Academics

‘It just feels right’

More than 20 years after arriving at Carolina, Kevin Guskiewicz got the news he had been chosen the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kevin Guskiewicz still remembers the first time he set foot on Carolina’s campus.

It was February 1995, and he had come to visit Chapel Hill to consider one of the many job offers he had received as he neared completion of his doctoral degree in sports medicine from the University of Virginia.

Driving back to Charlottesville on N.C. 86, his wife Amy called to ask, “How did it go?”

“I kind of paused and I remember the exact words I told her, ‘It just feels right.’”

Twenty-and-a-half years later, when he got the news he had been chosen the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Guskiewicz said, he experienced that same feeling all over again.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be standing here today to be introduced as the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences here at this university that many of us have grown to love,” Guskiewicz said at a celebration Oct. 30 at the FedEx Global Education Center.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt said it was a given that all the people considered for dean of the College would be “smart, capable and accomplished.”

But on her list of criteria, she also looked for other qualities that go to the character and heart of the person – qualities she found in Guskiewicz.

First, she said, the dean has to love students. Second, they have to love faculty and even faculty governance. (The governance part, she added, eliminates quite a few candidates.)

The College, she said, needed someone who understood how to nurture faculty to bring out the best in them.

Doing that is not something you can learn, Folt said. “It has to be something you love.”

And in his time at Carolina, Guskiewicz has proven himself to be that kind of leader — as well as an accomplished teacher and neuroscientist renowned for his expertise in injury prevention.

Guskiewicz currently oversees the academic departments and programs in the division of natural sciences and mathematics in the College. He is also the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science and co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center and director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes.

He holds appointments in the departments of orthopaedics and physical medicine and rehabilitation, the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and the doctoral program in human movement science.

Guskiewicz will not begin the job as dean until Jan. 1, he said, but on Monday he will “begin to help establish a roadmap for our future.”

That vision, he said, will be guided by three important characteristics.

The first is the need to be strategic. As a scientist, he is very hypothesis-driven, and often tells his students they need to be asking the question: Why?

As dean of the college, he said, he will be challenging people to ask themselves what it means to be a leading global public university.

The second is to be bold. Carolina already demonstrates boldness in the way it has demonstrated its shared commitment to both academic excellence and accessibility.

As dean, Guskiewicz said, he will encourage new ways to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, not only between departments within the College, but across the various schools at Carolina.

“I really believe that by doing this we will not only solve the great challenges that have already been identified, but we will also be able to identify the challenges that have not been uncovered yet,” he said

It is in the pursuit of those challenges that the knowledge within arts and humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences must be joined, he said.

Finally, Guskiewicz said, the College must be student-focused by providing the kind of broad, liberal arts education that will prepare students to succeed at anything they do once they leave here.

Guskiewicz, along with Folt and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor James W. Dean Jr., thanked Dean Karen M. Gil for outstanding job she has done leading the College for the past six years. “She has also served as a wonderful mentor for many of us who have had a chance to work along side her,” Guskiewicz said.

He also took time to thank his family. His wife and children attended the celebration events – except for his son Adam who had two exams that afternoon at Chapel High School – as well as his parents and father-in-law and mother-in-law.

“We have amazing opportunities here to rethink the curriculum in the coming years to help bridge the gap between teaching, research and the application of knowledge, and I am fully committed to doing that,” Guskiewicz said.