Christopher Boyer, the second finalist for Dean of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL), introduced himself to students and faculty Thursday afternoon. Boyer has worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) for 19 years, teaching in both history and Latin American studies. Additionally, Boyer has served as Chair of the Department of History for six years, which highlights his administrative experience.
Boyer’s interview schedule included a student forum, during which the candidate fielded various questions about his plans and aspirations as potential dean. At the meeting, a student in CAL’s applied linguistics Ph.D. program inquired about how greater diversity can be attained, particularly within the college’s somewhat homogenous graduate programs.
In response, Boyer referenced UIC’s approximate Hispanic representation of 40%, which is roughly comparable to NAU’s. As an emerging Hispanic-serving institution, NAU has a 24% Hispanic and Latinx enrollment rate, according to the Department of Institutional Research and Analysis. As diversity among students and faculty increase at both institutions, Boyer said this process requires an important commitment.
“Diversity isn’t something you accomplish one day,” Boyer said. “Instead, diversity is who we are and how we live as an institution. The idea that there’s somehow an endpoint is the wrong way to look at it.”
Boyer also elaborated that diversity must represent an active engagement rather than a mere facade. Instead of abruptly reaching a symbolic endpoint, diversity mandates an ongoing devotion and willingness. In turn, Boyer added that this often misrepresented process becomes cyclical.
“Once you get a diverse faculty who have a diverse student body to teach — in an institution that values and embodies that diversity — then you have a virtuous cycle,” Boyer said. “That’s where we want to be.”
Toward the end of Thursday’s forum, Boyer also addressed his initial, and ongoing, interest in the teaching profession. He explained how exploring and sharing an academic passion can lead to transformative careers in the college setting.
Despite the importance of teaching, Boyer never predicted the additional significance of administrative work. When he accepted his current position as chair of the department of history, Boyer said his perspective about administrative positions quickly changed.
“One of the things I didn’t foresee when I became chair is a sense of mission,” Boyer said. “Good leadership really can matter.”
While Boyer examined the meaning of administrative work, he also connected his ambitions for becoming dean of CAL. At this stage in his career, the prospective dean said he wants to explore various horizons, or more specifically, something new and different. Boyer said NAU embodies that desire.
As appointed leaders, administrators can provide an official platform for enhancing student and faculty success. For example, at UIC, Boyer contributed to a career diversity initiative, which he described as the “teaching of teaching.” This project is designed to give graduate students the specific skills and knowledge necessary to become teachers, which Boyer said is a common career option.
Even though college supplies an array of knowledge, Boyer said graduates can lack the readiness that translates into the workplace. By offering this preparation, student success can be furthered in more diverse and applicable ways.
Boyer’s presentations conclude the first segment of candidate visits. Next week, the two other finalists for dean of CAL will be on campus offering similar forums.