After over 20 years of experience in academia and holding positions at several universities, the Dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences Patrick Van Fleet sits in a corner office in Good Hall recounting his first three weeks in this position at the University of Indianapolis. Van Fleet said he has met a lot of staff within Shaheen College and spent time listening to all they have to say.
“There’s a lot of folks to meet. I’ve met some fantastic people, all my meetings have been great; with the faculty, administrators, staff; it’s been wonderful,” Van Fleet said. “I can’t imagine a better first three weeks as far as being welcomed and people excited about trying things or continuing to work on student[s], working on initiatives that will make student experiences better.”
Associate Professor and Dean of the School of Education John Kuykendall was a co-chair on the search committee for the new dean of Shaheen College. He said all of the finalists of the applicants for the dean position were very capable of the job, but what made Van Fleet stand out was how he handled things in his previous position that were similar to challenges within the Shaheen College.
“We liked his approach to motivate faculty and come up with creative ideas for new programs. And his experience was a little bit more in line with what we felt the Shaheen College needed at this time,” Kuykendall said. “He had real-world experience, real faculty leadership experience.”
Before UIndy, Van Fleet said he graduated from Southern Illinois University with a doctorate
in mathematics. He then went on to do his post doctorate at Vanderbilt University, where he was able to establish himself in a research setting while also teaching different math courses. According to Van Fleet, he then taught at Sam Houston State University and did research at Texas A&M University, specializing in environmental research connected to the Department of Defense.
“I did a lot of traveling to Washington, D.C. You’re procuring money or meeting with people to talk about various projects our group’s working on, so I got two years of experience with politicians, lobbyists, agents, government agencies, bureaucrats, [and] learned some of those ropes, for better or for worse,” Van Fleet said. “…Somewhere in the middle of all that, I got to work with a student, instead of just directing this program, and we started doing some research, and I really got hooked on that. It was clear to me
that’s where I wanted my career to go, with undergraduate research.”
Van Fleet said he went on to take a position at the University of St. Thomas to direct their Center for Applied Math, where he helped to create a summer research program that was also involved with students from
different departments as well. He said he later became the Chair of the Department of Mathematics and worked with students at the University of St. Thomas for the past 20 years.
Professor and Chair of Sociology and Director of Faculty Development Amanda Miller was another co-chair of the search committee. She said some things she enjoyed about Van Fleet was how personable he was during the interview process as well as his experience chairing multidisciplinary departments before UIndy.
“He seems to have a very good handle on the ways that schools like UIndy operate, as well as a vision for moving us forward,” Miller said. “ … We have many different departments that on the surface don’t seem to be necessarily related. But he fully expressed a belief that that was one of our strengths … he was fully on board and had some good ideas as well.”