After losing its director to a position with the World Bank in Sri Lanka this summer, the Indiana University Northwest School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) has announced that Patrick Bankston, Ph.D., who is dean of the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), has agreed to serve as interim director for SPEA. Bankston is also the assistant dean and director of the IU School of Medicine – Northwest, which is housed on the IU Northwest campus, and which serves as a partner in CHHS with the master’s-level university.
Bankston, a Valparaiso resident, will be assisted by SPEA faculty members Barbara Peat, Ph.D., and Samuel Flint, Ph.D., both of whom will serve as interim associate directors.
“This leadership team and the SPEA faculty will analyze priorities for the School as it moves forward to a search for a new dean in the next year,” said David Malik, Ph.D., interim executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at IU Northwest. “This team will have a full, challenging agenda as a wide range of options and directions are explored.”
Malik described Bankston’s appointment as interim dean as the next step in an ongoing process to chart SPEA’s future course at IU Northwest. Last year, IU dissolved the system-wide SPEA school into separate, individual programs at its various campuses. Since then, the SPEA program at IU Northwest has remained as its own academic division and will continue as such for the foreseeable future. Although Bankston is serving as interim director, SPEA remains a separate unit from CHHS.
Bankston said he welcomed the opportunity to serve the university in yet another important role.
“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Flint and Dr. Peat, along with the other SPEA faculty members, to move their program forward in anticipation of helping the new Dean hit the ground running,” he said.
IU Northwest’s SPEA program, which offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, encompasses criminal justice, health and human services administration, environmental affairs, and public administration. The political science faculty at IU Northwest have also been members of SPEA, but Malik announced that Professor of Political Science Jean Poulard, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Political Science Marie Eisenstein, Ph.D., have joined the Department of History and Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS).
COAS Dean Mark Hoyert described the shift for political science faculty as a logical one, since political science is and always has been a COAS degree. The dean noted that many political-science majors at IU Northwest also major in history.
“The three programs already are thinking about some shared curriculum initiatives,” Hoyert said. “History and Philosophy partner on the class ‘Hell and Death in Antiquity,’ for instance, and I think we could see a number of similar paired courses between Political Science and History or Philosophy. You could have ‘The Philosophy of Politics’ or something of that nature. These programs seem to complement each other quite well.”
The department’s name will change with the addition of political science, although Hoyert said there is a formal process to follow in order to make the new moniker official.
“Informally, we are already referring to it as the Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science,” he said.
Malik said the remaining SPEA faculty would use the coming year to initiate work on developing a strategic plan for the school in advance of searching for a qualified new leader.
“As we move closer to embracing the principles of Responsibility Center Management, the new plan will address a new course in the RCM context to increase enrollment in existing or new programs, increase graduation rates with attention to student success, and collaborate within other emerging strengths of the IU Northwest campus to develop distinctive degree options,” the vice chancellor said.
Bankston steps in following the departure of former director Dennis Wichelns, Ph.D., an agricultural-economics expert who joined IU Northwest in 2008. Wichelns departed campus in July to accept the Sri Lanka position, which involves economic development and analysis in Southeast Asia.
“This is a project that is of great interest in Dr. Wichelns’s research,” Malik said. “We wish him the best and thank him for his service to IU Northwest.”