Robert Doerksen, associate professor of medicinal chemistry, is the new associate dean of the University of Mississippi Graduate School. As of Monday (Dec. 11), he will manage the Office of the Graduate School and assist with expanding graduate education initiatives.
A faculty member in the School of Pharmacy since 2004, Doerksen has mentored graduate students for many years. He spent the last year as the director of the graduate program of the medicinal chemistry division within the school’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences.
Doerksen said he has long been interested in graduate studies, even spending time as an undergraduate reading about the history of higher education in Western society.
“Since then, I have loved the idea of how important and valuable it is to educate students to the highest level in a wide range of subjects,” Doerksen said.
As part of his new responsibilities, Doerksen also will supervise key staff members in the Graduate School, coordinate the Graduate Council and help ensure all aspects of graduate education run smoothly, including recruitment, admissions, finances and records.
“We must focus on improvements in quality, quantity and diversity of graduate students and of graduate degree programs, while also enhancing the sense of community and commitment across campus for administrators, faculty, students and staff,” he said.
In addition to his work at Ole Miss, Doerksen has experience with graduate education at various institutions, including Regent College, University of New Brunswick, University of California at Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania and National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan.
During his time at the pharmacy school, Doerksen has twice won the school’s Faculty Service Award, as well as the Faculty Instructional Innovation Award. In July, he was recognized as one of the school’s four Distinguished Teaching Scholars.
“I expect that Robert’s extensive experience as a graduate student mentor will be transformed into fresh ideas and programs coming out of the Graduate School,” said Kristie Willett, chair of the biomolecular sciences department. “The Graduate School and its initiatives to recruit, support and reward our graduate students are essential to the success of an R1 university like the University of Mississippi.”
Although Doerksen said he has “very much enjoyed” teaching professional and graduate courses, he will greatly reduce his teaching responsibilities to focus on the new position.
“I will always be involved in the informal teaching that goes with being an adviser to members of my research group, including postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students,” Doerksen said. “This is the kind of teaching that I think is at the heart of a great university.”
Doerksen was selected based on his experience teaching and mentoring graduate students, as well as the “breadth and depth of his vision for graduate education” at UM, said Christy Wyandt, interim Graduate School dean.
“Robert has been a key member of our faculty for many years, as can be seen by his record of service, teaching and research success,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He has a clear commitment to graduate education that will serve the university well.”
Doerksen aims to continue the success of the Graduate School and seek out ways it can contribute to the university and to society.
“I don’t want to overlook the importance of maintaining a well-functioning graduate school with its many moving parts,” Doerksen said. “At the same time, I dream of ways that we can improve graduate education at the University of Mississippi.”
By Sydney Slotkin DuPriest
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