posted 2011-10-05 13:00:56

New Dean for School of Arts and Sciences

Erec R. Koch intends to use his 25 years of experience to strengthen the Hunter community

Bridgit Boulahanis

Associate News and Features Editor

Hunter College’s new Dean of Arts and Sciences, Erec R. Koch, has big plans for Hunter. Since assuming his new role mid-August, the Dean has synthesized his ideas for the college into a tri-themed plan, which focuses on internationalism, technology, and interdisciplinary cooperation. With a rich background of over 25 years experience within higher education, he is eager to get to work and improve Hunter College.

In President Raab’s introduction, she covered Koch’s impressive professional resume extensively, noting that “Koch is an outstanding scholar and an experienced academic leader and administrator. He earned an AB magna cum laude from Harvard College and a PhD in French literature from Yale University.” His list of professional achievements grew from there: Koch has written or edited three books, won numerous grants, and has been a college administrator at both Tulane University and the University of Tennessee–Knoxville.

Dean Koch emphasized when discussing his accomplishments that the thing he is most proud of is the role he has had in the education of thousands of students. “I consider the Dean’s role,” he said, “to be to create the conditions necessary for students to have a truly engaging, exciting and outstanding educational experience here at Hunter College in the Arts and Sciences, and in a very complimentary way to create the conditions necessary for faculty to excel as teachers and as scholars.”

Koch described what he considered to be three very import concepts for the infrastructure of higher education, particularly in his specialty of liberal arts education. The first concept involved emphasizing to students the importance of internationalism in the modern global economy.  “We are preparing students to be productive and engaged citizens in a globalized world,” Koch said.

The second concept, Koch said, is to utilize technology more fully.  He noted how technology has revolutionized the educational world – both in how faculty teach and in how they conduct research.  “I think there are very productive uses of technology in both of those spheres,” he said. “We’ve only scratched the surface.”

The final concept in Koch's strategy is to improve links between the different disciplines at the school.  Koch said, “some of the most exciting teaching and research is coming out of creating interdisciplinary links between and among disciplines and I think that encouraging and fostering development of interdisciplinary work is important.”  Koch said that he sees the implementation of these ideas beginning through an ongoing discussion with students and faculty.

To include students in the discussion, Koch is implementing a Student Advisory Council. This council, which is to meet at least twice a semester, will have student representatives from each major collaborating and discussing their experiences at Hunter. Koch stated that through the council he hopes “[T]o get a perspective on some of the major issues we’re facing within the School of Arts and Sciences.” He went on to encourage students to use the Dean’s website to contact him via email with thoughts and concerns.

Dean Koch’s wife graduated from Hunter College with a Bachelors of Arts in 1983. As a result, the Dean said he feels a personal connection to Hunter and its importance in students’ lives. “One of the things that first drew my interest to Hunter College,” he said, “is that I could see what a difference earning her B.A. here had made for my wife. It gave me some sense of just how important this college is to its community of students.”

Koch grew up in Western Pennsylvania, but spent a fair amount of his formative years in Boston – which is where he gained his love of The Red Sox. While he knows this may not gain him popularity among New Yorkers, our new Dean insisted that it wouldn’t come between him and his students. “I think that one of the exciting things about working in diversity of a college setting is the discovery of difference…so certainly extending that to Yankees fans is part of the joy of being here,” he quipped.