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Four CAS faculty fellows from left: Dr. James Knapp, Dr. Tamara Mix, Dr. Rebecca Brienen and Dr. Steph Link. Photo by Jason Wallace.

Four CAS members become faculty fellows to aid new strategic plan

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Answering a call from the provost, four College of Arts and Sciences faculty members have stepped up to lead initiatives as faculty fellows.

In October 2022, Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum released her strategic plan, “We Are Land-Grant.” The plan outlines priority areas and eight imperatives that OSU will focus on to reach the ultimate goal of becoming the preeminent land-grant institution.

There are currently 10 faculty fellows selected to spearhead the work on strategic plan initiatives. The selected faculty have been asked to utilize their expertise and connections to engage in conversations and collect information that will enhance the development of the system-wide OSU strategy.

These fellowships are expected to conclude in the summer of 2024 when the fellows will provide their researchbased recommendations to university administrators.

With four fellows, CAS has the greatest showing on the 10-fellow team. 

Dr. James Knapp | Geology

Dr. James “Jim” Knapp was selected as the faculty fellow to lead energy initiatives under the strategic plan priority, “Powering a Growing World Population Sustainably and Responsibly.”

A Boone Pickens School of Geology professor, Knapp has research interests in carbon dioxide storage and its implications on the future. As a faculty fellow, he has been tasked with leading cross-campus conversations to gather an inventory of OSU’s current energy endeavors and produce a plan to set OSU apart in the industry.

“I am building my task force and working to make sure there is a voice for everyone who needs to be at the table,” Knapp said. “This is really coming down to figuring out what strengths OSU has in the energy industry and identifying areas of growth and where we can collaborate within our institution and beyond.”

The topic of energy has a long-standing history in Oklahoma. Knapp sees this as an opportunity to grow OSU’s involvement in the industry and to connect with experts to leverage those experiences into a sustainable plan.

“This initiative is really about energy as it relates to critical social issues,” Knapp said. “That aspect has opened the door for some incredible collaboration and conversation with departments like philosophy and the School of Media and Strategic Communications.”

Dr. Tamara Mix | Sociology

Dr. Tamara Mix is the head of the Department of Sociology and serves as the social sciences representative for the General Education Advisory Council. Mix has been tasked with leading a working group, “Guiding General Education Reform,” to revise OSU’s general education system and enhance student and faculty experiences with general education.

“The timing is perfect for a transformative model of general education that is innovative and provides students with a broad skill set,” Mix said. “Effective programs, at their core, contain aspects specific to the culture of an institution. Given the land-grant mission to provide a ‘liberal and practical education,’ we are working toward the development of a relevant and intellectually challenging general education program.”

The sweeping nature of the College of Arts and Sciences — with 24 departments covering the social sciences, arts and humanities, and math and sciences — offers students the opportunity to find diverse courses to meet their degree requirements. Because of that, it is likely that every student who passes through OSU will take at least one course offered by CAS.

“One never knows when something we learned in a subject area far from our career-oriented studies can enrich our lives or serve us in a rapidly changing society,” Mix said. “I am proud to serve the university and particularly our students by building a system that is accessible and pertinent to them as engaged scholars and future members of the workforce.”

Dr. Rebecca Brienen | Art, Graphic Design and Art History

Along with serving the college as associate dean for personnel and faculty development, Dr. Rebecca Brienen is the faculty fellow in charge of “Enriching and Integrating the Arts.”

Among her other titles and experiences, Brienen is a professor of art history and the director of the Prairie Arts Center, a collaboration between the city of Stillwater and OSU to encourage and promote engagement with the arts.

After being encouraged by her colleagues who felt she was the best fit for this role, Brienen accepted the opportunity to represent CAS in a new way as a faculty fellow.

“As the individual heading up this task force, I recognize it is important to take an interdisciplinary approach and speak with entities across campus in programs beyond the college,” Brienen said. “So much of our everyday lives are impacted by art — the design of Theta Pond and the beautiful gardens around campus are both examples of art that appear in somewhat unconventional ways.”

Brienen aims to gather voices from a range of areas and departments to create centralization.

“I am realizing that there are so many people across campus contributing to the arts in one way or another and things are very siloed,” Brienen said. “I hope to identify the resources and talents that OSU currently has and present a way to strengthen and unite them to contribute to the strategic plan.”

Dr. Steph Link | English

As a first-generation American and a first-generation college student, Dr. Steph Link’s journey to the workforce came with challenges. For that reason, she has taken the leap to assist in both the academic and future career journeys of OSU students through her faculty fellow assignment, “Preparing the Future Workforce.”

“When the call for fellows was announced, I knew I could contribute to how we prepare students for the future workforce by utilizing my own personal and professional background to help better understand the diverse experiences that lead students to OSU,” Link said. “I have a vision for supporting students on their path to acquiring the core competencies that will enable them to confidently lead our workforce into an undefined future.”

The approach Link is taking to move OSU’s strategy forward is rooted in convergent collaborations. Her vision for the future of student support and development brings faculty, staff, alumni and industry partners to the table.

“I want prospective students to come to OSU and already see how our university will lead them on a path to becoming our world’s innovators,” Link said. “To do this, we need to bring together the many wonderful opportunities our community has to offer and show students how engaging in those experiences paired with their degree programs can enable them to acquire the core competencies of an ideal graduate.

“There are many amazing members of our CAS community that contribute to our college in special ways that improve the quality of the student experience and thus the quality of education at OSU. By representing the college as a fellow, I only hope to place myself amongst them all by being an active listener with an opportunity to share their voices in a way that will unify our campus toward a shared mission.”

In addition to Provost Mendez and OSU Faculty Fellows Knapp, Mix, Brienen, and Link, there are many other College of Arts and Sciences’ faculty members and alumni serving in universitywide leadership roles. They include:

  • Vice Provost | Chris Francisco (Math)
  • Interim Vice Provost and Dean of the College of Professional Studies at OSU-Tulsa | Craig Freeman (SMSC)
  • Interim Dean, Honors College | Richard Frohock (English)
  • CAS Interim Dean, Dean of Honors College | Keith Garbutt (Plant Bio)
  • Vice President, Institutional Diversity | Jason Kirksey (Political Science)
  • Associate Provost and Dean, OSU Global | Randy Kluver (SMSC)
  • Registrar | Rita Peaster (Math)
  • Vice President, Research | Kenneth Sewell (Psychology)
  • Interim Dean, Graduate College | Jean Van Delinder (Sociology)
  • Senior Associate Vice President, Research | Ron Van Den Bussche (Integrative Biology) 

Story By: Erin Weaver | CONNECT magazine

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