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The Prospector

New dean spotlight: Stephen Crites

Leslie Sarinana, Copy Editor

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Starting in the fall, the College of Liberal Arts will have a new interim dean, Stephen Crites, who is also the chair for the Department of Psychology.

As interim dean to the college, Crites will oversee 22 departments and programs.

Crites, who received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Ohio State University, and has been a part of the UTEP psychology department since 1994, was approached about the position this spring.

“At one point, the current dean put together of list of some people she thought might be good at it. So I was a person on that list. She asked me, ‘can I put your name on the list?’ and so forth. I was offered the position after that,” Crites said.

The previous dean for the college, Patricia Witherspoon, served as a dean for 17 years and retired in May. She has also served as chair of the communication department and dean of the graduate school.

Crites explained how his approach to the position might differ from the way Witherspoon served.

“All of us have slightly different approaches in ways of thinking and so forth,” Crites said “She was faculty in communication and I’m in psychology. We’re both in the social sciences, but you know how we would think and approach things are different.”

Crites said that being at UTEP for 23 years and being familiar with the school and the culture is an advantage. However, since the position is temporary, Crites doesn’t see himself changing a lot of things. He said that it doesn’t make sense to make changes because as interim dean, it is unknown how long he will fill the position for.

“I have a lot of stuff I need to learn,” he said. “Whether you’re moving up to an interim dean or coming to UTEP if you’ve never been to UTEP, you have a lot to learn about the culture and aspects of UTEP. I think anyone in this type of position, there’s a lot to do.”

Going into the position is a big change for Crites. His job role will change drastically, but he is prepared to fulfill the role adequately.

“As a department chair I’m an administrator, but it’s over a bunch of people that I already know and I know the major and I know everything about it. Now I will be overseeing 22 departments and programs in very, very different areas,” Crites said. “So I have a lot to learn, the best thing for me and for many people is to not try and change too many things.”

The College of Liberal Arts is the largest college at UTEP with more than 7,000 students and 22 departments and programs. Crites recognizes all of the learning that comes with taking on a new position. He said he is unfamiliar with a lot of the programs under the college, but has been preparing to learn and familiarize himself with each program.

“It takes a while when you move into a position to kind of learn about it–what are the things you can do, can’t do, what resources you have, who are you working with–a lot of being involved in administration is figuring out people skills,” Crites said.

Despite how daunting the position might seem, Crites is looking forward to the challenge.

“You challenge yourself to learn new things. I think that’s a lot of the reasons some of us are in academia is that we like to learn, we like to experience. This is one of those types of situations,” Crites said. “Part of being in this position is figuring out ‘hey these people would be good at this. These people have insight on this, they could help figure out how to solve this problem.’”

Crites is one of four new college deans taking their positions in the fall, two of which are interim deans. Having new people take on the administrative role of dean is a relief to Crites as they will all learn their roles together.

“There will be three others just like myself, who are learning the position or learning UTEP. In some ways it makes it kind of interesting, kind of fun because we’ll get to know each other and share information as we learn things,” he said.

Crites is excited about the changes and his new job in the fall. For the rest of the summer, Crites said he would remain department chair and plan for the upcoming school year.

“Starting in a couple of weeks, I will meet with all of the departments and programs individually. Just to see what they’re doing, their needs, the problems they have, other issues and so forth,” Crites said. “I am excited. Learning new things, learning about these things is going to be interesting. There’s a lot of things that UTEP has and offers in the different areas, in liberal arts.”

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Assayer of Student Opinion.
New dean spotlight: Stephen Crites