Over the summer, Eastern Kentucky University experienced a number of updates to academic affairs, including the creation of three new colleges and the hiring of a new provost, Sara Zeigler. The changes come as the university largely returns to normal operations following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university welcomed the new College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). According to Zeigler, this was the largest academic reorder to occur.
The reorganization, Zeigler said, “allowed us to integrate basic science, chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, etc., where the work is possibly more conceptual and theoretical with some very applied areas like aviation, construction management and engineering.”
With the creation of the college came the new Center for STEM Excellence, designed for students to receive foundations in mathematics and other STEM disciplines, Zeigler said.
Subsequently, the creation of STEM has allowed for the creation of a standalone College of Business which was previously grouped with technology studies.
The creation of the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences also occurred over the summer, two colleges that were previously their own entities. According to Zeigler, the merger was a great fit - all Child and Family Development courses were already occurring in the Applied Health Sciences department. Zeigler said that the change was brought on by requests from staff within both departments.
The College of Justice, Safety, and Military Science was also created. Concerning the reasons behind the change, Zeigler said, “The purpose of that is to highlight our roles as a government-friendly institution and that college as not only providing wonderful social justice content and criminology content but also be the college for first responders.”
One of the few colleges to experience little to no change was the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. According to Interim Dean John Bowes, this is to be expected. He stated that the college is relatively new, created in 2016.
“CLASS is strong, the departments and programs are operating well, and I think that we’re seeing a lot of students engaged with what we're doing," said Bowes.
However, CLASS recently welcomed the new Institute for Collaborative and Creative Arts. Bowes said that the institute was created to foster collaboration and communication between students pursuing careers in the arts, music and communication.
With the creation and integration of the institute, Bowes said, “There are ways in which people and students in those different disciplines not only have the opportunity to work with each other, but I think can find the potential in those other disciplines.”
Zeigler echoed this sentiment, “The idea is that if we bring art, music, and communication together, we have a lot of opportunities for collaboration, for events and programming as well as curricular collaborations.”
Despite these changes, the search for permanent deans for CLASS, the College of Business, and the College of Justice, Safety, and Military Science continues. According to Zeigler, the administration hopes to have the positions filled by January 2022.
Both Zeigler and Bowes have high expectations for the future deans, and each must be able to fill the specific needs of each college. Bowes stated that a dean must recognize the needs of staff and support events that foster education outside of the classroom.
Zeigler has further hopes to support student engagement as well. Having just taken the role of provost after previously serving as dean of CLASS, Zeigler wants to focus on centering academic affairs to better suit the needs of students.
Along with the recent changes to colleges, the Office of the Provost recently hired Jeremy Mullholland to fill the role of assistant provost for Student Academic Affairs. This role, established by Zeigler, was designed to serve as a liaison between students and academic affairs.
However, Zeigler’s biggest goal as provost is to make EKU a place for students to succeed.
“I'm interested in making sure that academic affairs is really student-centered. Our faculty are very much focused on educating our students and providing them with an outstanding experience, and I want to enhance that again,” Zeigler said.