A new story: Bob Flowers looks for changes in the College of Arts and Sciences as dean

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Bob Flowers was announced as the new College of Arts and Sciences dean on Tuesday, Oct. 29. Flowers was serving as the deputy provost for faculty affairs and had been in the role for almost three years. (Courtesy of Lehigh)

Bob Flowers was announced as the new College of Arts and Sciences dean on Tuesday, Oct. 29, replacing interim dean, Diane Hyland. Hyland was not involved in the search process for the new dean, she said.

Hyland said Provost Pat Farrell and the search committee were responsible for the selection process of the new dean. 

A small search committee of College of Arts and Sciences faculty asked individuals to nominate themselves or others, Farrell said. 

Those who were well-qualified and willing to be considered for the position went on to present a series of town hall-style presentations to the faculty.

There were three candidates, including Flowers.

“The goal was to give each of these candidates an opportunity to describe what they saw as the vision for the future for Arts and Sciences,” Farrell said.

Farrell said the candidates could choose what they envisioned for a time frame of their choice and whether it would be in accordance with the Path to Prominence or not. 

Flowers was serving as the deputy provost for faculty affairs and had been in the role for almost three years. Previously, he was the chair of the chemistry department for nearly 12 years.  

”I believe in a shared vision for the College of Arts and Sciences,” Flowers said. “I think that’s most important to me.”

He also said he aims to have faculty at the center of the conversation for deciding the college’s mission during his first year so the process is more organic.

Flowers got his Ph.D. in chemistry from Lehigh in 1991. He went on to get his post-doctorate at Duke University, and continued his career at the University of Toledo, Texas Tech University and back to Lehigh. 

With his knowledge about larger state universities, Flowers said he understands the desire to offer a diversity of programs to students, especially where there is interest and engagement. 

He said Lehigh, given its size, cannot do everything well. Flowers said he thinks the university needs to focus its efforts more.

“At the end of the day, what faculty do is create and disseminate knowledge, and I think what’s special about Lehighhaving experience at other institutionsis students are part of the creation of knowledge here,” he said.

Nicole Capogna, ’20, is involved in the “Flowers group,” which is a research team of undergraduates and graduates led by Flowers.

“He’s really dedicated to his students and to Lehigh,” Capogna said. “He is a great professor and cares about his students.” 

Flowers said professors’ depth as intellectuals and scholars is what truly informs teaching at Lehigh.

He said small class sizes and well-established and internationally-recognized scholars, such as Ben Wright in religion studies, create a very special environment.

“This is a very unique institution,” he said. “We’re the size of many liberal arts institutions, but we have a large research infrastructure and exceptional scholars here, and so I think sometimes students don’t recognize this.”

Flowers said this story needs to be told more often.

He said he thinks there needs to be a blended approach to telling these stories. Social media and traditional approaches appeal to the school’s diverse alumni. 

Engaging students in telling these stories is important, Flowers said, as well as engaging an audience outside of the institution. 

Flowers said Lehigh, as an institution, is always in a process of change.

“I really want to tell the story of the College of Arts and Sciences much differently,” Flowers said. “I think we have been too modest, and I think we have exceptional scholars, we have exceptional students and we need to be talking about that much more than we have.”

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