Godspeed, Dr. Paula Dehn

We offer our deepest thanks to Dr. Paula Dehn who will retire June 30 after 13 years as vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college. Dr. Dehn has been a steadfast leader who served with tremendous dedication to our students and the mission of the College.

Dr. Dehn, we appreciate your hard work, determination and sense of humor and wish you the best in your much-deserved retirement!

What were your greatest accomplishments as vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college?

  • Being able to hire great faculty and staff who are committed to educating the whole student
  • Developing new, while strengthening old, academic and co-curricular programs and opportunities – music, theatre, health sciences, online degrees
  • Creating the Wesleyan Fellows program to support students participating in undergraduate research, scholarly and creative work with faculty
  • Writing grants which funded the sophomore year experience, National Science Foundation S-STEM scholars, Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning, the campus fit trail
  • Building the new Center for Student Success with its wonderful faculty, who help students succeed academically

What challenges did you face, and how did you deal with them?
“The major challenge has been financial. I grew up with the understanding that the Lord helps those who help themselves, so writing grants has created opportunities and led to new grants which have expanded opportunities for students and faculty. For example, once we had the new Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning, the director secured several grants to develop and expand service learning via the Bonner Leaders program.”

What do you look back on with a smile as you reflect on your time at KWC?
“I think of the winter without heat in my office. Matt Ruark ’09 and I modeled new fashion wear – blankets wrapped around our shoulders; serving Thanksgiving dinner to our students with Scott Kramer and me in our turkey hats; walking down the hall during class changes and students coming up for a hug and a short chat; summers without air conditioning while we were waiting for chiller parts to arrive and Cindra Stiff (former vice president of finance) coming in with Dilly Bars to cool everyone off.”

What did you learn at KWC?
“I learned that Wesleyan really is a place where people find themselves and where the term ‘family’ means something and is lived each day; about our accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and maintaining compliance.”

Who helped and supported you?
“My colleagues – faculty, staff and trustees. There has always been someone who has had a kind word or made me laugh when I most needed it. Cindra Stiff and Peggie Greer (my administrative assistant) were both instrumental in helping me get acquainted with the culture of Kentucky Wesleyan. They served as sounding boards, reality checks and confidants. Luellen Pyles ’44 and Marsha (Smith) Lawrence ’47 (long-time trustees, now deceased) inspired me to do more. They accomplished so much at a time when women were supposed to be home raising babies.”

What is a favorite place on campus?
“Hocker-Hall Grove, which represents our history and a beginning and ending for our students. New freshmen were brought to the Grove their first day on campus as we welcomed them to the College and began their campus orientation. Graduation occurred in the Grove (at least four years while I was here) and signified the end of their time at Kentucky Wesleyan and the beginning of a new phase of life for our graduates.”

Is there a particular day/event that stands out as satisfying/fun/rewarding?
“The three best days for me have always been Move-In Day when the new freshmen arrive, Honor’s Convocation and Celebration of Student Achievement Day, and Commencement.”

What do you most appreciate and enjoy about Owensboro?
“The ability to be anywhere in 10 minutes or less, outstanding symphony and professional and community theater, easy access to lots of outdoor activities -especially the Greenbelt – wonderful neighbors, Hillcrest Golf Course and the people I have met there, and the progressive thrust of the community exemplified by the development of the riverfront, new hospital and the 54 corridor, while still keeping a sense and feel of a small community. Also, the ability to become integrated in the community with little effort. Folks in Owensboro are friendly and welcoming.”

What is the plan for July 1?
“Have an extra cup of coffee on my back porch and listen to the birds instead of turning on my computer and checking email!”

How are you going to spend your time in retirement?
“I will continue my work with the Council on Undergraduate Research in reviewing biology programs and helping faculty develop research–rich curricula in STEM fields and develop as grant writers to secure external funds to support their academic and research programs. Also, I plan to continue my involvement on the External Advisory Board for the Rhode Island Idea Network of Biomedical Research (INBRE) program, which is a National Institute of Health statewide program grant to strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity and expand undergraduate student research experiences and training. I will play some golf, travel, read for fun and enjoyment, and wait for what comes next.”

What do you see in KWC’s future?
“Dr. James Cousins, who will replace me, is a bright, energetic, highly qualified academic who understands and is ready to lead academics down the new pathways that will help build Kentucky Wesleyan’s future.

“I foresee a lot of changes to make the College vibrant and grow in light of the reduction of the traditional college age group. While we will always have a strong liberal arts core, the ability to create new relevant programs to attract students will be critical and will allow the College to build on its strengths. Moving to a Level III institution which can offer graduate degrees will be an important path to pursue as will the expansion of the online degree programs to include certificates and micro credentials (digital badges) that can be stacked to create a degree. I see a successful capital campaign supported by our great alumni and friends that will propel the College into the future.”

Is there anything else you would like to share?
“I want to wish the Wesleyan Family all the best.”