If you look up the word “dean,” you’re bound to find a reference to the word’s historical meaning – a leader of 10. Florida Gulf Coast University’s Chuck Lindsey, Ph.D., might be envious of a dean who has but 10 charges. That’s because he was named interim dean of FGCU’s largest college in June 2019. Last April, he was permanently appointed to lead the College of Arts & Sciences as COVID-19 became the norm.
“Times of change are always full of uncertainty, but it’s also a time of opportunity,” Lindsey said. “The college has a lot of momentum going in a lot of different areas. I felt like I could help contribute to moving those things forward.”
With roughly 290 faculty members and 5,800 students, the College of Arts & Sciences contributes to many FGCU storylines. Among the most notable programs are The Water School, the Bower School of Music & the Arts and integrated studies, one of the largest majors on campus. Other areas, such as communication, justice studies, English, psychology and biology, among others, are sought-after degrees by students. Research, particularly involving undergraduates, is also a primary focus for the college and its students.
“I am excited to see the completion of the new building for The Water School,” Lindsey said. “That will set off a whole reworking of the office and lab space in Whitaker Hall, Seidler Hall and the Emergent Technologies Institute. We’re planning this transition now.”
Beyond the spaces for water research in the new building opening in January 2022, students studying chemistry, biology and forensics will also see expanded lab space. But the sciences are not the only academic programs on Lindsey’s mind. The college also handles the arts.
“We’re beginning to study closely the expanding of our music facilities. We’re working on a feasibility study and a market analysis to see what it would take to put in a performing arts center or expand the music building. That could also be used by theatre,” he said.
While becoming dean and overseeing the creation of new spaces to learn, Lindsey sees another silver lining on the horizon.
“There will be some positive things that come out of the COVID era in the end,” he said. “Everybody keeps talking about how one day everything will be done virtually on the computer. We’ve been forced to confront that whole shift a lot more quickly than we would have otherwise. I think the upside, flaws and downsides have become apparent. It’s going to help us sort through what works and what doesn’t much faster.”
It’s another chapter in FGCU’s early existence, which Lindsey has been part of since 1994.
“Working here gives me a great sense of pride. Just being able to say I had some part in this place getting started is an honor. I answered an ad that said, ‘We’re starting a new university in Southwest Florida.’ I don’t know how many people applied, but I am one of the first STEM faculty hires at FGCU,” he said, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That makes Lindsey one of the few original faculty members to reach an FGCU deanship.
“Chuck Lindsey was a member of the search committee that hired me 23 years ago,” said Maria Roca, chair of the Department of Integrated Studies. “I have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship with him over the years. As dean, Chuck has demonstrated a blend of smart, strategic leadership with deep compassion. His institutional knowledge has been a great asset to us during these difficult times. As a department chair, I work closely with Chuck, and it has been a great joy to collaborate with him.”
After decades as a math professor and more than 10 years as an assistant or associate dean, Lindsey said he doesn’t know how to describe his leadership style. Ultimately, it comes down to fairness and logic. And the ability to listen hasn’t hurt him either.
“I try to be very transparent with my decisions and hope we can all find a way to work together. I’m happy here. Me being dean as an original faculty member speaks to that. Ask any faculty member at FGCU what they like about their job, and I believe most would say it’s their colleagues,” Lindsey said.