Search for a new dean comes to a close
Jessica Guerrucci – Managing Editor
The adjective “interim” has been dropped from his title, and now, Bruce Kalk will get to call himself the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I’m elated,” said Kalk. “I couldn’t be happier.”
As one of the four finalists for the position, Kalk said the fact that he was chosen out of a pool of about 60 applicants makes him very humbled and being able to continue in the dean position makes him realize the difference he can make.
What separated Kalk from the other candidates is that he was an “inside hire,” since he was interim dean for two-and-a-half years, so he says he will not have to do a listening tour, meaning he would go to every department to a meeting while getting to know the campus.
“I don’t need to do that because I know those people already,” said Kalk. “That means that I don’t have a learning curve because I’ve been doing the job already.”
Student Government Association Representative-at-Large Brandon Iovene, a sophomore, said he thinks it is a good idea Kalk was hired after already working at the university.
“He’s already been serving as the interim dean, so he already knows what the issues are happening at Southern and how the office works, how Southern’s curriculum works,” said Iovene. “So, I think that was a smart decision to hire him as permeant dean.”
In an email, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Prezant, said out of the pool of applicants, Kalk was the individual who could “best use his insight, attention to detail, and forward thinking to continue to move the college forward.”
What set him apart from the other candidates, Kalk said, was his experience and knowledge of the campus environment.
“There’s a culture at Southern and it’s unique,” said Kalk. “I think being able to appreciate and celebrate that culture and work within that culture to make more accomplishments for arts and sciences and the university as a whole, I think it’s going to be a little bit easier for me.”
President Joe Bertolino said that Kalk’s experience and understanding of the university will be good for students, faculty and the community as a whole.
“I think he’s done a spectacular job and we did have a strong pool of candidates,” said Bertolino. “But there there is something to be said for an individual who comes to the table not only with experience, but someone who understands others, who understands the culture, understands our students, understands their needs.”
Despite already being in the position temporarily, Kalk said the process of interviews was necessary in two aspects: legally, because Southern is a public university and secondly because with outside people comes fresh, innovative ideas.
Now that he is in the position permanently, Kalk said he made several promises during his interviews he will have to keep and is eager to execute. The first of which, he said would be to focus on cultivating a relationship with the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium. He said Southern is also applying for a grant to get a permanent display there.
“What that does if you think about it,” said Kalk, “it doesn’t just display Southern’s commitment to the sustainability of the Long Island Sound, that’s part of it. It doesn’t just display Southern’s commitment to science education, that’s part of it. It also is a way of marketing Southern in a part of Connecticut where frankly we don’t get that many students.”
Additionally, Kalk said he hopes to launch an arts management program, which has already been proposed and a minor could be proposed as early as fall of 2021, and then possibly become a major a year or two afterwards.
Kalk said another possibly is pursuing a professional science doctorate, which he said would be “really exciting.”
He also said he discussed in his interview creating an arts and sciences research fund where a quarter of the money would go towards students’ collaborators and faculty research.
“For Giving Day, that’s what our focus is for arts and sciences, and I already have matches for $10,000 from two visionary donors, so that other people who donate to that arts and sciences research fund will see their gifts doubled,” said Kalk.
Since being at Southern for 27 years, Kalk has gotten to know lots of students, but has not been in a classroom in a few years, so he said thinks it is time for him to get out and interact with students more.
SGA Rep-at-Large, Benjamin Coombs, a senior, said he got to meet Kalk when he accompanied the Southern’s University Choir and Chamber Choir to Italy this past month.
Coombs said the trip allowed him to get to know Kalk better and feels comfortable and happy knowing Kalk got the position.
“Just in the few conversations I had overseas with him, he seems like a very student-centered type of administrator,” said Coombs, “and I think that’s really important for the position of dean at this college.”