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New college takes dean down familiar path

 Dean John Kijinski
Dean John Kijinski, above, heads the new College of Arts & Sciences.
Below are new Assistant Dean Ingrid Johnston-Robledo and new Associate Dean Roger Byrne.

Assistant Deans

A 24-speed mountain bike carries John Kijinski, dean of SUNY Fredonia’s new College of Arts and Sciences, to campus every day. His mile commute is barely enough for the veteran bike rider and avid runner to break a sweat.

A different sort of training, anchored by considerable teaching and administrative experience at Idaho’s second-largest university and enhanced by three years of service as dean of Fredonia’s former College of Arts and Humanities, made Dr. Kijinski the ideal choice to lead the new division.

“These are the essential disciplines that are common to all of our students and provide the basis of knowledge that other fields draw upon,” said Kijinski, who began his new position in June.

A central college of Arts and Sciences is a common model across academia, from tiny colleges to mammoth research universities. As such, it serves as the heart of the university.  It encompasses education, research and service as the foundational disciplines that anchor a liberal arts education that also includes the sciences.

When students return to classes this fall, Kijinski believes they probably won’t notice any difference between the new College of Arts and Sciences and its predecessors, the former and now merged College of Natural and Social Sciences and College of Arts and Humanities. However, they’ll stand to benefit in the long-term.

Having science faculty talking regularly with colleagues in the humanities about new learning methods or ways to expand internships and student research will enhance Fredonia’s educational opportunities, he said. Greater collaboration between the humanities and sciences is a win-win situation, and now that will happen more often.

Prior to Fredonia, Kijinski served Idaho State University as dean of its College of Arts and Sciences, the largest of seven schools that enrolled some 6,000 of the 14,000 students at its main campus in Pocatello. He was previously associate dean of that college, chair of its English and Philosophy department, and a longtime Idaho State faculty member.

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kijinski has a bachelor’s degree in English from Ohio State University, a master’s in English from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I’ve always worked well with the whole range of arts and sciences,” said Kijinski, whose background is English literature. He proudly notes that many of his best working relationships were with science professors at Idaho State, where he worked with the chairs of 18 academic departments.

With 3,700 students spread across 19 departments, many with multiple major tracks, the College of Arts and Sciences ranks as SUNY Fredonia’s largest academic unit.

Accessibility is the hallmark of Kijinski’s philosophy. “The tradition we have at Fredonia of a lot of ‘face time’ with the people we work with is consistent with what I think is important,” he explained. Kijinski meets with each department chair once a month, in addition to hosting a monthly gathering with all the chairs. “I try to be a good listener,” he added.

“I like to build on strengths, rather than try to have an attitude of being a person who goes out to correct things. Being open and communicative is the key.”

Last spring, he worked closely with David Ewing, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, to expand his understanding of Dr. Ewing’s unit and its departments before Ewing departed to begin a new position at another area college. Kijinski also observed how well the two colleges already interacted.

Assisting Kijinski in his new position as associate dean will be longtime Biology Professor Roger Byrne, who has past administrative experience on campus. Psychology Professor Ingrid Johnston- Robledo will serve as assistant dean.

“Dr. Byrne and Dr. Johnston-Robledo are accomplished faculty members, and both have achievements that go beyond the bounds of an individual department,” Kijinski said.

Byrne, who joined the faculty in 1991, has served as Biology department chair and interim dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences and Professional Studies. More recently, he co-directed the Middle States Self-Study process and oversaw the Office of Assessment. His full-time position in the College of Arts and Sciences, which began July 1, addresses the areas of curriculum, program development and budgeting.

In addition to teaching duties, Johnston-Robledo, who came to Fredonia in 2000, directs the interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Program. As assistant dean, a half-time position, she will focus on the wide range of assessment issues, while maintaining a half-time teaching schedule. She also has extensive experience with campus-wide and department-level assessment, which, in conjunction with her work as a social scientist, will enable her to coordinate assessment efforts.

A diverse transition team, comprised of Dr. Adrienne McCormick, Humanities; Dr. Michael Grady, Natural Sciences; Thomas Loughlin, Fine and Performing Arts; and Dr. Cheryl Drout, Social Sciences, developed job descriptions for the two new supporting deans and contributed input during the candidate review process. Kijinski also met with the chairs of each natural and social science department to learn more about their policies, culture, strengths and challenges.

Kijinski plans to pursue university development, alumni relations and redo the strategic plan for the next five years based on the recent Middle States evaluation, in addition to the core responsibilities of personnel, budget and curriculum. Three years at Fredonia have given him valuable insight. “I’ve learned a lot about the character of our faculty here, about their achievements as teachers, artists and performers, researchers and scholars, and I have a sense of what’s expected of the faculty on campus, and also how change occurs on campus,” he said. “It’s a process of consensus building.”

The College of Arts and Sciences is the first phase in the restructuring of Academic Affairs. The next step is to spin-off the School of Music as well as the departments of Theatre and Dance, and Visual Arts and New Media, placing them in the new College of Visual and Performing Arts. A new dean for that college will be brought on board in the fall of 2012. The College of Education and School of Business will not be impacted.

After 22 years at Idaho State, Kijinski was attracted to SUNY Fredonia because of its commitment to the liberal arts. “This campus is really dedicated to the total liberal arts mission; it has a real focus on teaching and working with students,” he attested.

As he readies for the fall term, the opportunity to once again lead a College of Arts and Sciences has Kijinski truly energized. Given his résumé, for him, chances are it will be just like riding a bike.

posted @ Tuesday, August 24, 2010 1:08 PM by Christine Davis Mantai

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