Honors interim dean brings business experience to position

Christina Thomas

Honors interim dean Don Williams likes listening to music, reading mystery novels and spending time with his two kids when he’s not working.

Williams, who is running for the honors dean position, had his reception Friday in Stopher Hall, where he spent time talking to students, faculty and administrators. He talked about his ideas and goals for the honors college if he is appointed the position and why he thinks he’s a good candidate for the job.

Q: What interested you in applying for the honors dean position?

A: The main thing I like about the job is the diversity of students and faculty. There aren’t main positions on campus where you can interact with so many different groups like arts faculty and science faculty, so it’s just a great environment.

Q: What is your educational/work history?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Wisconsin and my Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University. I worked for a small newspaper before I got my Ph.D., and then I did some part-time teaching in Chicago while I was a grad student. In 1983 I came to Kent, and I’ve been here ever since.

Q: What experiences from your career will benefit you as an Honors Dean?

A: I have a lot of administrative experience, having served as a department chairperson and associate dean for the College of Business. That experience gave me a lot of the skills that I need to do the job as a dean. Also I am serving as the honors interim dean, which has given me experience as well.

Q: Since the honors college is different because it is not a degree-giving college, what are the characteristics that set apart an honors dean from others?

A: You need to be able to work with a variety of people and be knowledgeable, to some extent, about the variety of programs across campus. You also have to have good communication skills, and it’s important to have experience in fundraising.

Q: What are your goals for the honors college if you are appointed the dean’s position?

A: The main objective is to maintain the quality of programs we have in the face of a new budgeting environment. I also want to try to raise the visibility of the college, and in doing that, we want to get more campus faculty engaged in honors college activities.

Q: Do you have any new ideas for the honors college you think could improve the program?

A: We’ve started our honors study abroad experience in Florence, which will begin in spring of 2009. We have talked about the concept of having an honors faculty distinction, where we would establish a process for a person to be given a status of being part of the honors faculty. I also think we want to take a look at our requirements for the honors curriculum and what it takes to graduate. I would like to see the students have a high-impact experience, where they are required to do a senior thesis, study away program or more community service.

Q: As a dean, students look to you for guidance. What kind of advice could you give to students preparing for their future?

A: Work hard, but enjoy your time here, as well. Be involved and be engaged in your education by doing things outside the classroom where you are able to apply the things you are learning in school.

Q: Did you have any mentors growing up?

A: I had a professor in Milwaukee who was almost an idol to me. I was always impressed by his intelligence, and he gave me a lot of advice and encouraged me to keep studying economics.

Contact Honors College reporter Christina Thomas at [email protected].