July 11, 2007

Vaux named dean of SIUC's College of Liberal Arts

by Andrea Hahn


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CARBONDALE, Ill. — Alan Vaux is the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, effective July 1.

Vaux, most recently serving as interim dean, was one of three finalists to interview with various officials, faculty and staff this spring. The appointment is subject to ratification by the SIU Board of Trustees at its meeting on Thursday, July 12.

Vaux already has a long history with SIUC. He joined the psychology department in 1980 as an assistant professor. From there, he steadily climbed the ladder to associate professor, then clinical associate, then full professor in 1993. He became chair of the department in 1996. In 2004, he became associate dean of the college, and in 2006, interim dean.

Thomas Calhoun, associate provost of academic affairs, worked directly with Vaux when Calhoun chaired the sociology department.

"I always found him to be resourceful, analytical, and devoted to the University and the mission of the University," he said. "I really do believe he will take seriously any problems the college faces and put a team together to overcome problems."

In a statement he wrote when applying for the dean's position, Vaux said his research interest in "understanding and influencing complex human systems has shifted to an administrative interest in trying to understand and influence the complex human systems of the university."

Vaux, a native of Ireland, earned his doctoral degree in psychology from Trinity College in Dublin in 1979. He earned a second doctoral degree from the University of California at Irvine in 1981, specializing in social ecology. A first-generation college student, he said he is "strongly committed to making higher education accessible to all of those willing and able to pursue it."

Moreover, he is convinced that a healthy intellectual life depends on diversity both in the population and in the course offerings of the college. He helped establish the new Latino and Latin American Studies minor in the College of Liberal Arts while interim dean, and has had a hand in several other new program proposals as well. As department chair, he helped develop and add to the University Core Curriculum two diversity courses and two more that cross-list from with the Black American Studies and psychology departments.

Vaux described himself as "a polite bulldog" as an advocate for the college.

"I am honored to have been selected for this position," he said, speaking of his recent appointment. "The College of Liberal Arts is in many ways the center of the university. It is home to diverse, sophisticated, first-rate baccalaureate and graduate programs, excellent teachers and scholars, and an effective, hard-working staff. We offer students a learning experience that can lay the foundation for an enriched life and fine careers. My goal is to sustain the college's fine record of accomplishment, such that SIUC liberal arts students will be seen as strikingly literate, numerate, articulate, sophisticated, creative and thoughtful."

Another of his goals includes increasing demand for liberal arts courses, which run the gamut from art to music, literature to history, economics to political science and the administration of justice. He acknowledged the "difficult reality of limited resources," noting that problems are best fixed by action and the desired action is to put in place "enthusiastic and expert faculty" and a "dynamic, current, responsive and coherent curriculum."

Vaux has experience making things work when budgets are tight. For example, he was chair of the psychology department when it went into a "retirement era" and saw multiple resignations. He was responsible for organizing more than two dozen search committees for the department. During his watch, 22 faculty members came on board even during a period of budget cuts.

Vaux has served on 66 master's degree committees, chairing 27 of them. He has served on 61 doctoral dissertation committees, chairing 31. He has served on the SIUC Graduate Council, as a panel member on the Judicial Review Board and as a member of the "Faculty" topic group for the Southern at 150 committee. He is a fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Society for Psychological Science.

The College of Liberal Arts is the largest college at SIUC with more than 250 tenure-track faculty, approximately 3,100 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students in 23 majors, 28 minors and six independent programs.