Kopp holds forum as first of four College of Liberal Arts & Sciences dean candidates

Sacha Kopp, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences dean from SUNY Stony Brook, was introduced on Monday as the first of four candidates for the next UI liberal-arts college dean.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Sacha E. Kopp speaks during a forum as one of four candidates for the University of Iowa’s Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Voxman Concert Hall on Monday, October 15, 2018. Previously, Kopp has served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education of the College of Natural Sciences for the University of Texas at Austin.

Christopher Borro, News Reporter

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences launched its dean search on Monday by hosting a forum for the first candidate, Sacha Kopp, the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

David Ryfe, director of the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication and co-chair of the dean search committee, introduced Kopp to the audience.

Around 100 people, many of whom were liberal-arts college faculty, attended the event, which was held in the Voxman Music Building Concert Hall.

Kopp began the forum by discussing the accomplishments from his previous positions at the University of Texas at Austin and SUNY Stony Brook, and the challenges he faced there. These included hiring 80 more faculty at UT-Austin and increasing the diversity of faculty at SUNY.

Kopp said there were three things that helped highlight the importance of the liberal-arts college: the need for a liberal arts institution, the importance of a research institution, and the ability to change people’s socioeconomic status through an education from the UI.

“I see tremendous strengths in this institution that will shape our way forward,” Kopp said.

RELATED: Will higher education remain accessible as funding becomes less public?

Kopp said he was impressed with the pride that the UI demonstrated in its location, and how the people of Iowa were drawn to it and how it paid tradition to its locale.

Kopp said he dealt with similar state funding cuts at SUNY as the $16 million in budget cuts to the UI’s budget since fiscal 2016. Such budgetary restrictions nationwide, as well as fewer middle-class families being able to afford education, he said were reasons for people potentially viewing liberal-arts degrees as less impactful than those from other colleges.

For the latter half of the forum, Kopp answered questions from the audience that Ryfe had collected. Questions included what Kopp might do differently in handling the Stony Brook budget cut crisis, how he thinks he could improve the value of general-education curricula, and specific diversity-related challenges and solutions he faced in the past.

RELATED: UI works on inclusion, diversity

He was also asked how he would keep lines of communication between staff, students, and the administration open, what he learned in saving money at Texas and how he can apply that knowledge at the UI, and how he would manage his administrative team.

“We’re not just teaching people the contents of textbooks, we’re teaching them how to ask questions and innovate,” Kopp said.

The search for a new dean comes after former dean Chaden Djalali announced his intent to leave the UI upon the end of the 2017-18 academic year in spring of 2017. He accepted a position as executive vice president and provost of Ohio University in May.