What started as a teaching position in the Department of History in 1998 developed into a two-decade long career of various titles and responsibilities at Maryville College for Dr. Daniel Klingensmith. For over 20 years, he has been a leading member in upholding academic integrity and success across the Maryville College community. Now as of Sept. 12, Klingensmith can continue to do just that and more as the official Academic Dean of Maryville College.
“The dean of the college—me—is basically in charge of seeing [overseeing] the academic program. That means making sure that whatever academic programs we have, we actually teach, that we do it well, that we pay attention to what we’re doing, and that we’re actually doing what we say we do,” Klingensmith said.
“If there are going to be changes to an academic program, that’s ultimately a faculty decision, but I’m kind of the shepherd that tries to do some overall planning—basically managing the academic program to try to have something that, as best as possible, meets student needs and student interests,” Klingensmith said.
Getting to connect with students and the Maryville College community has largely helped to shape Klingensmith’s 21-year career at Maryville College.
“Maybe every college says this about their students, but we have some pretty amazing students that come here,” Klingensmith said. “I’ve just gotten to know so many students. I mean, that’s been my professional life—just getting to know students and that’s a lot of fun.”
Although Klingensmith’s promotion was only official as of mid-September, he has had time to prepare for the transition. Beginning July 9 of last year, he served as interim Vice President and Dean of the College until he officially took over the position of Academic Dean of the College from Dr. Barbara Wells this year.
“Dr. Wells announced that she would retire, so Dr. (Tom) Bogart decided that what we would do is have an interim dean while we sorted some things out about what new programs we would want to bring on,” Klingensmith said. “I was made the interim dean, and I guess I didn’t do too bad of a job because now they’ve asked me to stay on as the regular dean.”
There are many working parts for Klingensmith to focus on as dean of the College, but the availability of opportunities to everyone in attendance is one of the most important things that Klingensmith hopes to continue to promote.
“We are not an elite college,” Klingensmith said. “That is to say, this is not a place where there are a lot of really wealthy students, but we have a lot of the hallmarks of an elite college for a very non-elite student body. I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud that we have an ambitious education. Where is it written that only the rich need to have a broad education and get all these skills? So I’m proud to be associated with that.”
Klingensmith is currently teaching Climate Change, a new Biology 149 course, alongside Dr. Paul Threadgill, but most students may have taken one of his many history classes in the past. When talking to Klingensmith for any given amount of time, it is evident that his passion for history runs deep.
“I guess for me, history partly explains why things are the way they are, but in doing that, gives you some insight as to how they could be different,” Klingensmith said. “I see history partly as a key to unlocking puzzles in the present, but frankly, it goes beyond that. There’s never been a time that I didn’t just love old stuff. I loved going into old attics and finding old junk as a kid.”
Although Klingensmith is excited to have his new position, he hopes to eventually make it back to teaching.
“My goal is to do this for as many years as I’m needed, but then to go back to the history department,” Klingensmith said. “I want to retire as a history professor, not as a dean. I love teaching history, so that’s my goal. I mean, being a college professor is the best job in America. You get to talk to a captive audience about a topic that interests you for 15 weeks at a time, three sessions a week.”
With midterms just passed, Klingensmith wants students to know that he and other MC faculty are “aware that it’s hard. It’s that way by design, but stick it out. It’s worth it, and we have a ream of alumni interviews and data to back that up, so stick it out. There is always academic help, and we’re always working on building more.”
As the new Dean of the College, Klingensmith hopes to keep Maryville College academics fresh, relevant and continuously expansive for any and every student.