Higher standards

Three weeks into his new job as dean of Arts and Science, Dr. John Skvoretz is adapting to the new atmosphere. Skvoretz, the former interim dean of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina, has noticed the differences between his old home and his new domicile.

“I find Tampa to be a big city compared to Columbia, a lot more activity,” Skvoretz said. “So far I’m enjoying it pretty well.”

Skvoretz took over as dean on Feb. 1. He will have his work cut out for him as he takes over USF’s largest college. The size of Tampa is not the only overwhelming growth factor involved with his new surroundings.

With over 17,000 students and more than 500 faculty members, the College of Arts and Science encompasses nearly 60 percent of the student population, according to a press release on the USF homepage. More importantly, most of the exit requirements and general education courses that students need to graduate flow through the college, meaning a large majority of the student population will pass through Arts and Sciences at some point in their careers.

“Just about all the general education requirements are going to be in this college,” Skvoretz said. “Job number one is that I have to take every opportunity I can to enhance the undergrad experience here, and whenever I’m presented with such an opportunity I’m going to seize it. We owe it to the students.”

USF hired an experienced leader in Skvoretz, who had served USC since 1975. He received a bachelor degree from Lehigh University. He later earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. He was chair of the sociology department from 1984-94.

“John will articulate a vision and have objective,” said Patrick Nolan, a sociology professor at South Carolina. “He generally has an idea of how a system should move and how he should do that. He knows how to get people on board.”

During his career at USC, Skvoretz had many articles and book chapters published, according to the USF press release.

“John is a very fair and very analytical person,” Nolan said. “I had hoped he would stay on as our dean.”

Nolan worked with Skvoretz for 26 years at USC.

Skvoretz replaces current Provost Renu Khator as dean, and took over for former interim Dean Kathleen Heide. Heide had worked as interim dean for the past 17 months.

“I am confident that Dr. John Skvoretz’s experience and leadership will be instrumental in moving the college toward advancing University goals,” Khator said in a release on the College of Arts and Sciences news page. “Dr. Skvoretz’s background and qualifications will add unique strength to the College of Arts and Sciences and, hence, to the university as a whole.” One of the key factors in bringing Skvoretz to USF was its goal to become a top research university.

“A major attraction for me is the fact that there is truly a team effort dedicated to making USF better,” Skvoretz said in the press release.

“Many universities have aspirations of getting better, fewer have concrete plans to do so, fewer still have the commitment of faculty, staff, chairs and deans and even fewer have the charismatic senior leadership necessary to pull it off. USF, I sense, has it all: aspirations, concrete plans and commitment, and charismatic senior leadership. I’m glad I will be part of the effort.”

In order to become one of the top research universities in the country, some departments of USF will have to expand to facilitate doctoral programs.

“The History Department does not have doctoral program work,” Skvoretz said. “I’m going to do all I can do to be sure that they do have a doctoral program in the near future. That is something that is standard at the top 50 public universities. It’s hard to imagine getting to that without having some kind of doctoral program in history that has some reputation. You have to start somewhere.”

According to the press release, Skvoretz has plans to strengthen all the doctoral programs at USF, “targeting areas with the most strategic impact,” and hopes for the History doctoral to materialize within the next two years.