Stott named dean for undergraduate education
UK native Andy Stott became the new dean for undergraduate education on Jan. 1. Rebecca Bratek /// The Spectrum
Andrew Stott stepped into his new role as the dean for undergraduate education on Jan. 1 with a slight sense of irony. When he was a college student, the United Kingdom native never would have seen himself in a position designed to enhance the student experience.
"When I was in college, I was not a joiner at all," Stott admits. "Quite the opposite, in fact. I was kind of a misanthrope."
But Stott views the self-described "great irony" as an edge in the face of his new job. Paired with his background in critical thinking and literature, he feels he has an acute eye. He believes someone in his position can't have a sense of "gassy optimism" and wants to make sure what UB provides to students is meaningful and substantive.
A. Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs, announced Stott's appointment in December. Weber held the dean position previously, when he was also the vice provost of undergraduate education.
Stott is now responsible for general undergraduate education and curriculum, academic policy and scholarly communities. Stott stressed "student enrichment, engagement, access and opportunity." He plans to use his office as a "connective tissue" to bring together different elements of the undergraduate experience. He wants students to get involved outside the classroom with internships, service learning and experiential learning.
Weber believes Stott's new position will allow him to "build a synergy" among undergraduate departments. While Weber doesn't feel undergraduate education is disjointed, he said it could be better connected.
"I think [the synergy] can be a lot better," Weber explained. "I think as he has articulated to me that's one of his main objectives - to build a really strong environment to build that collaboration."
Stott's main focus is building that environment; he said his job and department are currently "a work in progress."
Stott is starting to work on building connections and break down any sense of boundaries that may be between the units he is overseeing, which includes programslike the Honors College, the Undergraduate Academies, Undergraduate Research, study abroad programs and various other undergraduate experiences.
The goal is to centralize, strategize and put things into place - but the specifics of how that will be done are still being determined.
"I'm feeling my way," Stott said. "It's like being shown around the Vatican by torch light. Every now and then the beam alights on something of great intricacy and historical value, but what I really need to find is the light switch that will reveal it all."
Unlike the deans of the different schools, like the College of Arts and Sciences, Stott isn't in charge of any faculty. The units he oversees - other than general education - do not grant degrees. They serve more to enhance the college experience and enrich outside the classroom. Without such opportunities, Stott pointed out, "why not just take your degree online?"
Stott already has first-hand experience in the scholarly communities that now fall under his jurisdiction. He was named the director of the Honors College in March 2012 -a position he now holds in tandem with being the dean of undergraduate education.
Stott was named the director of the Honors College after a national search was done to fill the position. Weber, well aware of Stott's qualifications because of that search, feels Stott "has a deep and abiding care for the undergraduate experience."
He thinks Stott's experience and success in leading the Honors College gives Stott the chance to think about ways to apply the best parts of the program more uniformly across all curriculums.
Stott said his department will be part of a "longer strategic process" to bring the university through its final stages of UB 2020. He feels there is "somewhat of a mischaracterization" for anyone to believe UB 2020 is focused only on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The plan goes across the board and is for the entire university, according to Stott.
"We're in the final straight [of UB 2020]," Stott said. "We've got five or six years to get it done. Now is when we decide what is it we're going to do, what pieces of the puzzle we're going to put in place, what kind of educational experience we want to offer, and what values the university wants to stand for."
Stott plans to reaffirm and refocus the commitment to undergraduate education.
Weber described Stott as dynamic and personable and said he "brings a sense of fun and energy" to the student experience.
Stott, who has authored many books and worked in UB's English department for the past 10 years, received his Ph.D. from the University of Wales, Cardiff in 1995.
He feels, like others who have a deep relationship to literature, he spent his early days in academics somewhat solitary.
It's not the case now, as Stott works to encourage students to participate, get involved and not just pass through UB as a commuter site.
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