New Faces Lead Deans Fellowship Program


Ella Wiebusch, News Editor

Students at Buena Vista University (BVU) have the opportunity to be a part of many things, and the Dean’s Fellows Program in particular offers an opportunity for academically gifted students to engage in additional opportunities and benefits.  

For the past year and a half, faculty member Dr. Laura Bernhardt was the coordinator. Following the conclusion of the Fall 2018 semester, Bernhardt left the university to pursue an opportunity at the University of Southern Indiana. As she had been looking for another job where she could utilize her full talents, the move was not completely unexpected.  

After 16 distinguished years as a professor of philosophy and as coordinator of Dean’s Fellows, her role is a big one to fill. Taking her place are the four academic recruitment and retention liaisons: Kristen Turnquist from Communication and Arts and Social Science, Jeanne Beaver (Bramhall) from Science, Ben Clark from Education, and Dan Anderson from Business.  

Besides providing a sense of continuity for the program and organizing activities and events, the group of four is looking to reconfigure and revitalize the program with the goal of making it a more rewarding and fulfilling experience for its members. 

Associate Dean of Faculty for Academic Affairs and Dean’s Supervisor Dr. Peter Steinfeld feels sadness at Bernhardt’s departure, but also a sense of hope for the future.  

“Laura really did a very independent job and the string of people that we had before doing Dean’s Fellows stuff also were very independent in what they did. So, we’re all learning about what things we need to do because [Laura] did such a good job maintaining the program,” said Steinfeld. 

Added on as another way to work with this particular cohort of students, it seemed only natural that the four liaisons would take over, as the program is something that will recruit and retain BVU’s best and brightest students.  

“Having four liaisons from different schools, we can connect well with each other, as well as with all the students in our respective schools. So then, hopefully, we can appeal to everyone’s interest,” said Turnquist. 

Steinfeld adds that bringing in the liaisons will ideally bring the program back to what it was always meant to be. 

“It really was always intended to be much more directly connected to the Dean’s Fellows in a particular school. And so, this also sort of revitalizes that piece of it, where each of these four are going to be responsible for the Dean’s Fellows in their school, to work with their Dean to try to figure out special events, activities and things that we might be able to bring to the program.”  

In taking over the program, Steinfeld commended the four liaisons on their attempts to discover what the students need to create a successful environment for them.  

“This way there’ll be some direct input from the students: what things would they like to do? So, I think it’s a great approach and it’s off to a good start. And again, these guys have just started, as Laura just left. So, it’s on us to figure out how we’re going to move forward,” said Steinfeld. 

Anderson brought attention to this important aspect of improving the program.  

“A specific example would be the survey we sent out. We have a chance to get to know the students in our schools and encourage them to fill that out, because we want everybody’s feedback,” explained Anderson.  

This Tuesday, students were invited to a luncheon in order to discuss what events they are most interested in and get a better sense of the activities the Dean’s Fellows want to do in the future. The results of the survey will give the liaisons a better sense of direction and allow students to reconnect at the beginning of the semester. 

Beyond that, it’s going to fall under what was learned from the group through the survey and interactions the liaisons have in each of their respective schools with Dean’s Fellows members. 

“There’s some talk of doing things a little bit more decentralized,” said Steinfeld. “It’s not certain, but there’s at least a possibility of doing things specific to each school. So, each of these guys would work with their Dean to bring those Dean’s fellows in that school together in some way.” 

There is no immediate plan to rehire someone to fill Laura’s position; instead, the liaisons will continue to lead the students and will be a central part of the new design of the program. Rest assured, the Dean’s Fellows are in no way being abandoned, and students are still eligible for the benefits associated with being a member of the program. 

 The liaisons, with Steinfeld as supervisor, are excited about the potential for the program and are hopeful as to where it is headed.  

“It’s actually really nice to be able to get to know you guys over the semester and for however long we’re in it, because we didn’t really know the cohort beforehand. And even going in with retention and recruitment before we didn’t really know Dean’s members, so that’s exciting,” said Beaver. 

“I just, would again, give Laura lots of credit for all the stuff she did. She left us lots of notes about what the program was all about, and rosters and information about students,” commended Steinfeld. “I think she deserves lots of credit for the work she did. But there’s always room to change and improve, right? We have a culture of continuous improvement. And so, we’re always working on trying to improve programs and see what we can do better.” 

Looking towards the near future, the Dean’s Fellows can look forward to a luncheon led by Dr. Wind Goodfriend on the psychology of Harry Potter and social psychology in general. The date for this event is Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. in the Forum. Students should also mark their calendars for bowling in March, Mid-Term and Finals Munchies, and a day trip to Omaha on Apr. 6.  

Dean’s Fellows are also encouraged to reach out to any of the liaisons with any questions, concerns, or ideas.