Q&A: Lisa Carstens speaks about her new role

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1. What are looking forward to in your new position?

I’m really looking forward to getting to know everybody, and I’m excited to pitch it and help Pacific realize its visions for the next decade.

2. What was your first impression of Pacific?

My first impression was that Pacific is committed to unpretentious excellence. I could tell that the Pacific community takes pride in the high quality of its academic life, but also that the people here are down to earth and care about one another. For me, that’s a very compelling combination.

3. What do you hope to accomplish during your time?

For one thing, I want to help expand the ways in which students can connect whatever interests they choose to pursue as undergraduates to exciting post-college futures. That will mean expanding the Advantages programs, securing additional partnerships between the college and the community that can lead to valuable experiential learning as well as career prospects, and making sure students know how to transfer what they’re doing in the classroom to what they want to do beyond the classroom.

4. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to be our new dean.

I tested a couple of different career paths before returning to school to pursue my Ph.D. in English. Since 1997 I’ve been on the English faculty at Virginia Wesleyan, where for several years now I’ve also taken on progressively larger administrative roles.

I served as department coordinator, directed our Winter Session (similar to Pacific’s Winter III), directed the First Year Experience program, served as chair of the humanities division, and then for the past almost six years have served in associate dean roles, leading new curriculum initiatives and supporting faculty development. The more I explored this side of things, the more I realized that I like being in a position to help the institution move forward and realize big visions.

So, when I saw the description of this dean position at Pacific, I recognized it as a great potential fit for me, both in terms of the character of the university and the role I could play.

5. There seems to be a rivalry between the sciences and the arts and humanities on our campus in terms of facilities and funding. How do you plan to navigate these issues?

Every program needs resources to thrive, and it tends to be the case that every program can imagine great things it could do with even more funding. My aim will be to ensure that every program gets the funding it needs.

That will include doing what I can to attract more resources for the college.

6. Is there anything that you are nervous for in your new position?

I wouldn’t describe myself as nervous, but of course it’s always an adventure to move to a new place and start a brand new challenge.

7. When will you be taking over?

I start on July 1.

8. What do you think Pacific’s weaknesses are from what you have seen? Its strengths?

Pacific has great leadership, outstanding faculty and staff, committed alumni, creative, capable students, and a wonderful campus setting. From every quarter I’ve heard in particular about the truly special relationships students have with the faculty. The university also has a smart vision for its future.

Its challenges are similar to many small private colleges and universities:  it costs a lot to offer an exceptional higher education, yet students and their parents can only pay so much. Pacific will need to find innovative strategies for continuing to update facilities and provide 21st century resources while containing costs for students.


9. Is there anything else you can think of?

I can’t wait to get started!


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