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Melissa Valiska Gregory talks majors and interdisciplinary programs at CAS dean presentation

Melissa Gregory presented her potential solutions to the current challenges facing the College of Arts and Science.
Melissa Gregory presented her potential solutions to the current challenges facing the College of Arts and Science.

On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Melissa Valiska Gregory held her second open forum in Miami University’s search for a new College of Arts and Science (CAS) dean. Gregory is one of four final candidates for the position.

Gregory began by outlining her success at the University of Toledo (UT) in multiple roles, most recently as interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and showing how it would be applicable at Miami.

“One of the things that I bring to the table here is that I've achieved a fair amount of success in a really lean environment,” Gregory said. “It means you have to prioritize like crazy, [and] you have to be very, very focused on outcomes. And you have to figure out ways to do low-cost high-impact activities.”

Following the prompt given to every CAS dean candidate, Gregory outlined the challenges that higher education, including Miami, is facing.

Her list included funding issues, a low number of individuals wanting to go to college, inflation affecting the price of education and low demand for bachelor's degrees.

“This is a moment where arts and sciences really need champions,” Gregory said. “I believe that arts and sciences colleges and our disciplines are really central to the future.”

When speaking on funding issues, Gregory motioned toward her past position at UT, where she increased development revenue by 42% from the fiscal years of 2022 and 2023.

Following her presentation, the floor opened for questions from more than 20 attendees. Many questions focused on Gregory’s thoughts about the issues Miami currently faces.

“It feels like what we're being told now very clearly is that the only metric is majors,” said Elizabeth Wardle, an English professor. “Given the fact that students are in seats, how can majors be the only measure of departments? So if you're the CAS Dean, and this was sort of the message to you, how can we help the division respond?”

Gregory said that CAS majors are the top full-time equivalent (FTE) generators, a calculation of credit hours into the number of full-time students in a college’s division. Gregory also alluded to making changes to smaller programs to make them more preferable.

“I have a couple of interdisciplinary programs that are pretty small on their own [at UT],” Gregory said. “One of the things I've asked them to do is to figure out creative ways to consolidate courses and then also to create some new curriculum that might be particularly advantageous for the kinds of majors that they have and that they teach, but can also be advantageous to everyone else across the college.”

Political science professor Anne Whitesell said that Gregory’s thoughts on how the CAS dean position should be held could positively represent both students and faculty in the division.

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“Her framing her work as being an advocate for the liberal arts is important,” Whitesell said. “It's a really big college and there's a lot of interests, but I think both the students and the faculty could need someone to be representing them at the table.”

Matthew Smith, the current Dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences at Radford University in Virginia, is the next candidate to have an open forum. His forums will take place on Monday, Feb. 19, 4-5 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 20, 9-10 a.m. in Kreger Hall, room 319.