Kehrberg named interim dean of College of Arts and Sciences at Western

CULLOWHEE – Kehrberg will fill a vacancy created by the departure of Robert Vartabedian, who is leaving Western on May 31 to accept the position of vice president for academic affairs at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, N.M.

Robert Kehrberg

Robert Kehrberg

Kehrberg will take over leadership of the college effective June 1, Western Provost Kyle Carter said in announcing the interim appointment. He is no stranger to the role, Carter said, having served as interim dean of the college last year when Vartabedian was serving as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“I am pleased that Robert Kehrberg will be serving as interim dean of arts and sciences,” Carter said. “Robert served in this capacity earlier this year and did a very good job leading the college.”

Kehrberg will be directing the college during a time of transition, both within the arts and sciences area and within the university as a whole, Carter said.

“Chief among his challenges will be the opening of the Fine and Performing Arts Center in October, coping with unprecedented enrollment growth, overseeing the construction of the Stillwell Building and providing an open context for the faculty to evaluate the current college structure,” he said. “I am confident that Robert is up to the challenge and look forward to Robert’s leadership on these and other issues.”

University faculty and administrators are analyzing the current structure of the College of Arts and Sciences, which has experienced rapid increases in student enrollment and expansion of academic programs. Discussions about the college’s structure have been going on for a couple of years, Carter said.

Some faculty and administrators have questioned whether the college, twice the size of Western’s other undergraduate colleges, has become too unwieldy to serve students and faculty during a period of rapid change, he said.

With 199 full-time and 98 part-time faculty members, the college as currently configured consists of 14 academic departments – anthropology and sociology; art; biology; chemistry and physics; communication, theatre and dance; English; geosciences and natural resources management; history; mathematics and computer science; modern foreign languages; music; philosophy and religion; political science; and social work.

Western’s other undergraduate colleges – Applied Sciences, Business, and Education and Allied Professions – consist of either four or five academic departments.

“The composition of the College of Arts and Sciences will be determined in the fall after I receive input from the faculty and department heads,” Carter said. “It is possible that what is now one college will evolve into multiple structures. If so, we will be looking for more than one dean. We will begin a search in late fall for the permanent dean or deans, once we know the final composition.”

Kehrberg has served as head of the department of music since his arrival on campus in 1987. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa and his doctor of arts degree from the University of North Colorado in 1983. Before coming to Western, he was director of the School of Music at Eastern New Mexico University.