Friday, Kevin Guskiewicz was officially introduced to the public as the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, taking over the position of Karen Gil, who will be leaving at the end of this semester.
Guskiewicz, a neuroscientist and internationally known expert on concussions, was selected through a nationwide search done by a committee comprised of leaders from across the University. Through a variety of forums and interviews, Guskiewicz was chosen amongst a large variety of candidates.
“We had the chance to attend the open forum he acknowledged that this aspect of the school needed to be better,” said O.J. McGhee, chairperson of the Carolina Black Caucus. “We look forward to hopefully meeting with him in the future and seeing a more detailed vision of what he plans to do in the area of diversity.”
Interim faculty chair, Peter Mucha, said in an email that he has worked personally with Guskiewicz and has full confidence in his ability to lead the university in a positive direction.
“I'm sure his energy will be an asset in his new role, and he will be able to hit the ground running to seamlessly continue many of the great initiatives ongoing in the College,” Mucha said.
At the recognition ceremony today, Chancellor Carol Folt began the ceremony by not only introducing the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, but by also giving a tribute to Gil.
Folt commemorated Gil’s numerous achievements, and said that Gil created the first new science departments in 40 years, increased graduation rates by 5 percent and transformed undergraduate education at UNC.
“When you have one of the best research universities in America also leading at the transformation of undergraduate education, that is really special,” Folt said.
Multiple deans of other colleges within UNC attended the recognition ceremony for the new dean, as well as members of the Board of Trustees. Dwight Stone, the chairperson of the Board of Trustees, spoke at the ceremony, and said that Guskiewicz was a leader prepared for the new position.
“He is a researcher, a scientist, and more importantly a teacher,” Stone said. “We could not have made a better choice.”
Jim Dean, executive vice chancellor and provost, introduced Guskiewicz to the stage. Before Guskiewicz spoke, Dean made a point to tell the crowd that Gil has led the college for six years with integrity, action, diligence, and professionalism.
After thanking his family and asking for the ceremony to be about the College of Arts and Sciences as a whole, rather than himself, Guskiewicz emphasized his views for the future of the university.
“While I don’t officially begin until January 1st, I will begin on Monday to help establish a road map for our future,” said Guskiewicz, who is a professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences. “We need to be strategic, we need to be bold, and we need to be student focused.”
This notion of “being bold” was carried throughout his speech, as Guskiewicz further described ways that as a dean, he said would help differentiate UNC from its peers. Transforming the University into a place that focuses on interdisciplinary action was one the methods he said he planned to use.
Guskiewicz wants to lead a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration across not only departments within a college, but also across different schools and colleges here at UNC.
“We’re going to build on strengths, but I have ideas about how we can build more interdisciplinary programs to create opportunities for our students across different schools and different departments,” Guskiewicz said.
Guskiewicz identified his biggest challenge going forward as pushing people to think boldly to make a difference in having a broader mindset. He said he wants to use this broad mindset to strategically plan a road map for the future.
“I’ve asked people to think in a bold way and I want us to not be afraid to put ideas out there,” Guskiewicz said. “Just because we haven’t done something one way doesn’t mean that we can’t try it now. I want us to be looking forward, rather than backward about how we’ve done things. Lets think about how we might do them.”
One of the final points Guskiewicz made was an emphasis on students. He said that he wanted to try to create more experiential learning opportunities for UNC students because they are at the core of the university.
“I really want to get in front of students. We wouldn’t be here if it were not for our students,” he said. “I like to get out to events, I want to hear from students. I want to hear what they’re passionate about.”
At the conclusion of his speech, Guskiewicz ended with a story about one of his first experiences at Carolina, 20 years ago. Guskiewicz said he still remembers the first time that he knew he belonged at this university.
“My wife called and she said how did it go. I kind of paused — I remember the exact words — and I said, ‘It feels right,’” Guskiewicz said.
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