College's New Dean Helps Prepare Students

April 05, 2010

The Review

Patricia Draves has been on the job as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Mount Union College officially for two weeks. The week before was 'intense' and served as a transition, working with acting dean Truman Turnquist.

Dr. Patricia Draves
(Review Photo/Kevin Graff)

'I took lots and lots of notes,' she said. She had to learn a lot in a short time because this past weekend was a preview, when incoming freshmen and their parents visit campus, schedule classes and meet classmates. Draves met students and had to be prepared to answer questions.

She described Turnquist, who returned to the college after retirement to, for the fifth time, serve as acting dean, as 'so gracious.' Although he told her she could call with any questions, she wanted to try and avoid doing so for at least a month. She didn't make it. 'He knows the institution so well,' she said.

The two also share a connection in that both are chemists. Turnquist joined the chemistry faculty in 1965. Draves was chairman of the biochemstry department at Monmouth College in Illinois for four years before being selected by a search committee from 90 applicants. The committee was headed by Harold M. Kolenbrander, president emeritus of the college. Monmouth is also the college where Richard Giese, president, served as president before returning to Mount Union.

Draves, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College who earned her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois, has previous experience in administration, serving as an associate dean for a big state school. She knew she wanted to return to administration, and knew it would be at a small college.

Mount Union, she said, had all the keys.

'The thing that really stood out was the faculty,' she said. 'They are very loyal and dedicated to Mount Union and the students.'

Another key was the 'sense of anticipation' that the college is growing and improving. Students want to come because of that, she said. When classes begin, there will be almost 700 new students, a total that includes transfers as well as freshmen.

Her interview on campus occurred when John Edwards, Democratic vice president candidate in 2004, was on campus for his talk for the college's Center for Public Service. She was impressed that Edwards visited Alliance and with the community attendance.

'The college is a big part of the community and the community is a big part of the college,' she said. 'We want the public, especially the Alliance community, at the art gallery, at the football games and tennis matches, at the concerts, at the student debate on immigration scheduled for this fall.'

'Everyone in town is really nice,' she said. Her neighborhood has welcomed her family, she has met people through her three children's participation in summer activities and talked with students she has met while they are working summer jobs.

When she asks them what they like about Mount Union, the response often includes the opportunities.

Those opportunities, which Draves wants to enhance, include study abroad, internships and service trips.

'They are life changing for many students,' she said those programs.

The main role for the dean of the college, she explained, is to 'oversee academic-related issues on campus.'

She said that includes preparing the curriculum, helping faculty in the classroom and with research and making certain the library has the resources to support the programs.

'My plan is to have lots of interactions with students - that's who we're here for,' she said, adding she will meet with groups of students in residence halls and have lunch with them (the dining facility, she said, is still on schedule to be ready for the academic year).

If a student is having difficulty with classroom assignments or adjusting to being away from home or managing time, the dean's door is always open to provide assistance.

'A benefit and a downfall of a small college,' she said, 'is we'll notice and offer help.'

Although she is new to the position and the college, she said from day one she had to 'get right in there,' and learn about programs in the planning stages.

'It's time now to develop new programs,' she said, listing health-related fields and education. Interest, regional and national needs and what the college can offer are among the considerations.

'Whatever we do, we want to do it well,' Draves said.

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