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James Ehlers, left, and Amy Sage Webb-Baza, right, will be promoted to assistant deans in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences while they work on the project.

Special to The Gazette

A project to restructure Emporia State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to drive efficiency and focus for academic programs will be led by two experienced faculty members, the ESU provost announced Monday.

Amy Sage Webb-Baza and James Ehlers will be promoted to assistant deans in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences while they work on the project.

Webb-Baza joined the Emporia State University faculty in 1996. She is a Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program. Ehlers came to Emporia State University in 2007 and now serves as the Don and Mary Glaser Distinguished Professor of Engraving Arts and chair of the Department of Art.

The reorganization project is the next step in the top-to-bottom examination of all parts of the university that began in 2022.

“We are committed to building a College of Liberal Arts & Sciences that is focused on students’ needs and experiences and also prepares faculty for advancement and leadership opportunities,” explained R. Brent Thomas, ESU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Feedback is vital for the project to succeed, Thomas said.

“It is important to solicit feedback on this vision from the talented faculty, staff, and department chairs from across our college,” said Thomas, “as I am confident that this feedback will serve to improve and strengthen the proposed structural reorganization of our college.”

Both professors say they were intrigued by a new vision and wanted to provide a bridge between administration and their colleagues.

“This project aims to make departments work with more fluidity within their resources and to streamline current work practices to make tasks easier to accomplish,” said Ehlers. “We hope to create more opportunities for training in administrative roles, so transitions are less challenging, things get done faster, and there will be more potential for collaborative dialogues between disciplines.”

Webb-Baza appreciates that Thomas moved outside the traditional model for this project.

“The provost’s office is reaching out beyond traditional administrative hierarchies to enlist help on a large-scale project, and maybe a few other specific tasks related to that,” she explained.

“I agreed to work on this project because I believe in it, and I want to contribute to its success,” she added. “I care deeply about the university and the people in it, including and especially the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which has been my academic home. During this time of significant change on campus, I want to do everything I can to help us find common purpose and succeed.”

Ehlers also appreciates being part of the change.

“Understandably, there will be some concerns with the change and the process,” Ehlers said. “I would like to be a part of collecting information for ways to make it work well. Restructuring will include changes that will affect my colleagues and myself in the long term and we want to set ourselves up for it to be successful. There are a lot of great creative problem solvers on campus, and I believe we can work to make it something we feel confident about.”

Both Ehlers and Webb-Baza recognize they will face challenges adding their new roles to their current duties. They believe the additional work is worthwhile.

“Throughout my tenure at ESU,” said Webb-Baza, “some of the accomplishments I’m most proud of have come from those times when we asked big questions, drafted new policies, envisioned and built things together.

“Tackling large-scale challenges, working through controversies, and making progress with others is the type of work that is almost always extra, and to do it well comes at a cost, but it’s transformative and worthy of doing when we can,” she concluded.

About James Ehlers:

James Ehlers was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He earned his MFA from the University of Florida and is currently the Department Chair and the Don and Mary Glaser Distinguished Professor of Engraving Arts at Emporia State University in Kansas — the only school in the nation to offer a BFA with a concentration in Engraving Arts.

Since 2007, he has given numerous engraving workshops at various events including the Frogman’s Printmaking Workshop (South Dakota), IMPACT Printmaking Conferences (Dundee, Scotland and Bristol, England), MAPC (Minnesota), and universities around the country. He has participated in group exhibitions in Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Norway, Romania, The Republic of Macedonia, Turkey and across the United States.

About Amy Sage Webb-Baza:

Amy Sage Webb-Baza joined the Emporia State University faculty in 1996. She is professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program. She has taught many different courses ranging from general education to graduate level, and she has mentored students in creative writing, literary arts, English and honors.

Webb-Baza has served in leadership roles and on numerous university committees and task forces within and beyond the university. She actively serves professional organizations and on multiple editorial boards and presses. At ESU she directs the Donald Reichardt Center for Publishing and Literary Arts, where she is managing editor for Bluestem Press and Flint Hills Review.

She publishes fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Within and beyond the university, Webb-Baza has been recognized with awards for her writing and achievements. At ESU, she received the Ruth Schillinger Award for Outstanding Service to the Women of Emporia State University, as well as awards from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for excellence in both service and teaching. In 2012 she was named Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor.

(2) comments

jean b

R. Brent Thomas is a lapdog and a fool if he doesn't think ESU students don't NEED English, history, journalism, foreign language, debate, etc! And I would guess that these 2 professors are probably a couple of lapdogs also, or they wouldn't be "playing nice" with hush, the person who is doing his best to destroy ESU. I hope neither of them hope to have freedom of speech, or hope to have any security in tenure.

BartJ

So….they are now going to decide what the College looks like? Let 33 people go, plus others and then say okay…now what are we going to do. The answer: “I don’t know - let’s find popular faculty, have them make suggestions, then we can blame them and keep the pressure off us administrators…yup that’s the Hush way. Lap dog Thomas is passing the buck and the blame.

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