James named dean of public health

Suzi Starheim

KSU ‘exactly matches my technique’

Kent State named Mark James, professor and vice chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, as its new founding dean of the College of Public Health yesterday. James will begin as dean of the college on July 1, 2010.

“The opportunity at Kent State University is ideal in that it allows one to build the college in the vision of a founding dean, together with a committed administration, faculty, staff and students,” James said.

Prior to the naming of James as dean, Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, served as interim dean of the college since its inception in 2009.

James has been with Tulane University in New Orleans for 21 years, which he said is “practically my whole professional career.”

Prior to becoming president of Kent State, Lester Lefton served as Provost at Tulane University.

James said Lefton’s move from Tulane to Kent State was not the reason he was recruited.

“We met professionally only, and he probably doesn’t recall me in meeting me personally,” James said.

Lefton “was responsible for beginning the undergraduate Public Health program at Tulane in 2004,” James added.

James, who specializes in infectious diseases and tropical medicine, said he is very happy to have gotten the position at Kent State.

“I came to a school that exactly matches my technique,” James said. “Over the course of 21 years, I have developed the cumulative experience necessary to become a dean of a College of Public Health.”

James said the process of obtaining the position started in September 2009 when he saw an advertisement that went out for a new dean of public health at Kent State.

James said Kent State then selected eight to 10 individuals and had a search committee interview them at the Cleveland airport.

“I had an hour-long interview,” James added. “It was then narrowed down to a group of four.”

After the last four were chosen, James visited Kent State for a second interview, which took place Nov. 9 through 11.

He said there was then “a period of silence” in which the administration must have been making up its mind.

James’ last trip to Kent State was Feb. 19. On this day, he gave a presentation to faculty and met with Lefton, Frank and senior associate provost Tim Chandler.

“This was just a quick, one day trip,” James said of his most recent visit to Kent State.

After James left, faculty discussed his hiring for two to three days, and he received the confirmation call from Frank the afternoon of Feb. 24.

“I’m feeling wonderful,” James said. “It helps when somebody has a big interest in you and vice versa.”

James signed the official agreement yesterday morning by fax and said it was an easy choice for him partially because of the faculty at Kent State.

“I felt very comfortable with the faculty there,” he said. “There is a very strong collegiality.”

Frank said he is very “really delighted to have (James) here,” and thinks he will be a big asset to the College of Public Health.

“Kent State University’s College of Public Health is poised to prepare students to meet the region’s and nation’s need for trained public health professionals,” Frank said. “Dr. James’s knowledge of what it takes to build an accredited program of public health will guide the college to meet those needs and leverage the educational and research strengths of its faculty.”

James’s resignation from Tulane is effective June 30, 2010, and he will begin at Kent State during the first week of July.

During the summer, James said he will meet with other important units on campus.

Overall, James said he will focus on undergraduates in the College of Public Health, and then graduate programs. He said he also expects faculty to establish research programs.

“I knew going in that this job was meant for me,” James said.

Along with James’ teaching experience are other positions he has held in public health. These positions include chair of the Tulane University Health Sciences Center Biomedical Institutional Review Board, secretary of General Faculty for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and member of the University Senate at Tulane University.

Contact academics reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].