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Introducing HBCU Connect's Featured Dean: Dr. Katherine Kantardjieff

Introducing HBCU Connect
Posted By: Elynor Moss on February 17, 2020

HC Author/Interviewer: Elynor R. Moss
CSUSM Faculty/Interviewee: Dr. Katherine Kantardjieff
CSUSM Coordinator: Linda Collins

I had the privilege to work on with the faculty from California State University, San Marcos to help attract more faculty member to the College of Science and Mathematics department. I asked faculty member Linda Collins if HBCUConnect could share a feature of a staff member and we were fortunate to connect with Dr. Katherine Kantardjieff!



What do you think are the best benefits of being a faculty member of the California State University, San Marcos?

CSUSM, being one of the three youngest CSU campuses, is very entrepreneurial in spirit. Faculty, who are exceptionally dedicated and passionate, are supported to be creative and collaborate. In the College, our faculty are reflective practitioners of teaching, who offer learner-centered curricula that adapts to real world challenges and responds to regional needs. We strive to create an academic experience that helps our students discover where their interests intersect with the cutting edge in their field.


We are interested in learning how you landed your role as the Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. What was your path like?

This was a serendipitous opportunity. I had been a faculty member at CSU Fullerton for about 15 years, when I realized that the innovations in education I had been able to develop and implement were possible because I was enabled and empowered by people at the next level, in particular deans. Although I had been director of a core facility in x-ray diffraction at CSUF and oversaw personnel and about a $1.5M budget, I had never served as a department chair. Applications for dean positions never made it to the semis for this reason. So, I decided that I would need to become a department chair and the opportunity that presented itself first was at Cal Poly Pomona. This was an opportunity to develop my skills and experiences and show success at a different institution.

While at Cal Poly, I was asked to serve on a search committee for the next dean of the College of Engineering. It was through this service that I met the search consultants who ultimately oversaw the search for the founding dean at CSUSM. When the position came up, the consultant called me with what she considered "the job for you". Indeed, I thrive in environments that are building, innovating and evolving. The opportunity to take the helm of a new college is a once in a lifetime opportunity I was not going to let pass by. I went for it, and I got it.


Once a person gets hired to join the CSUSM faculty what type of ongoing training and career advancement tools are available?

New faculty are strongly encouraged to participate in a year-long New Faculty Institute which helps them learn about and navigate university policies and procedures and learn about the culture of our campus. As they progress in their academic career, they can take advantage of a variety of faculty learning communities on campus. For example, in CSM, funded by NSF and now HHMI Inclusive Excellence, we have an exceptionally robust FLC learning about how to transform STEM education. Faculty are also allocated a modest sum of professional development funds, to pursue opportunities that help them grow as scholars and educators.


What inspired you to go into the field of education?

Here again, this was a serendipitous turn when I graduated from college. Initially, my career goal was veterinary medicine, specifically to become a zoo vet.



I majored in chemistry at USC because I love the subject, but also because it would be a good fallback position (the biotech industry had not yet taken off). I did not get into vet school, and I was working at the time at the LA Zoo as a zookeeper.

My younger brother asked me if I would like to accompany him to the graduation ceremonies at Immaculate Heart High School, where he had friends graduating. This is my alma mater. While there, I was asked if I would like to teach mathematics at IHHS, specifically algebra and geometry. I said yes.

It was at IHHS that several things happened. First, I was well-mentored (again) this time as an instructor. Second, I discovered that I had a love and a talent for teaching. Third, I was connected to Daniel Murphy High School, where they were looking for a chemistry teacher. Although I was still contemplating medical school, after a year teaching at DMHS, I was hooked on academics. I loved teaching at the high school level, but I missed the lab and I wanted to have more doors open to me so I could decide where I really wanted to teach. So, after two years at Murphy, I returned to school, this time to UCLA, where I pursued my MS and my PhD. During graduate school, I decided I did not want to go to an R1 (doctoral university with very high research activity) and pursued positions at predominantly undergraduate institutions. I wanted to bring the excitement of my research to the masses and encourage more students to pursue careers in science.


What are some ways students can show faculty members appreciation?

This varies across the colleges. In CSM, research students routinely engage in celebratory activities with their research mentors. Several departments celebrate student and faculty achievements. In May, prior to commencement, CSM hosts its "Celebration of Achievement". We recognize outstanding faculty student collaborations, outstanding teaching, and distinguished faculty (who carries the gonfalon at commencement).


What does it take to succeed as a CSUSM faculty member?

You will be a teacher-scholar. The balance between these two roles will ebb and flow, and good time management skills are essential. It takes time, at least at the beginning, to get a class up and running, and then sustain it over time. You will need to carve out time for writing manuscripts and grant proposals. Learn where the support services for these activities are on the campus and use them to your advantage. As tempting as it is for us to want to keep our door open to students at all times, we need to make time for these other activities, which ultimately enable is to support students in their own learning.

In the STEM disciplines, to effectively mentor undergrads, you will need to compartmentalize your projects a bit more than you would if you were guiding PhD students. You will not achieve tenure if you cannot teach well. Our students at CSUSM are quite diverse in backgrounds and the lives they lead. You will need to understand their experiences to best meet them where they are so that they can be successful. The ability to incorporate technology to enhance student learning is very important. Our students today have different expectations than we did. It will be important that faculty understand the region served by a comprehensive university. This is the workforce for which we are preparing our students.


CSUSM faculty opening: http://hbcuconnect.com/cgi-bin/jobs/search...

We here at HBCU Connect extend thank yous and our gratitude to Dr. Katherine Kantardjieff and
Ms. Linda Collins. We look forward to helping your staff find more talent that fits your faculty needs!

Interested in being featured? Email your interest to: oncampus@hbcuconnect.com
If you enjoyed this article, Join HBCU CONNECT today for similar content and opportunities via email!
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