Following UConn President Susan Herbst’s announcement that she would be finishing out her term as leader of the university this spring, a long process was undertaken to find who her successor would be. As most groups on campus are surely aware of, the president designate has been found: Thomas Katsouleas.
Now, this was to be expected. Not only has Herbst gone through all stages of public opinion in her tenure as president, but it seems as if the waters are only getting more rocky for UConn. Amid an ongoing funding dispute with the state, concerns of transparency and ambitious growth rates all around, there was really no better time to hand the reins over.
So, the question is, how will Dr. Katsouleas respond to all this and more? Let’s start with the positives. Katsouleas has an impressive resume, both in direct teaching and research as well as administrative roles. He has decades of experience in academia. At the same time, he has received awards and recognition not only for his prowess in physics but also his commitment to leadership, diversity and planning. He has given talks on higher education all around the world, a sign that he is really committed and impassioned on running a university.
If there was ever any doubt, Katsouleas is definitely qualified. As far as his background goes, many hope that his firsthand experience as a professor and researcher in STEM will drive his decisions on funding and academic focus for the university. Perhaps we could see an increase in the sizes of engineering and science departments as a result of this.
On the other hand, there is fear that this will drive UConn too far in this direction. Many - especially those interested in the humanities - already feel a bit isolated and forgotten on campus given the overwhelming influence of STEM. In President Herbst’s time, we have seen a massive growth in engineering and science. If these are the changes that occur under a former political scientist, how far will UConn go with a physicist and electrical engineer in charge?
Of course, this is all just conjecture. Currently, the news is still so fresh still that the only thing Katsouleas has had time for between his current job at the University of Virginia is a fluff interview. Only time will tell for certain how he is able to handle UConn at one of its most vulnerable times. We can only hope that his wealth of experience will do us well here.