New academic year, new college! The College of Liberal and Creative Arts announces new dean

Dr. Cecilia Konchar-Farr, the new dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, is sitting in her new office located in the basement of the Paul N. Elbin library.

West Liberty University announced the merge of two colleges at the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year. Once again, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Arts and Communications are combined to make one college — the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.

According to Dr. Jeremy Larance, assistant provost for academic innovation and strategic planning, the two colleges had been combined back in 2011, but then split off. The most recent decision to merge back together began under Dr. Stephen Greiner’s presidency in 2019 and is one of the first tasks Dr. W. Franklin Evans [WLU’s current president] completed.

The two colleges merged back together for greater diversity and partially due to the amount of faculty and students in each college. “Many colleges here at West Liberty already have diverse splits. An example I would give for this situation would be communication and English having a lot in common,” said Larance. According to Larance, having the colleges together helps streamline administrative roles, create equity among the colleges and the overlap between the disciplines creates a space where more collaboration can occur.

Larance explained that when you combine the number of students and faculty of the two colleges [liberal arts and arts and communication], the numbers still do not amount to the university’s student and faculty members in other colleges.

Larance noted that faculty in the previous College of Arts and Communication were concerned there would be budget cuts for certain programs if the merge took place. However, Larance says that despite some worry among the new College of Liberal and Creative Arts, “budgets should stay the same.” He explained, “saving money was not the primary reason for the colleges merging. When you do the math, not much money is being saved.”

Larance claims the significant change with merging the two colleges is only having one dean saying, “You have a dean now who is supervising a more equable amount of faculty.”

The new dean for the College of Liberal and Creative Arts is Dr. Cecilia Konchar Farr, announced on Aug. 16, 2021, through a press release by WLU Media Relations. In this same press release, President Evans said, “The result [of combining the colleges] will be a streamlined, more efficient and robust academic college to address the needs of our students, faculty and staff.”

The college’s new dean, Konchar Farr, was selected after a nationwide search. Previously, she was a professor of English and Women’s Studies at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minn. since 1994.

Konchar Farr earned her doctoral degree in literature and theory at Michigan State University, and a master’s in literature and a bachelor’s in English at Brigham Young University (Utah). Konchar Farr’s undergraduate studies took place at Slippery Rock State College (Pa.), where she earned a degree in journalism and French.

“I wanted to be dean so I could have the opportunity to mentor the faculty. I am a very faculty central dean. I want to bring back what I know in my last 30 years as a faculty member and educator. I applied to West Liberty because it is very close to where I wanted to be, and it is the right place with all of the things I wanted in a dean job. Also, a lot of my family members have gone here including my two nieces and my sister-in-law,” said Konchar Farr. She also shared that she wants all of the faculty to feel “really supported and like their work is valuable in and out of the classroom.”

So far, she is most excited to be the dean she has always wanted. “I am excited to be a dean who serves the faculty so the faculty can serve the students. That order of work, for me, feels exciting and positive. This place is such a warm and welcoming place. I’ve been blown away by the generosity,” shared Konchar Farr.

A few aspects about Konchar Farr that she feels are important to who she is as an educator and person include her passions as a feminist and antiracist. “I try to find different systems. I don’t like to fall back on the same patterns we already have. I try to find systems that help people bring their best to the table and I really value a sense of community,” Konchar Farr explained. She also shared her love for writing and publishing, saying how both have always been “natural” to her.

In terms of merging the two colleges mentioned earlier in this article, Konchar Farr says, “When you bring all the departments together, everyone grows. Everyone blooms. It becomes more of an opportunity than a loss.”

Overall, Konchar Farr is spending this fall semester learning the different programs, meeting people in the university and figuring out how she can best serve them. She also plans to teach classes this spring semester as teaching remains a vital part of her life. Although she is unsure what she will be teaching in the spring, some classes she has taught previously include a Harry Potter class and one of her favorites, a course about lesbian writers that challenges gender roles. To learn more about the new dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, please visit her website at ceciliakoncharfarr.net or email her at [email protected]

For more information regarding this article, please email Annalise Murphy at [email protected]