Three new colleges and the new locations of various departments were named. This restructuring is part of a plan to grow the national reputation of ACU’s academic programs as well as to group similar programs together for a multidisciplinary environment that will work well together. This new structure includes the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Science and Engineering.
Dr. Charla Miertschin was named the new dean of the College of Science and Engineering and began working on August 1st. She said it feels wonderful to be the new dean.
“I say that with the context that I’m happy to be back at ACU as an ACU alumnus,” Miertschin said. “I’m prouder than ever of my institution and to be back as an administrator is just very exciting.”
Miertschin graduated from ACU in 1988 from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She has a PhD in chemistry from Texas A&M University, with a postdoctoral fellowship at Trinity University. After earning her degrees, she stayed connected with ACU as a member of the visiting committee for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and as a program review consultant. She taught chemistry at Winona University for thirty years before spending the past eleven years as dean at their College of Science and Engineering.
Miertschin said the biggest difference between her past position is that Winona State is a public, non-religious affiliated university.
“I think one of the biggest differences for me is moving from a state school,” Miertschin said. “Being able to infiltrate devotionals and prayers that you have the opportunity to do in a faith-based institution is the biggest difference for me in the job. In my life, that hasn’t been a big change.”
Donors, Robert and Kay Onstead have donated more than $59 million to ACU, and due to their immense generosity, ACU is naming the College of Science and Engineering, the Robert and Kay Onstead College of Science and Engineering in honor of them. This is the first college to be named in ACU history. The donation will enable new scholarships, funding for faculty and create more research opportunities and support for the college.
Biology professor, Dr. Tom Lee, said that the new facilities are fantastic.
“I had a former student visit, who works for a private genetics lab, tell me that our labs are the best he has ever seen,” Lee said. “We have already made many really great discoveries and taught many undergraduates at a level that usually only graduate students get to experience.”
This new college will include the agricultural and environmental sciences, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, engineering and physics, and mathematics department. This year, they will create a distinct mission for the college, as well as their identity. Miertschin said getting these new colleges organized as well as making sure students and faculty know what their college is, is the main goal of this year.
“Students really don’t have much of an impact because they identify more with their departments,” Miertschin said. “Just because it’s [a major is] housed in a different college, really won’t affect them, but there could be new opportunities that a named college presents. There will be new scholarship opportunities that will be coming as the full donation matures.”
Miertschin said she hopes to be a role model to students to show that as a Christian woman, you can be a good leader. She said she plans to make herself as available to the students as she can.
“One thing I always want to emphasize is the great work of the faculty and students here that are really what I’m most proud of as a college of science and engineering,” Miertschin said. “It’s their accomplishments that we’re going to build off of and make this an even greater place.”