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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
Renfrow 2024

Renfrow fills dean position

Oversees school of Natural and Applied Sciences

After a four-month search starting at the end of September last year, Matthew Renfrow has been hired as Dean of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences.

Renfrow’s predecessor, Grace Miller, had stepped away from Taylor in August to pursue a new opportunity at a sustainable agriculture firm called ECHO, Provost Jewerl Maxwell said.

The university worked with the search firm Core Ventures Group in October to seek an external candidate. 

Internally, Maxwell established a search committee on campus consisting of Nancy Dayton, dean of arts and humanities, Ben Hotmire, dean of business, education and social sciences, Karen Elsea, dean of the school of nursing, Mark Colgan, professor of mathematics, Jessica Baker, associate professor of biology, Peter Staritz, associate professor of engineering and Dan King, professor of chemistry.

The committee ultimately recommended Renfrow for the position.

The university looked for qualities in a candidate that included having a strong track record in teaching, scholarship and research. Other qualifications consisted of traits such as having an effective understanding of faith integration in education, strong rapport skills with faculty and having a doctorate within a discipline in the School of Natural and Applied Sciences itself.

“Our hope is that they will be working with faculty within the school, especially junior faculty, to ensure that individuals who are coming in continue to improve in their teaching,” Maxwell said.

Before his promotion, Renfrow had filled the role of Associate Dean of Health Sciences starting Aug. 1, and then, beginning in October, as the Interim Dean for the School of Natural and Applied Sciences.

In the previous school year, Renfrow served as Department Co-Chair of Kinesiology alongside Brandon Dykstra who now serves as the Chair of the Kinesiology Department.

“It can also just be really helpful, as we have a lot of changes at the university, to have someone who already has connected well with most faculty in the school that he's representing,” Maxwell said.

Amongst the responsibilities that Renfrow will engage in, a distinct part of his job is to work with both junior faculty and administration.

He will be responsible for hiring new faculty, annually reviewing all current faculty, solidifying grants to pursue research and working with departments to coordinate course scheduling and major crossovers. 

"The dean position is an interesting role because it really is a two way street," Maxwell said. "You're representing faculty, especially the faculty in the areas that you are responsible for. But then you also represent the administration to the faculty whenever decisions are made at the higher level.”

Renfrow will also be in charge of ensuring that junior faculty are maintaining a certain level of scholarship and properly connecting with faith integration in the classroom. 

As renovations for things such as the nursing program continue, he will also become a part of the process to ensure coordination between faculty, facilities teams and construction services.

Before serving as dean, Renfrow had also filled a role on the Faculty Governance team from 2021-2023, participating in business meetings with the hope to expand his perception of Taylor both from an administrative and student level — an aspect that he is excited to continue growing in.

He’s also looking forward to continuing to cultivate the culture of excellence and cohesion that already exists in the school and across its departments, he said. 

“How can I reduce the amount of time they [faculty] have to spend on things that maybe aren't the most important or could be done more efficiently?” Renfrow said. “That's what I think a lot about: how can I make the lives easier for faculty?”

Beyond that, Renfrow is looking forward to further expanding any future visions for the School of Natural and Applied Sciences.

While Renfrow will miss the added interactions with students, he looks forward to collaborating with faculty members more to improve their experience and students’ as well.

“I am tremendously humbled and incredibly excited about serving in this role and being even closer to my faculty colleagues and just being a part of Taylor at an incredibly exciting time,” he said.