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The Suburbanite
  • New interim dean excited to be at KSU Stark

  • Before Denise Seachrist accepted the job of interim dean at Kent State University at Stark, she drove to campus to meet with faculty leaders.
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  • Before Denise Seachrist accepted the job of interim dean at Kent State University at Stark, she drove to campus to meet with faculty leaders.
    “We had a really good conversation, and I felt really good about it, and that was what the deciding factor was,” she said, “because I don’t think it’s wise for anybody to go anyplace where they’re not wanted.”
    Seachrist took over this month as leader of the county’s only public four-year university and the Kent State University system’s largest regional college. She replaced Walter Wagor, who served as dean for four years and earned mixed reviews about his performance, university records show.
    Seachrist’s appointment as interim dean began July 1 and runs through June 30.
    Emily Vincent, spokeswoman for the university, said a national search will be conducted for a permanent dean using a committee comprising faculty and staff, students and community members. Todd Diacon, provost of the university, will make the final appointment to the position.
    There’s no timetable for the search yet.
    NEW DEAN
    Seachrist, a Kent State University graduate, started as an assistant professor at Kent State University Trumbull in the 1990s and worked her way up to become director of the university’s Hugh A. Glauser School of Music in 2008.
    Her other administrative titles include interim associate provost,  interim assistant dean at Kent State University Trumbull and interim dean of academic and student services for the regional campuses.
    Her personnel file shows she has earned high marks on annual evaluations during the past decade, and her evaluators routinely praised  her strong communication skills and pursuit of professional development.
    “The result is that you are greatly respected and admired by all who work with you because of your effectiveness and ability to get the job done,” her 2007-08 performance assessment reads.
    Diacon, the university’s provost, was unavailable for an interview but cited Seachrist’s “engaging personality” and experience at the main and regional campuses in a news release about naming her interim dean.
    When Seachrist highlights her successes with the music school, she mentions making tough decisions about ending academic degree programs, launching and growing online degree programs and fundraising in a struggling economy to buy Steinways.
    Her vision for Stark’s campus includes increasing the institution’s collaboration with the private universities in the county, nearby community colleges and businesses.
    She said she’d also like to expand the school’s health care curriculum by adding minors or concentrations that focus on the business of health care — something she thinks would benefit the region because of its aging population.
    Page 2 of 3 - And she hopes to find an extra $4 million to supplement state funding awarded to the school to update its fine arts facility.
    Seachrist said in the three weeks she’s spent meeting students and faculty and studying the history of the campus, she’s noticed the sense of ownership and pride people take in Kent State University at Stark.
    “I’m just really excited to be here,” she said.
    FORMER DEAN
    When Wagor recounts his four years as dean of the Stark campus, he lists the creation of the campus strategic and master plans and the construction of the new sciences building among his biggest accomplishments.
    He announced his decision to step down in May and has said he will likely transfer to the Twinsburg campus to teach. The choice has been attributed to his desire to return to the classroom.
    His 2012-13 evaluation — the most recent annual evaluation included in his file — earned him the overall designation “approaches expectations.” His reviewer, a regional college administrator with the office of the provost, said one of his goals for the upcoming year should be to develop stronger leadership skills to improve his ability to manage the campus and make timely decisions.
    Wagor’s evaluation from the previous school year also cites a lack of leadership and says there’s a need for deeper internal relationships, more charisma and improved marketing of the campus.
    He crafted a rebuttal, mentioning his attendance of campus events and efforts to form bonds with faculty, and he acknowledged he could improve as a leader and administrator.
    “I just want to be on record as being fundamentally in disagreement with the over-all conclusion of my evaluation that says, in my opinion, that I am seriously weak and ineffective in meeting my responsibilities, leading the Stark campus, and being involved with the community,” he wrote.
    Wagor’s first evaluation, however, rated him as being “very strong,” and the evaluator said the results of his first year showed promise for the rest of his tenure.
    “I don’t think there’s anything I can say about what happened,” Wagor said in an interview with the Repository last month, adding that his first evaluator, who also hired him, left after that year.
    Wagor moved from a job as academic dean at a State University of New York campus to serve as dean and chief administrative officer of the Stark campus.
    What he didn’t anticipate, he said, was the lack of interaction with students and faculty, especially considering the campus is small. Instead, a major part of the job was forming relationships in the community and attending social events outside the university.
    Page 3 of 3 -  “That’s probably not the strongest part of my personality, but that’s something I’ve definitely grown in,” he said.
    Wagor said his choice to leave wasn’t based on the hiring of Beverly Warren, who started as president of Kent State University at the beginning of the month.
    He said the easiest way to answer why he chose to finish at this time is that there’s never a perfect time to leave because there will always be more projects to work on.
    “To me, the key message that I really feel very strongly about is the momentum of the campus doesn’t depend on me,” he said. “The momentum of the campus depends on everyone that’s here.”