Penn Gazette: Dean Fluharty Q&A
“As a country, we are incredibly focused on short-term returns,” says Steven Fluharty C’79 G’79 Gr’81, Penn’s senior vice provost for research, who in January was selected to become the next dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “What did that investment create in the following year? In the following two years?” he adds, by way of example. “That’s just not the right timeline for academic pursuits. It’s not the right timeline for research, but it’s also not the right timeline for measuring the impact of an undergraduate education.
“I really believe passionately in the importance of the arts, the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences, because collectively they give students the tools to understand any present-day problem,” he continues. “From the historical perspective—‘How did it come about?’—to the cultural impediments that might interfere with the implementation of solutions, to the mechanics of solutions, the politics that underlie implementation, the policy that has to follow, the changes in behavior that are measured by psychologists. That’s really the strength, in my view, of a great undergraduate education. We’re really preparing students for lifelong learning, to have really impactful lives, and to be global citizens.”
Fluharty will begin his tenure on July 1, when current SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell will return to full-time scholarship and teaching as a professor of English after eight years at the administrative helm.
Fluharty has been at Penn for 27 years. He joined the faculty in 1986. The professor of pharmacology, psychology, and research science is also a seasoned administrator. He directed the undergraduate Biological Basis of Behavior program for 10 years, and has served as a vice provost for research since 2006.
Though he called it “a little premature” to lay out a comprehensive agenda before he has had a chance to convene staff, students, faculty, and overseers in a strategic-planning process at the outset of his tenure as dean, Fluharty spoke with Gazette associate editor Trey Popp in April about the challenges and opportunities the School faces.
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