Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2003

New dean looks to make positive changes

August 20, 2003

Don't be surprised if you see a well-dressed woman in tennis shoes walking down Eighth Street each morning -- rain or shine.

For Jamie Comstock, Baker University's new vice president and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the walk is a chance to combine a workout into her daily commute.

"It's exactly one mile from my doorstep in FireTree to my office," Comstock said. "I was raised in a town of 3,000 people, and I'm committed to the idea of community. I wanted to be able to live in the place that I work and be involved."

It's probably good that Comstock wears her athletic shoes to the office, because since beginning her job July 1, she has hit the ground running.

With new organizational plans and a list of goals, Comstock is ready to tackle her first year at Baker. She will provide oversight for all academic programs, student academic services, the library, athletics and several administrative offices. In addition, she will serve as a member of the Administrative Council.

Previously, Comstock served as interim dean at the School of Professional Studies at St. Louis University. She has worked as director of academic programs at the school for the past three years. She served for eight years as director of the Organizational Communication Program and Leadership Skills Minor at the University of West Florida, where she also was a tenured faculty member in the Communication Arts Department. She earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in Communication from the University of Arizona and master's and bachelor's degrees from Illinois State University.

"We are very pleased to have found such a qualified person," said Baker President Daniel Lambert. "With Dr. Comstock's energy and vision, I'm confident she will help lead the college in a positive direction. Her strong academic background provides an anchor for the quality programs we offer at Baker."

Comstock's first order of business was reorganizing the Dean's Office, Learning Resource Center and Registrar's office, hiring a new associate dean for faculty and academic administrative services and an assistant dean for student academic services. Comstock said her goal was to decentralize decision making and allow for more involvement of others in processes that lead to policy and procedure changes.

"As a result of this decentralization, students will see an increase in the quality of student services," she said. "Our goal is to provide the academic programs, instructional support and experimental learning opportunities that foster student progress and make them ready for success upon graduation. We will redesign as needed to make progress toward this goal."

The associate dean will be responsible for institutional research, interdisciplinary academic programs, across-the-curriculum initiatives, faculty development and student outcomes assessment.

The new assistant dean will oversee the Office of Records and Registration and the Learning Resource Center, coordinate the production of the University catalog and serve as the campus contact for a number of government compliance issues.

One of Comstock's more encompassing goals is to create a Planning Council made up of faculty, staff and students that will establish a vision for the college and create a plan to move toward that vision.

"Our new vision and positioning statement will illuminate the distinctions of a Baker University education and the type of students best served by what we have to offer," she said. "Once we make these important clarifications, then we can provide the programs and student support that will attract and retain students."

Comstock is passionate about Baker and targeted the school in her initial job search. She was looking for a United Methodist school with a strong academic tradition located in a small community. After a little digging, she found Baker was at the top of her list.

"It was like magic in the interview. I could tell in the beginning it was a good fit," she said. "We all want to build upon the strong Baker foundation and take the College of Arts and Sciences to the next level. I'm prepared to do all I can to invigorate the college in a way that gains widespread support from faculty, staff, students and alumni."

Although the demands of being dean are more than an 9-to-5 job, Comstock said she hopes once she is settled to become more involved in the daily life of Baldwin City.

"I'd like to be able to actively participate in my church and get involved with the arts in the community," she said. "I really feel it's important to be part of a community."

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