By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
A plethora of new faces have appeared on campus – and not all of them students’. With eight new administrative
appointments, eight new staff appointments and 29 new faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences alone, the university has seen a lot of change this fall.
“When you have new staff, each person brings a new set of eyes, ears and experiences to this community,” said Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, newly appointed Vice President and Dean of Student Life.
Thompson started his position July 1, doing much of the transition work via phone as he was in Grove City, Pa. at Grove City College. Since arriving, he has filled several positions including Director of Residence Life, Director of Student Multicultural Enrichment, Director of Judicial Affairs and Resident Director positions.
He approaches his position with a determination to bring focus to the student life office.
“We need to have stability and a team,” he said.
Along with that goal, Thompson said he will also strive to learn about the ACU culture – and work on bridging the sub-communities he said he has observed.
Thompson began his position shortly after the university launched its 21st Century Vision, and he said as he works to blend the vision and the direction of the university, he expects to re-evaluate frequently.
But he won’t be assessing through many surveys.
“Sometimes, we can just survey the mess out of students,” Thompson said.
Instead, he said he plans to shift feedback to focus groups, tapping various student groups for face-to-face input. Thompson also cited the Sept. 19 student forum for feedback and suggestions on the planned Fitness and Health Recreation Center, as well as the student-driven McGlothlin Campus Center renovation as proof of the new approach.
“This is probably one of the most exciting times to be at ACU,” Thompson said.
Dr. Jeanine Varner, newly appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said she is also excited about the opportunities of the coming year, especially after meeting with faculty and staff during Welcome Week.
“I think at the beginning of each new year … we need to be reminded of our grand vision,” Varner said.
Varner has spent 34 years as an educator and administrator, 20 of which were spent at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City.
She began her position with enthusiasm, dressing up and providing beach balls to accompany the theme, ‘Surf’s up in the College of Arts and Sciences’ at the college’s orientation during Welcome Week.
“We wanted to have fun,” she said. Varner’s enthusiasm carries over to the faculty and staff she oversees – including 29 new faculty members.
“With each new faculty hire, the planets always realign themselves,” Varner said, laughing. “This is a notable group of people.”
While all new faculty and staff members do have to assimilate to university life, Varner said they also bring excitement.
Varner said she is developing a stronger sense of image and identity for the College of Arts and Sciences – the only college on campus to include departments as different from one another as Computer Science and English.
Last week, Varner met with department heads to develop those identities and look for common threads between the departments. She said the college might develop a logo to help enforce unity.
Varner said she has two main goals for her inaugural year: to know that the college taught students well and to work on “celebrating, cultivating and communicating” within the college. The first goal, she said, is simple but vital.
“We could have all the new buildings in the world, but if we failed at that one, we failed,” she said.