Dean of Arts and Sciences stepping aside to focus on new goals


    With more than 20 departments in the College of Arts and Sciences ranging from mathematics to art, the person in charge of this part of K-State has had his work cut out for him.
    Steven White has been a dean in Arts and Sciences for more than seven years. After this year, White will step aside to focus on several tasks the provost has encouraged. These include workshops with the department heads and fundraising with alumni — two areas that White already has focused on.
    White said working with the department heads is key because these are the people who “make the decisions that matter the most.”
    White has experience with this position because he was a department head for more than 13 years, just a part of his 34 years here at K-State.
    “I have great empathy because I haven’t done that job for a long time, and I know it’s not an easy thing to do,” White said.
    White said training individuals in the department is important, especially if they are in their first or second years. Their influence strongly affects the program.
    “Usually if things are going very well, they’re responsible for it,” White said. “If things are going wrong, they have to deal with it.”
    White said he has confidence in his department heads, having hired 18 of the 21 new employees, and credits them with the success of the college.
    “Right now we have outstanding department heads,” White said. “That’s one of the reasons that I think it’s good for me to do something new now.”
     White also has the goal of fundraising with alumni, a process he is already involved in.
    “I like working with alumni because they can do a lot for the university in the way of PR,” White said. “Often, other students will be here simply because our alumni said good things about K-State.”
    White has helped increase the roles of alumni in his college with the creation of the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Advisory Council, a group that meets twice a year to advise the dean.
    Next year, besides these two roles, White also will return to teaching one class, Geography of the United States, a course he helped create years ago. 
    Under White, the faculty of the college has become more diverse with 30 percent more minority faculty teaching than before he took office. Also, White has placed a focus on female leadership. Before his time as dean, two women had administrative positions – now there are nine.
    During his term, the college also has developed new majors. Women’s Studies was added to the college about a year ago, and the American Ethnic Studies Program will be added in about six months, once it is approved by the Kansas Board of Regents.
    White’s influence at K-State is evident to others in the college, especially to his department heads.  
    “He’s just a man of integrity in a very difficult position, in a job where you have to juggle very diverse interest groups,” said Robert Corum,  head of the Department of Modern Languages. “I can say that as a dean his door is always open. He’s always available. He’s never impatient with a beginning department head.”
    Sue Zschoche, head of  the Department of History, appreciates White’s honesty.
    “What I love about Steve is you can just tell him the truth,” Zschoche said. “One of the things I most appreciate about him is the level of honesty and candor which we have been able to have [in] conversations.”
    With his faith in his department heads, White has seen the College of Arts and Sciences grow to be very successful, and this has led him to step aside.
     “I’ve truly enjoyed my time as dean, and I would say that there’s really nothing negative that’s causing me to step out,” White said. “Really, it’s the reverse. I feel very good about stepping out at a time when the college is doing so well.”