First candidate for WKU Ogden dean takes part in open forum

Joanna Williams

More than 60 people showed up to the first of four open forums aimed at choosing the new dean of the Ogden College of Science & Engineering that took place Thursday afternoon.

Blaine Ferrell, interim dean of the Ogden College, will enter transitional retirement in December.

There has been a search committee narrowing down candidates since May, and the final four take part in a series of open forums throughout September, said David Lee, chair of the search committee and dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice-president for Academic Affairs, said he hopes to have the new dean chosen in October.

“I like to think we can have an appointment in place by October so they can start Jan. 1 — that’s my goal,” Emslie said.

The first candidate, Lou Reinisch, is currently head of the Physical and Earth Sciences department at Jacksonville State University.

Reinisch, who has been on a campus visit since Wednesday, opened the forum by saying he thought Ogden College was in good shape and if selected, he would not make many big changes.

“When I look at WKU I don’t see a need for radical changes,” he said.

Reinisch cited the continuing renovations to the university and increased student enrollment as a reason for that.

In 10 years, Reinisch said he pictured WKU being a “Leading American University” rather than simply aspiring to the motto.

Reinisch said a reason for that will be a “nexus between teachers and researchers.”

One way to increase the nexus is to increase the amount of graduate students attending the university, Reinisch said.

“Right now, 15 percent of WKU students are graduate — that has to change,” he said, adding Vanderbilt University has nearly 50 percent graduate students.

“That sort of increase of graduate students, that’s going to become part of WKU,” he said. “The one thing that will eventually cumulate is a Ph.D. program.”

Reinisch said that more graduate students will lead to a need for additional research facilities that WKU will have to meet.

“This research teaching nexus is an important part of the university,” he said. “It educates students that they can work 20, 30, 40 years in their field.”

Reinisch’s other plans include increasing the amount of international students and faculty, increasing the endowment income and retaining more students. Reinisch also said he hopes to create a more interactive relationship with faculty members.

“The faculty is going to define us,” he said. “I expect to have a response from them.”

Lee said he was happy at the turnout for the forum and the interaction Reinisch had with the audience.

Open forums are one of the best ways to introduce students, faculty and candidates to each other, Lee said.

“I think it’s a chance for candidates to interact with people they may be working with,” he said.

The next open forum will be Sept. 20 at Snell Hall with Glen Prater from the University of Louisville.