The College of Arts and Sciences Welcomes
Noelle Norton, PhD, shares her vision for the future of liberal arts at USD
She may be the new Dean, but Noelle Norton, PhD, is no stranger to the College of Arts and Sciences. Her professorship began in 1994, when she started teaching in the Department of Political Science and International Relations. She has honed her collaborative, people-centered approach as Director of the Honors Program and Co-Director of the Living Learning Communities. Most recently, she served as Associate Dean, a post she enthusiastically described as “faculty customer service.” Norton’s new position provides even greater opportunity to listen, lead and problem-solve.
Dean Norton, in your nearly 20 years with USD you have served as a professor of political science and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. How does it feel to accept this new level of leadership?
I have loved all of the roles I’ve held at USD and look forward to the next challenge. Each position has introduced me to new dimensions of the institution and to more people committed to the university’s success. When I started as the USD Honors Program Director in 2001, I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with faculty from a variety of disciplines and schools to create a successful program. The role of Dean will be very similar—I get to work with great faculty and schools to create a successful College! After 20 years, I have a deep appreciation for and understanding of the entire College and its relationship to the university. I’m ready for the next adventure.
What is your vision for the future of the College of Arts and Sciences?
I want to see the College recognized as one of the most distinctive liberal arts and sciences colleges in the west, if not the nation, within the next 10 years. We have long aspired to be a great liberal arts college and I believe we have built a good foundation to achieve that goal. We already have all the key elements to claim we are distinctive: a deep commitment to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, a 30-year-old first-year seminar program (preceptorial), a strong faculty-student advisor model, a growing living learning community program, a 20-year-old widely recognized Community Service Learning program, multiple interdisciplinary opportunities, wide-ranging study abroad opportunities, a robust undergraduate research program, the Ashoka Changemaker designation, a cadre of excellent teacher-scholars, and a dynamic group of undergraduate students. And, I haven’t even started to list the accomplishments of the individual departments and faculty in the College! If we can complete the revision of our core curriculum to reflect the unique educational experience we offer, I’m certain we can spread the good word about the excellent educational opportunity we offer more quickly. Completion of the core and continued attention to diversity and inclusion will set us well on the way to thrive in the 21st century. I’m already at work touting our success in every venue that will listen to me, from national higher education conferences to individual community members.
What inspires you about your predecessor, Dr. Mary Boyd? How will the university remember her?
Dean Boyd wasn’t only my “boss.” She was a friend. The Dean’s Office Staff will miss her energy and sense of fun! She will be remembered for her commitment and support of the fine arts, student success, and her diversity hires. She also leaves the legacy of her work on the ADVANCE grant, which has significantly enhanced opportunities for women in the STEM at USD.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’ve been told that I have a “collaborative” leadership style, but I think that word may be overused to describe a characteristic all good administrators should claim. I believe it’s important to lead by example. I work hard, listen to all voices, treat others with respect, approach tasks with enthusiasm and remain flexible, with the expectation that others will work in similar ways. It is also important for a leader to be clear about her vision, her decisions, and the processes used to articulate a vision or reach decisions. I have already scheduled a series of “Dean’s Office Hours” and meeting opportunities for late summer and the 2013-2014 academic year, in an effort to show that I will “collaborate” or listen when making decisions to move the College forward. The dates of these events will be announced soon.
How do you hope to relate to students and faculty?
I will continue to relate to faculty the way I have for 20 years. I love to talk to all faculty at any point during the day. And I’m known to wander the halls just to see what’s new with everybody. In addition to my “office hours,” I also hope to set up some more formal conversations on some important topics in higher education during the fall: online education, the teacher-scholar model, diversity and inclusion, adjunct/contingent faculty, and more.
The one drawback about this new job is that I won’t be able to teach much over the next few years. I especially love to teach American Government preceptorial courses, because I can meet students in their first-year and build a relationship with them over their next four years at USD. In order to stay close to students, I hope to form a College Student Advisory Board. I’ve already talked to a group of students about how to structure this kind of board in the fall. Additionally, I have relationships with a number of alumni because of my 20-year tenure at USD and my role as Honors Program Director. My hope is to reconnect with many of our former students as soon as possible!
- Anne Malinoski '11
|My husband, Erwin Willis, was Fire Chief of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District for 12 years. We met when we both worked for the City of San Luis Obispo. Today, he owns a computer networking business that primarily supports non-profit organizations.||I have been in the same book group for 17 years.|
|My daughter, Ellen Willis-Norton, just graduated from college and is working as an Environmental Analyst with the San Francisco Estuary Institute. She is well on her way to saving the world’s oceans!||My grandfather was a college president (Cal Poly SLO), so maybe higher education administration is in my blood.|
|Biography: Noelle Norton||Inside USD: Norton Takes the Reins|
|Department of Political Science and International Relations||CAS Hallmarks|
|Union Tribune: USD Names New Dean|