Dustin Steinhoff, News Editor
Andrew Kersten, a former dean at the University of Idaho, began his role as dean of University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Arts and Sciences on July 16 after receiving the position in January.
The previous dean of UMSL College of Arts and Sciences, Ron Yasbin, officially retired on Aug. 31, 2017. Yasbin served as the dean for eight years. During the university’s search for a new dean, Teresa Thiel, professor of biology, temporarily acted as the college’s interim dean while still teaching her courses. While it was planned that her time as temporary dean would end as Kersten filled the roll on Aug. 1, Kersten assumed the role on July 16 in order to better serve the university.
“I started a little bit early in order to learn as much as I can to add value to the institution as fast as I can,” Kersten said.
Kersten was previously the associate vice chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay before becoming the dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho for four years. Last year, upon seeing the advertisement for the position of dean of UMSL College of Arts and Sciences, he liked the direction UMSL was moving in so much he decided to apply.
“There are a lot of things that go into one decision. What I found most compelling about the position at UMSL was actually in the job ad,” Kersten said. “It described a college that was forward-thinking, moving in directions to serve not only our students but also the region, strong interest in cutting edge research, and some really unique features to UMSL like the students participating in cutting edge research with their faculty, which is a pretty neat thing.”
During his time at the University of Idaho, Kersten was able to help reverse the declining enrollment rate in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. The college experienced an increase of 46 percent in residential first-year students as well as an increase in the rate of first-year student retention to 99 percent. Declining enrollment is something many colleges have to deal with, including UMSL. However, Kersten believes the university’s enrollment rate is normal for the economy’s current state and will stabilize.
“For many people, the choice to come to a university or college is predicated a little bit by what is happening in the economy. So when the economy is heating up like it is now, UMSL will always be here and some people choose to work and take advantage of those opportunities that may not be there in five years, but UMSL will be. The number of students rises and falls, but there is a steady state and we are going to grow.”
Though Kersten has not been dean for long he has been meeting with many faculty members in the college, discussing potential advancements that could be made in the future in terms of enrollment, broader degree paths, and more. For example, Kersten wishes to better spread the word of UMSL’s stories of opportunity and success to the public.
“There is a lot of good news in the college and we need to get that out to our friends, donors and prospective students,” Kersten said.
After working at UMSL for a month, Kersten described how impressed he was with the university’s faculty, its flexibility to students with programs such as UMSL NOW, and its role in St. Louis.
“The dedication that the faculty and staff have to the achievements of our students is amazing and I am so proud to be a part of it,” Kersten said. “We are not an ivory tower. We are a part of the community. We educate St. Louis. We are St. Louis and that is a great thing to be a part of.”
Kersten is enjoying his new position at UMSL and looks forward to seeing more students on campus in the fall.
“I absolutely love it,” Kersten said. “I can’t get to work fast enough.”