Regional campus dean steps down after five years, looks to future role in academia

Tamra McMillion, Reporter

This spring, the dean of Kent State University Columbiana County campuses, Salem and East Liverpool announced he would be stepping down from his position. Now, he is ready to get back into the classroom.

Daniel Dees said he misses his everyday interaction with students and aiding them in the process of learning. 

“There’s this great moment when a student gets it,” Dees said. “Their eyes light up, and you can see they kind of went from this moment of ‘I don’t get it’ to ‘Oh my goodness; it makes complete sense.’ I love that.”

Dees started teaching in 1987 during his first week of grad school at the University of Kentucky when he was asked to help teach an introductory theater class. He received a master’s degree in theater from the University of Kentucky and began pursuing a doctorate degree in the cultural foundations of education at Kent State in 1991.

He began his role as dean on June 1, 2017. 

As dean, Dees believes that he strengthened the connection between the regional campuses and the community around them.

“The people in this community know that Kent State is so excited to be a part of their community and be a part of their everyday lives, and I think we’ve rekindled that,” Dees said.

Dees said he is proud of his involvement in the Rural Scholars program, which is now known as Rising Scholars. The program focuses on first-generation, college-bound high school students and gives them and their families rigorous academic exposure and social support to prepare them for their college experience. With his help, the program expanded from the Columbiana County campuses to all Kent State campuses.

“I am so proud of the faculty at Salem, East Liverpool and the staff at Salem, East Liverpool, where they’re so committed to the mission and serving these students,” Dees said. “That’s the thing I’m going to miss.” 

Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley met Dees about 29 years ago when he was a graduate student at Kent State and when she was new to Kent State faculty.

“My favorite thing about David is when you ask him how he’s doing. He has always said, ‘I’m living the dream,’” Tankersley said. “He is authentic, he is passionate, he is golden … he finds the joy in everything that he’s doing.”

Dees said his background in theater helped him during his time as dean, and he often makes the joke that the most important degree he has is in theater. 

“It taught me a lot of the same skills,” he said. “The same skills that I needed to be a theater director are the same skills you need to be a good dean, I think.”

Despite stepping down from one role at Kent State, Dees already has plans to return to classrooms soon. He will begin teaching an education and democratic society class in the spring.

“It’s bittersweet, because I love being dean … I love this community. I love this job, but I just miss the classroom so much,” he said. “When I look at the last five to 10 years of my career, I want to go back to that passion. I want to go back to that original thing that got me into higher ed, because I find such joy teaching students and being in the classroom.”

Tamra McMillion is a reporter. Contact her at .