleader-in-chief, putting new ideas on the table and helping people run with them. It is my job to find the resources that will help us all be successful in the long term. I spend a lot of my time trying to jump start ideas and programs with my staff. Just like any good dean, you try to set a vision and show enthusiasm for that vision, and get people to buy into that vision. Regardless of what division you’re in, we all have the same goal of supporting our students, supporting the whole student, and providing opportunities to support success.

As vice chancellor and dean, how do you support faculty and students in their academic careers?

I think my role in a multivariate organization with more than 520 faculty and staff is to ensure that with the resources available they have access to funding for creative outlets, funding to travel to conferences and symposia, to provide support through the Office of Information Technology and other programs to ensure they have the classroom technology necessary to have a great teaching environment. I like to be engaged in events and encourage others to continue their good work.

Everything that we do is student-oriented. The mission of every person in every one of our programs is to in some way improve the life of students or to provide exceptional opportunities for growth and development. That’s really what we’re all about. We want students to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to them, and our staff and faculty play a large role in that. We want students to think more critically about the impact they’ll have after graduation and how we can support them. My role is to effectively promote our people so they can support students.

What lessons have you learned in the last five years that will inform your decision-making and engagement with faculty, staff and students in the future?

NC State is a really diverse, dynamic and somewhat decentralized place. One of the things I’ve learned in the last five years is that bringing people to the table to have necessary conversations sooner rather than later is important. You have to develop strong relationships and collaborations to move forward. We have responsibility to figure out how to work best together so we can do together more than we could possibly do separately. And I think we do a pretty good job of that. People are genuinely interested in providing an exceptional education and exceptional experiences for our students. At a place like NC State, you really need to have collaborative relationships in order to be successful. We’ve done a great job at that so far, and will continue to work on our collaboration in the future.

Learn more about the role university leadership plays in ensuring NC State fulfills its mission and vision for students, faculty, staff and the community.

One response on “Heads of the Class

  1. Leigh Watkins says:

    Great Picture! Good looking group!

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