Constance Relihan, a dean and professor at Auburn University, will take over the head position at the University College in July, VCU announced last week.
As dean of the University College, her long list of responsibilities will include being the supervisor of the department’s faculty and acting as an advisor for its students. Shelli Fowler is serving at the interim dean.
Relihan studied English literature as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and continued her academic studies at the University of Minnesota pursuing her Master’s degree. She has worked at Auburn since 1990, where she served as an academic advisor.
“I have worked a lot with improving the quality of academic advising across campus, and I’m very proud of that,” Relihan said.
Not only did Relihan bring Auburn’s advisor to student ratio down below 300 to one, but she was also a key figure in creating the University College at the school, to host the interdisciplinary studies program.
Relihan applied for the position at VCU because it encompasses many of her core passions, including helping students get a solid footing on their degree and working with faculty who are dedicated to the same principles. Relihan also said that she was impressed with the innovation and wide range of options available at VCU.
Relihan said she thinks it’s a little early to plan goals and accomplishments to meet during her tenure. She wants to meet with the University College’s provost and faculty to gauge a clear sense of what they envision for the college. She also said she wants to teach a Focused Inquiry course at VCU to get to know the student experience here.
During a panel in early April at Ohio University, Relihan talked about the importance of promoting safe free speech on college campuses. She said these are values she would like to see brought to VCU.
“I think that we need to be sure that people can disagree safely on university campuses,” Relihan said. “We’re about exploring ideas and asking hard questions about ideas and so I would definitely be supportive of efforts to make sure that voices are heard.”
Relihan says she is also impressed with VCU’s commitment to community engagement.
“The city of Richmond seems like a cool place that I might very much like to explore,” Relihan said. “I look forward to getting to know both the campus and the city.”
Relihan said she is ready to move on from Auburn.
“There were a lot of reasons and I was ready for a change. I’ve kind of gone as far as I could go here at Auburn in terms of finding new challenges,” she said. “Having been in this division for seven years, I was ready for something new.”
Logan Reardon, Contributing Writer