By HANNAH GALEONE
On Mar. 27, 2018, the University of Mary Washington’s Provost, Nina Mikhalevsky, made an exciting announcement in an email to the University community. Keith Mellinger, after serving as the interim dean since June 2017, was named the permanent dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Mellinger has been a UMW faculty member since 2003 when he started as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics. He was the chair of the department for six years. In addition, he has held the position of director of Academic and Career Services, according to an article posted on EagleEye by Marty Morrison.
“I’m excited,” said Mellinger. “Being permanent means that the issues that the college is facing are much more on my plate and I need to deal with them more seriously. I’m excited to be able to dive right in.”
“Dr. Mellinger brings the necessary experience, skills, knowledge and genuine commitment to our students and faculty to provide the kind of leadership that will enable us to address our current challenges [and] strength[s],” said Provost Mikhalevsky.
Mellinger, is the recipient of a national writing award from the Mathematical Association of America and a research grant from the National Security Agency, according to Morrison’s EagleEye article.
Mellinger says that he finds his drive and motivation [to make improvements and changes] from within himself.
“I’m very self motivated,” said Mellinger. “I really like new challenges. The newness of the challenges that come up is exciting and reinvigorating each time.”
As Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Mellinger hopes to continue to promote UMW’s positive and niche characteristics that the general public may not know about.
“We really have a wonderful place to work and a wonderful place to study. This is a beautiful campus with strong academic programs,” says Mellinger. “[The location] is great. [UMW] has a much bigger culture of service and undergraduate research.
Mellinger hopes to use the stories of UMW students, both current and alumni, to spread the message about the University’s strengths.
“We have a lot going for us,” said Mellinger. “Our challenge is that we are in a very competitive market and there are a lot of really good schools in Virginia. We can’t deny that.”
Mellinger hopes to further promote the University’s highly engaged faculty. He also hopes to promote the undergraduate research budget that far exceeds anything he has seen from talking to his peers at other institutions.
“We support things like funding for faculty development in a much stronger way than other schools do,” said Mellinger.
Although the University has many positive and noteworthy aspects that Mellinger hopes to promote, there are a few changes that he would like to see happen in the near future. One thing that Mellinger feels is crucial to improve upon is the economic facets of the University.
“In my opinion, we don’t recognize enough the work that faculty do outside of the regular classroom teaching,” said Mellinger.
He said that the University needs to find proper funding for salaries and that our expectations being based around classroom teaching is a little short sighted.
“Economics have hurt us a lot in the past ten years,” said Mellinger. “UMW faculty and staff have not seen a raise in their pay and that is a big challenge. It’s been demoralizing.”
As far as the general reputation of the University goes, Mellinger feels that there can be drastic improvements. He wants the student body to know that he will work on improving the image of the University of Mary Washington.
“I’m definitely going to work on better promoting the amazing things that students are doing here,” says Mellinger. “I just got done reading an honors thesis in my department, Mathematics, and it blew my mind.”
Talking to deans and faculty at other schools has allowed Mellinger to even further grasp that UMW is an amazing place.
“We really have a wonderful place to work and study,” said Mellinger. “One thing that I’ve learned in the last year, is that it seems like we only ever hear about the problems. [Our campus] has all of the things that you are looking for in higher education. We have trouble getting that message out and we have to figure out a way to [promote] that more.”