College of Arts and Sciences Dean McNulty is focusing on student success

by Catalina Myers  |   

New College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jenny McNulty stepped into her role July 1. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

 Originally from the East Coast, Jenny McNulty, UAA’s new College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) dean, invariably felt the call to go West. An experienced leader in higher education, McNulty has spent the last 25 years of her career in “big sky country,'' where she served as interim provost and vice chancellor of academic and student affairs at the University of Montana Western and was a tenured professor at the University of Montana (UM).

McNulty said she fell in love with the mountains and openness of the West and having vacationed in Alaska previously, moving to the 49th state wasn’t that much of a stretch from living in Montana.

“I love Alaska — I’ve been here a few times,” said McNulty from her office in CAS. She began her new role on July 1 and has been acclimating to her new environment. She has already taken advantage of the state’s extended summer days with hiking and camping trips. “I’d actually been to campus twice before, so it was nice to already know the area before arriving here. I’m just really excited to be here and have really enjoyed myself so far.”

Like many who take leadership positions in higher ed, McNulty began her career as a professor. She holds a Ph.D. in mathematics and taught for a number of years before transitioning to associate dean in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2010. She held that position for eight years before becoming the interim dean and then transferring to UM’s Western campus to serve as the interim provost for a year before accepting her current role at UAA. 

“I like the variety this type of position has,” said McNulty on shifting to the leadership aspect of higher education. “I think this type of role appeals to the mathematician in me that loves to solve problems. I really enjoy thinking about a problem creatively and looking at different ways to problem solve an issue — good or bad.”

McNulty said that being an administrator is not dissimilar to being a mathematician because both roles involve looking closely at data and patterns and using those building blocks to problem solve, create solutions or construct something completely new.

“I also like the people aspect of the job — I’m not just a numbers person,” McNulty said. “I really like the collaborative aspect of working with and connecting people to reach a common goal and solve a problem.”

McNulty knows she has a challenging year ahead of her, being new to the university and arriving after uncertainty with the global pandemic and budget reductions. But she’s excited to be in a place that she loves and is looking forward to a successful fall semester and getting to know students, faculty and staff.

“I think this is an incredible institution and college,” McNulty said. “This year, I’d like to focus on the experience of our students and make their success the forefront of what we’re concentrating on in CAS. It’s been a tough year for students, and I want to connect with them and learn how we can better support them in their goals and efforts.”

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