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New Pacific dean hails from Virginia Wesleyan

University's president welcomes Lisa Carstens as 'a very talented individual'

Lisa Carstens, the associate dean of Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Va., has been named the next dean of Pacific University's College of Arts and Sciences.

Her hiring was announced Monday by Pacific provost John Miller. Carstens will succeed John Hayes, who is retiring at the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

Carstens begins her duties on the Forest Grove campus July 1.

'I'm attracted to Pacific because it has its own character and its own innovations under way,' said Carstens, who holds a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in critical theory.

'The best leaps forward are the ones that build on the distinctive strengths of the individual institution,' Carstens added. 'My job [is] to make sure that those strengths are not only identified in Pacific's College of Arts and Sciences but also intentionally cultivated, supported and celebrated.

Carstens, who began her tenure at Virginia Wesleyan in 1997, taught courses in theory and criticism, modernism, women's and gender studies at the school, where she became an associate professor in 2003 and a professor in 2008.

She has authored several academic publications and made numerous conference presentations on subjects ranging from sexual politics in British literary and science discourse to inquiry-guided learning in the liberal arts curriculum.

Pacific President Lesley Hallick, who has pushed for expansion of the university's health professions programs in Hillsboro, said Carstens' selection was unrelated to her background in English.

'Dr. Carstens' appointment was not intended to send a message about her area of scholarship,' Hallick said. 'We welcomed qualified candidates from across the entire spectrum of Arts and Sciences, and have chosen a very talented individual whose experience, abilities and leadership qualities were the best match to lead the College of Arts and Sciences through the exciting years ahead.'

Hayes has served as the college's dean since 2003. Under his direction, the college has increased its enrollment by 35 percent while restructuring itself into schools of arts and humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

He said expanding Pacific's International Baccalaureate learning - which exists in introductory physics and chemistry - into 'the rest of natural sciences and then into other areas' would 'be great.'

Carstens 'has the knowledge and skills to work with the faculty to move forward,' said Hayes.

Moving the curriculum at Virginia Wesleyan from a three-credit to four-credit system and establishing an inquiry-guided approach campus wide was a chief accomplishment of Carstens' time there.

The incoming dean said she prefers students to 'wrangle, hands-on, with complex problems posed in relation to real-world contexts' rather than attend traditional lecture-style classes alone.

For many professors, Carstens added, 'that means setting aside teaching methods they were raised with and adopting new strategies for a new age.'

Carstens said the best lesson she'd bring to Pacific from Virginia is the idea that 'while there are a number of practices that make every college better, there is no generic way to be a great college.'