Sunday, December 08, 2013
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Sue Monahan particularly enjoys the time she gets to spend working with undergraduate students.
October 08, 2013
MONMOUTH -- College campuses tend to be ghost towns during summer break; empty hallways, vacant parking lots and desolate classrooms replace the nonstop buzz of fall, winter and spring.
Even with a larger-than-average enrollment this summer at Western Oregon University, the deserted nature of summer was evident.
The lull in activity can be a welcomed sight to faculty and staff, but when you're new to campus, being one of the few inhabitants of a mostly abandoned school can be quite eerie.
That's what Sue Monahan walked into when she arrived at WOU in August.
"It took a very long time for the students to get here," Monahan said. "I was anxious to meet anybody who would stop by. It was very quiet there for a while.
Monahan was hired as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in mid-May, but didn't officially begin until the start of fall term.
Monahan comes to WOU from Montana State University in Bozeman, where she spent the last 18 years as a professor, department chairwoman and associate dean.
Leaving her home of 18 years was a difficult choice for Monahan, but coming to Oregon, specifically WOU, was not.
"The area was very appealing and it's definitely living up to expectations," Monahan said. "The appeal, first and foremost, was the type of institution that Western is. Western provides access to higher education to a wide range of students in Oregon and its mission is to expand access."
Monahan's background in sociology has taken her from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania for her bachelor's degree to Stanford University for her master's and doctorate degrees.
For Stephen Scheck, vice president for academic affairs and former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, bringing Monahan to Western was a big win.
Monahan's vast experience at MSU as a professor and administrator gave her invaluable insight and a much easier transition, Scheck said.
"The other aspect in recruiting a new dean for the college is the culture that we have here at Western of a strong commitment to the mentoring of students," he said. "You may be the next Nobel Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner, but if you don't enjoy working with students and having them knock on your door, Western is not the place for you."
Western's atmosphere of student development was just one of the reasons for Monahan's attraction to the university.
Since becoming the associate dean for curricular and program development at MSU in 2011, Monahan's top duty was leaning toward developing graduate programs, something she didn't envision doing for the second half of her career.
"I can understand why an institution like Montana State would want to expand its graduate programs -- it's not what I want to spend my days on this earth doing," Monahan said. "I want to spend my days on this earth with undergraduate students. My focus is undergraduate education."
With fall term just more than a week old, Monahan has begun the work of establishing relationships with those students.
For now, Monahan's top priority is continuing the work Scheck accomplished during his time as dean and fully grasping the capabilities of the university.
The college is looking toward developing new programs in business and computer science, but those plans are still being fleshed out.
"I want the college to do what it does and do it well for students to really get something out of their education and for faculty to enjoy the opportunity to work with students," Monahan said.
Meet the Dean
Who: Susanne "Sue" Monahan.
What: Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Western Oregon University.
Background: Previously an associate dean, department chairwoman and professor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont.
Hobbies: Hiking, cycling, cooking, snowshoeing.
Fun fact: An 18-year member of a 30-year-old fantasy baseball league in Bozeman. Monahan became the first and only female commissioner of the league, known as a benign dictator.
Susan or Suzanne: Spelled Susanne but pronounced Susan, Monahan blames the confusion on her father for naming her after her mother and then realizing Susanne Monahan rhymes. She has gone by Sue for 30 years.