The new Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences Lisa Carstens is hopeful to support Pacific as she settles into her new role.
“In the same way a student’s education isn’t just the major you’re in, not just this class, not just the lecture you went to, but the total experience,” said Carstens. “I’m hoping to help ensure that everyone is working together in a way that makes that total experience better and better.”
Hired in December, Carstens started her role in July as the previous dean, John Hayes, shifted his focus to directing the Center for a Sustainable Society.
So far, Carstens has been busy familiarizing herself with the college itself and the faculty and staff.
“The dream of the well-rounded education, but the pragmatic knowledge that you’re going to know how you’re going to get along after school,” Carstens said of what drew her to Pacific. “Pacific seemed ahead of the game in thinking about that. I thought it was a great opportunity to be a part of that.”
Carstens moved from her role in Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Va. as associate dean and English professor, but the transition has been smooth.
Having family in the Pacific Northwest, Carstens is no stranger to the weather or the college environment.
“The culture of a college is already so unique,” said Carstens. “The nature of faculty and students and those who love education, that part seems pretty similar.”
Her background in English is not her sole priority either. Her experience with the liberal arts type learning made it so her works and research were applied not only in English, but also related to her studies in British literature, modernism, theory and criticism, women’s and gender studies and writing.
“My background in English, benefits, I hope, the whole college because one of my strengths is I am good with language and stories and I can understand what people are telling me,” said Carstens. “I can recognize what an audience might need to understand the story. Deans and others have to talk to different audiences for different purposes.”
Carstens’ studies involved research that meshed science and social science with the arts, giving her a broad range of experiences within liberal arts.
“The way in which my research interests span across the liberal arts shows I care about a lot of different disciplines,” said Carstens. “I hope to support everybody.”
In the short term, her focus is on a strategic plan being created by the university for the next five years.
While Carstens is still becoming acquainted with the workings of the Arts and Sciences, she said she wants to make sure that the goals decided on for the strategic plan are realistic and will ultimately help benefit the student body.
“How can we protect all the wonderful things about the college right now?” asked Carstens. “But keep our eyes on what we need to do next to make sure this is the right place for students in five years, 10 years.”
Carstens said she has already started encouraging students to join an informal advisory group to connect students with different interests in different areas. The student advisory group to her will be an opportunity for the student body to have a say in the strategic planning.
“I want to work with others to make sure the students at Pacific have as many advantages as we can give them,” said Carstens. “To get their first job, to get into graduate school, I think that’s something wonderful that’s happening in a lot of corners and I want to help that grow as much as I can.”
Long-term goals, Carstens said, are for the University to not only support students through their journey here, but to ensure that students would be set up for their future after Pacific.
“We want to be able to actually say it’s going to work better here,” she said. “That this is the place you want to go if you want an education that’s dedicated. We want it to be true that you can’t go anyplace better than Pacific to get the education we are going to give you.”
Carstens said she realizes that these goals can only be achieved with the feedback of the student body. Whether it is on what is working, what students love about Pacific, areas where there is unrecognized potential or general awareness of what students really need to graduate, Carstens said she welcomes these conversations.
“Everyone has their own individual interests and I need to help those interests coalesce into something that’s bigger than the sum of the parts,” Carstens said while explaining how she hopes to support students at Pacific.
While promoting a rich, wholesome education, Carstens has been openly welcomed by Hayes and President Lesley Hallick. Carstens was an exceptional fit for the college, according to Hallick. The goals Carstens has for the university reflect the passion the search committee who selected Carstens intended.
“I want people to say, ‘you know who does that best? Pacific University,’” said Carstens. “If students want that rich liberal arts experience, but with no sacrifice of the practical outcomes, they should go to Pacific University.”

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