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The University should add periods to the list of legitimate excuses.
Opinion: Period predicament
Published November 27, 2023

Q&A with new College of Liberal Arts dean

Ann Waltner talked about her inspiration behind applying for the position and her future goals.
Image by Courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts
Ann Waltner officially took over as interim dean on July 3, 2023.

Ann Waltner, a University of Minnesota professor in the history department specializing in Chinese History, started her term as interim dean for the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) on July 3.

The Minnesota Daily was sent an email with responses from Waltner on her goals and what she is looking forward to as the new CLA dean.

Minnesota Daily: What influenced your decision to accept the position as the interim dean for the College of Liberal Arts?

Ann Waltner: “I was honored to be asked to be interim dean. The University of Minnesota is in a unique position to deliver a remarkable education to our students — we are a first-rate public research University in a major urban area which gives us some specific advantages. CLA is an exciting place, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve in a leadership role.”

Daily: What have you been doing these past few months to prepare for this new role?

Waltner: “I accepted the position on May 26, so I have had just over a month to prepare. Even before I formally took over on July 3, I went to many meetings. I have also asked lots of questions. I know the college well as a faculty member and as former chair of the history department (from 2019-22) but the perspective of dean is a different one.”

Daily: Do you have any goals for your time as interim dean?

Waltner: “I want us to think about what we want the College of Liberal Arts to look like in 5 years, in 10 years, even in 20 years and then I want us to sit down and decide what it is we need to do now to get to those goals. I am also mindful that, as interim dean, I am here for only one year, so my goal really needs to be setting up discussions so my successor can succeed in developing their own vision.”

“I would also like us to continue deepening our acknowledgment of our particular location. The population of the Twin Cities is rich in diversity. We have one of the nation’s most productive creative environments with a wide array of traditional and new media, theater, music, museums, and dance. We have a large number of Fortune 500 companies here as well as medical technology and other research-intensive industries, marketing and strategic communications and a concentration of higher education institutions. CLA has deepened our connections to this vibrant community in several ways, including through the Liberal Arts Engagement Hub. I hope to continue strengthening our community engagement efforts.”

Daily: Is there anything you are looking forward to during your time as dean of CLA?

Waltner: “I am aware, as the point person for problem-solving, there will be challenges to tackle and moments where I will be the person who will take the heat. That is simply part of the job, and I accept that. I am looking forward to learning more about the college and to getting to know how it works (and maybe helping to figure out how to make it work better). I look forward to meeting more people who are doing excellent work, and getting to know students and faculty from other departments.”

Daily: Is there anything you would like to say to the students of CLA to introduce yourself to them in this new position?

Waltner: “I am a historian of early modern China who is particularly interested in gender, family and religion. What got me interested in history is the stories people tell about their lives and the lives of others. I am currently finishing a book about a young woman religious teacher who lived in China in the late sixteenth century. I am working with wonderful documents, including letters she wrote to her family members. I also worked with the early music group Sacabuche in multi-disciplinary performance — I write scripts and am one of the people who perform the script … We stopped performing during the pandemic, but are about to begin work on another show.”

“I will be holding open office hours for students in the fall. The first two will be on Aug. 3 and Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. I encourage CLA students to reach out to my office if they’re interested in making an appointment as well. We are working on a new web page, especially for students, which will be linked to my dean’s web page — stay tuned for details.”

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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