Q&A with Margaret Farrar, the new dean of the college of arts and sciences

September 17th, 2015




The Carroll News: What made you decide to come to John Carroll?


Margaret Farrar: I knew this school from growing up in Cleveland and loved it. A number of my friends went here and some of my cousins went here. I knew the reputation of the school and was familiar with it. When I saw the posting for the ad, it was very serendipitous and very much a feeling of calling – you know, being called to someplace. I didn’t expect actually to be looking for an administrative job, but this came to be and so here I am.


CN: What are you looking forward to most at John Carroll?


MF: Oh my goodness. Getting to know the students and the faculty. It’s been such a pleasure, such a pleasure. The faculty is excellent and strong and thoughtful and engaged. And the students that I’ve met are the same way. So I’m looking forward to getting to know more people and getting to know more about people’s passions here.


CN: What are you hoping to accomplish in your time here?


MF: The first thing that I want to accomplish is this transition to the new core and that’s a big deal for faculty and for students. Any time you change a general education curriculum, it’s always more work than you think it’s going to be. It’s always more daunting than you think it’s going to be… It’s going to challenge faculty and students to think differently about what they offer and the courses that they take. And so in the short term, you know really celebrating that opportunity to think differently about what we do here is my number one goal – making sure that we do that well. I think, broader, I’d like to expand the number of possibilities that we have for interdisciplinary programs. I’m really excited to work with the new dean over in Boler, Dr. [Alan] Miciak, and I’m excited about potential collaborations between Boler and the college of liberal arts here.


CN: What’s something you wish the students at John Carroll knew about your role as dean?


MF: I think the number one thing is that – you know this may not be true of all administrators, but certainly it’s true of all the deans that I’ve met – we started our jobs way back when because we love students and we love teaching. And you know I started off as a faculty member because I love teaching and I love being in the classroom. So for me – even though the work is more distanced from that now – that has to remain at the center of my focus, like that’s my true north…[It] is what’s going to help students and what’s going to help student learning at John Carroll and you know part of that is helping to support faculty research at John Carroll. Students can be inspired by the amazing work that their professors are doing. But that student experience is really at the center of what I do even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes just because the work is a bit different.


CN: What are some of your thoughts on the new core going forward, since it is a new step for the school?


MF: It’s big. I think it’s going to be interesting and challenging to think about how we all fit into it and the roles that we play. It’s a different model of general education than we’ve had here at John Carroll before. What’s exciting about it though is the potential collaborations between faculty in these different areas. That’s where great work happens, you know, it’s where great modeling of intellectual exchange happens for students. Students can get a sense of crossing disciplines and crossing boundaries and reaching out. So I think the potential for it is enormous. I think logistically it’s challenging and that’s a sort of administrative piece of it is how’s it all going to fit together, but intellectually, it’s an incredibly rich curriculum that I think we’ll have a lot of fun with.