On May 31, 2016, Kathleen Skerrett will step down as Dean of Arts and Sciences. Throughout her past four years as dean, Skerrett has worked tirelessly to improve the experiences of students and faculty.
Skerrett began at Richmond in 2011 following a nationwide search led by the provost at the time, Steve Allred.
"It was clear that there [was] strong support for Dr. Skerrett," Allred wrote in an email. "With a Ph.D. in theology from Harvard University, a J.D. from Dalhousie University, and a bachelor's degree from Mount Allison University, and a record of scholarship, we were pleased to have her join us at the University of Richmond."
Skerrett said she came to Richmond for the Richmond Promise.
"I loved the mission-- to create a unique educational environment through a diverse and inclusive community."
Introduced in 2009, the Richmond Promise launched multiple initiatives seeking to comprehensibly improve the experiences of students and faculty. After her appointment, Skerrett quickly became a champion for each facet of the Promise, especially in the areas of academic integration, diversity and inclusivity, and student enrichment.
Focusing on academic integration alone, Skerrett has initiated a number of efforts to strengthen the academic experiences of her students. She enabled the acquisition of new research equipment for the sciences, and oversaw the redesign of over 50 Arts and Sciences websites.
The program she is most proud of, however, is the Arts and Sciences undergraduate research program.
The Arts and Sciences undergraduate research program became a pillar of the Promise under Skerrett's leadership, and it continues to see growth, particularly in the Humanities. The Humanities Initiative is a developing program spearheaded by faculty and supported by Skerrett that will enable Humanities research opportunities.
Nicole Sackley and Joanna Drell, associate professors of history, came to Skerrett in 2014 with an idea to foster interdisciplinary interaction within the School of Arts and Sciences. The professors were met with enthusiasm, and reported back to Skerrett whenever they made new developments.
"[Skerrett] is a champion of faculty efforts in this area," Sackley said. Details about the Humanities Initiative will be unveiled later this year.
Skerrett has also worked to promote diversity and inclusion at Richmond, keeping in line with the Promise. Skerrett increased the number of tenure-track positions within the School of Arts and Sciences, resulting in a 16% increase in under-represented minority groups among the faculty. She also oversaw increases in compensation for adjunct faculty.
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A critical facet of her inclusion efforts is her commitment to student voices.
"Dean Skerrett leveraged her role within the administration to authentically engage with and uplift critical student voices---including my own," Erik Lampmann, University of Richmond class of 2014, said. "We are a better university, community, and Spider family because of her work."
With the implementation of the Richmond Guarantee, the Richmond Promise campaign has come to a close, but many of the programs it spawned still flourish under Skerrett's leadership. She came to Richmond for its Promise, and played a major role in its success.
Following a yearlong sabbatical, Skerrett will assume a tenured position in the University's department of Religious Studies where she will continue to enrich the experiences of Richmond students.
"In my first year, two student leaders asked me if we could offer Human Anatomy and Human Physiology on campus," Skerret said. "They were seniors. Last year we offered both these courses. I would tell students that their leadership today matters for others tomorrow, so do the good thing now with the long view in mind."
Contact features assistant Kayla Solsbak at email@example.com.
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