Nic Arp, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 319-335-2818
From Minnesota farm kid to CLAS dean
From Minnesota farm kid to CLAS dean
From Minnesota farm kid to CLAS dean
When Steve Goddard was growing up on a Minnesota farm, his parents knew that education would be his path out of poverty—but they didn’t know how they could afford it. And, since no one in his family had ever attended college, they weren’t exactly sure how it all worked. Still, they knew it was crucial that he go.
Goddard found his way to the University of Minnesota Duluth. He earned scholarships for academics and wrestling, received Pell grants and work-study opportunities, held down multiple jobs over the summer, and excelled in school.
His parents’ faith in the power of education was on target, and his own hard work paid off. Goddard went on to build successful careers in the private sector and in academia. In May he became the thirteenth dean of the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS).
Before joining the UI, Goddard, 55, served on the faculty of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for 21 years. He was the John E. Olsson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and served in multiple administrative roles, including vice chancellor for research, interim dean, and chair of the Department of Computer Science.
However, Goddard’s pivot to academia didn’t begin until later in life. After earning a bachelor’s degree, he worked in the private computer industry for 13 years, nine of them as president of his own consulting company. Only then did he return to the classroom at the University of North Carolina, earning a PhD in 1998.
Now, he’s inspiring a refocused vision of excellence and impact at Iowa’s largest college through the arts; humanities; and natural, mathematical, and social sciences.
Why is a liberal arts and sciences education important in the 21st century?
A liberal arts and sciences education today is more important than ever. As our society advances technologically, we must also advance ethically and with a sense of history and culture. Moreover, employers increasingly value the skills and competencies acquired from a liberal arts education: writing, communication, teamwork, adaptability, and experience working with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Perhaps most important of all, the majority of jobs that our students will have 10 years from now don’t exist today. A liberal arts and sciences education provides a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning, adaptation to a changing world, and the ability to capitalize on new opportunities in the workplace.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is home to a wide range of disciplines. How does that breadth of knowledge strengthen the college?
Because the college comprises so many fields of inquiry, students have the opportunity to explore topics outside their major and even to double-major or add minors and certificates. We also encourage interdisciplinary studies, and the fact that a multitude of fields are represented within CLAS makes it easier to conduct just such collaborative teaching and research—which is a bonus for both students and faculty. The problems facing society are complex, and it takes teams of interdisciplinary researchers working together to solve them. Interdisciplinary collaborations are much easier to pursue in CLAS than they might be in other colleges.
What is the function of a research university in our society?
Research universities address two fundamental needs: First, they are the primary place where new things are discovered and knowledge is created. Second, they train future scholars, who will continue to advance our society.
It’s easy to understand the importance of research in the sciences. Why is research important in the arts and humanities?
We all must contend with the human condition. The more we understand our needs, desires, and motivations, the better we can all work together. And as the technology we use evolves, so does the way that we interact with that technology and one other. These changes are first captured in our art and literature, and then studied and reflected upon by researchers in the humanities to help us better understand ourselves. We are locked in a tight evolutionary cycle that necessitates continual understanding of ourselves and our environment so that we can advance society in a healthy and productive manner.
You’re a first-generation college student. What insight does that give you into the educational needs of first-gen students?
The world today is very different from when I first left home for college. Still, many first-generation students struggle with the same issues I did. For example, my mother was the first person on either side of my family to graduate from high school. Other than my teachers, I really didn’t know anyone who had gone to and graduated from college. Most of the other students seemed to know more than I did about how to “navigate the system.” They knew you had to wait in line for everything—and when to get in line. They knew when and where to buy books. Somehow, they even knew what type of courses they should take and not take. These were all mysteries to me, as I am sure they are to many first-generation college students today. Because of this, many of us suffer from a form of imposter syndrome, and we think someone will find out we really don’t belong. I hope many of today’s first-generation college students handle this better than I did, and I know all students experience this to some extent. Still, it can be a struggle at times.
My experience helps me understand that our first-generation students might need a person or place they can go to when life gets overwhelming. Surviving your first semester, first year, and even graduating isn’t about being smart, it’s about learning how to navigate the system and working hard. But even if you work hard, you need to know you aren’t alone and that you are working on the right things at the right time.
You were an entrepreneur in the private sector before beginning your academic career. Does that experience provide you with insights into higher education, either in its operation or its goals?
My private sector experience, including running my own company, probably allows me to view higher education a bit differently than those who have not worked outside of academia. I am not sure it provides any specific insights, other than to know there are other ways we can do things. I always ask “why?” and “how?” Why do something a particular way? Why do we teach a certain style? Why do we require the classes we require? How do we make it easier for students to learn and graduate on time? How do we better prepare our students for the futures they will create? How do we make it easier for our faculty to collaborate with others to solve pressing societal problems (and get credit from their peers for doing so)?
Can we achieve excellence and impact with the limited resources we have available? I believe we can, but doing so sometimes requires us to operate and teach differently than we have in the past. Fortunately, we have an entire campus full of incredibly bright people to help us answer all of these questions.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
I love to travel. My wife, Anne, our three children, and I have had the privilege of traveling extensively in Europe and North America. Through work, I have also been able to travel in Asia and South America. We love new experiences, and we travel whenever we can.