The Thoughtfulness Factor
Dean Nicholas M. Healy aims to make the College of Arts and Sciences prominent on a national scale
by Kelly Knufken

New dean Nicholas Healy was so excited about the job that he arrived at USD a full week before he was scheduled to take the helm of the College of Arts and Sciences.“I knew that there was something about the place that’s really quite special,” he says.

He hasn’t been disappointed. “The faculty are really quite good. I’m really impressed by them,” he says. He’s had a year to settle in and found the surprises he’s encountered — like the culture of respect at all levels of the Catholic university — positive ones.

Healy aims to guide the faculty while allowing them to have as much control over their future as possible. “Generally, I’ve tried to involve the faculty in decision-making.” Toward that end, they have been working together on an academic plan for the college’s future. This summer, the department chairs met with him for “fairly intense” conversations about each subject.

“We’re very much focusing on the interaction between faculty and students. We want to preserve what we have and enhance it if we can,” Healy says. The academic plan for the college won’t be complete until spring.

“We should be proud of who we are as a liberal arts college,” says Healy, who has experience at more research-intensive universities such as the Toronto School of Theology, where he began studying theology, and the venerable Yale University, where he earned a doctorate.

He has already hired 19 faculty members, and the college also hired its first director of development to better keep in touch with alumni, donors and other friends of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“What we want to do is to make the college visible. It’s much more vital and alive than some people may think. We also want to achieve national prominence. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”

That last goal won’t happen overnight, Healy knows. It may take 10 years, but Healy wants to get to a place where USD’s College of Arts and Sciences comes to mind when people in any part of the country are seeking a Catholic university.

Dean Healy’s downtime from his work as head of the College of Arts and Sciences is taken up by theological research. “An hour a day makes me feel better,” he says.