Elizabeth Perry-Sizemore to become new dean of the college, effective July 1

Maryville College is poised for a new chapter under the leadership of Dr. Elizabeth Perry-Sizemore, who will assume the role of vice president and dean of the college on July 1. 

“I’m attracted to Maryville for its strong liberal arts and sciences identity — its mission and commitment to scholarship, respect and integrity. I find this a warm and vibrant community,” Perry-Sizemore said in an exclusive interview with The Highland Echo.

Perry-Sizemore’s interest in administration emerged early on in her career. Following her graduate studies, which sparked a keen interest in the economics of higher education, she was hired on the faculty of her alma mater, Randolph College. Randolph College is a small, private liberal arts institution located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“I got to see how the work of providing a student with an education gets done, and I was really fascinated with those mechanisms and those people, and how all it came together,” she said. 

Particularly influential was Perry-Sizemore’s position on the strategic planning steering committee, which helped her learn how an institution functions. 

“I just decided to watch and observe my interest [in administration] and see where it took me,” she added. 

Perry-Sizemore stepped into a variety of leadership roles at Randolph College, diversifying her experience in the field. Her previous roles include interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; Social and Behavioral Sciences Division head; chairperson of Economics and Business; assistant dean of the college; and director of the Student/Faculty Summer Research Program. Currently, Perry-Sizemore is Presidential Fellow and professor of economics. She also serves as the Catherine Ehrman Thoresen and William Thoresen Chair in Economics.

A significant personal milestone achieved during this exploration was Perry-Sizemore’s marriage and stepmotherhood. 

“Now, my children are through school and living on their own, and my husband and I felt like the time was right to look for a great place,” she said.

For Perry-Sizemore and her husband, Maryville feels like home. 

“We both grew up in really small towns close to much larger cities, with easy access to beautiful things outdoors,” she said. “There are aspects that feel very familiar to us in positive ways. We’re excited about being closer to the big city and the mountains.”

Anticipating her new role as dean, Perry-Sizemore expressed her eagerness to connect with the student body. She wants to make sure that students are knowledgeable about Academic Affairs, and that what she suggests and does will resonate with them.

Perry-Sizemore looks forward to meeting the Scots Science Scholars, one of the first groups to be on campus this fall. She then plans to imagine “the most meaningful, effective and efficient ways to get to know other students.” 

“I think there’s a lot to be said for being physically present in student spaces…eating in the dining hall, being in the spaces during the day where students are, so they have a sense of who you are and that you value their role, their own experiences and the experiences of their peers,” she said.

Perry-Sizemore is also interested in connecting with the Student Government Association to learn more about how the members communicate with faculty and administration, and to get a sense of what’s working well and what isn’t.

As a professor and mother of three graduates of higher education, Perry-Sizemore is sensitive to the unique interests of contemporary students.

“Different generations have different experiences, and I think it’s important, if you work in a college environment, to be mindful of your institutional identity and the interests and curiosities of different generations of prospective students,” she said. “I think it’s important that institutions always think about who they are, who they’ve been, what their core values are, what they want to protect and maintain, and how to do all that in a way that resonates deeply with whatever the current generation is.”

From her early exploration of Maryville, Perry-Sizemore has observed the college is “stepping out in some really meaningful ways” and expanding what it means to live in the region. This raises questions about the changing role of Academic Affairs.

“What does it mean for the curriculum to strike a balance between the old, the new, the evolving? What does it mean for the kinds of internships that students are going to find and the people they’re going to network with? What does that mean for where [we] look for opportunities for them and form partnerships?” she said.

Following the practice of shared governance, Perry-Sizemore looks forward to exploring these questions with other institutional leaders, including the board of directors, the president and faculty, serving as “a bridge-builder and translator” between them.

“I’m eager to learn more about their ideas for thinking about Appalachia and the region — the past and the present,” she said.

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