Western Carolina University has selected one of its own to serve as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as Richard Starnes ’92 MA ’94 was appointed to the position in February. Starnes, associate professor of history and former head of WCU’s Department of History, had been serving as interim dean of the college since last July.
The selection of Starnes follows a national search for a permanent dean of the college by a committee led by Sean O’Connell, head of the WCU Department of Biology. The College of Arts and Sciences is WCU’s largest college, consisting of 11 academic departments, nearly 200 faculty and some 2,000 students.
“Richard has shown himself as interim dean to be a strong advocate for the diverse programs in the college, a strategic thinker and an effective problem solver,” Provost Angi Brenton said in announcing the appointment, which must also be approved by the WCU Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. “He came through an extremely competitive national search and was the clear choice of the faculty, staff and students. I am confident that he will provide strong leadership for the future of WCU.”
A member of the WCU history department faculty since 2000, Starnes earned his doctorate from Auburn University in 1999 after his undergraduate and graduate years at WCU. Starnes said he embraces his new leadership role in the very academic unit where he once studied. “The College of Arts and Sciences is home to the disciplines at the core of a successful university,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to build on our reputation for excellent teaching and scholarship in the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.”
Starnes is a historian specializing in the American South. His books include “Creating the Land of the Sky: Tourism and Society in Western North Carolina,” “Southern Journeys: Tourism, History and Culture in the Modern South” and “History and Hope in the Heart of Dixie.” He currently is writing a new history of North Carolina under contract with the University of North Carolina Press.
The College of Arts and Sciences consists of the departments of Anthropology and Sociology; Biology; Chemistry and Physics; Communication; English; Geosciences and Natural Resources; History; Mathematics and Computer Science; Modern Foreign Languages; Philosophy and Religion; and Political Science and Public Affairs. The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, currently housed in the College of Health and Human Sciences, will be relocated to the College of Arts and Sciences effective July 1.