Kim Martin Long has been on campus less than two weeks. Her Herman Melville collection is stacked carefully on the bookshelf behind her desk and a Jazz Fest poster hangs on the opposite office wall.
It’s the perfect blend of old and new for this new dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Human Development—a former K-12 English teacher-turned-academic who joins the University of New Orleans by way of Pennsylvania.
At UNO, Long strides headlong into the challenge before her: Overseeing the new merger of the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Education and Human Development, now housed at the Bicentennial Education Building.
“How,” she asks, “can we make the most of this new college?”
It’s hard to imagine anyone more qualified to find the answer.
Long holds a doctorate in American literature, but taught as a middle school and high school teacher for 14 years between getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and going back for her Ph.D. She is in the midst of completing two books—one an eco-feminist study of five seminal American novels and, the other, a textbook with the working title, “English Education, The Next Generation: A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Teacher of English/Language Arts.”
In her last position at Delaware Valley University, a 2,000-student private institution in Doylestown, Penn., Long served four years as the founding dean of the College of Business and Humanities—a merger of two disciplines, she points out, that seem far more unlikely than the blending of education and liberal arts.
When the University of Louisiana System approved UNO’s merger in January, President John Nicklow said it will result in cost savings, greater administrative efficiency and new opportunities for collaboration across traditional academic boundaries without any academic programs being altered.
“This was not a hostile takeover of either side,” Long says. “There are so many things we can do together.”
A great educator is nothing without mastery of his or her content area, she says. Likewise, effective teaching of the liberal arts requires masterful teaching. “Where do we intersect in what we do? What are the differences in what we value?” she asks. Long says she’s open to exploring whether the college should adopt a simpler name, one that reflects the commonalities between the two disciplines.
A native of Denton, Texas, Long received her undergraduate degree at North Texas State University, now called University of North Texas, in 1978. She obtained her master’s in English in 1986 and her Ph.D. in American literature in 1993, from the same institution.
In 1995, she joined the faculty of the public Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, a 7,100-student campus an hour outside of Harrisburg, Penn., rising from associate professor to full professor 10 years later. She served as Shippensburg’s associate dean of arts and sciences for more than six years when she was named dean at Delaware Valley.
Long says she was attracted to UNO in part because the demands of the position seemed so reflective of her strengths and interests as an educator and a scholar. At UNO, in addition to being dean, she retains her beloved title of professor of English. She also says she feels more at home in a public institution.
“I believe in access to education,” she says. And, she admits, she's not afraid of a little bureaucracy.
Already, Long has met with several area K-12 school superintendents to discuss how the University can partner more effectively with school districts for teacher training and beyond. She said she also liked Nicklow’s vision for UNO and detected clear faculty support for the direction he is taking the University.
For her part, she said she’s looking forward to meeting with and hearing from faculty about what they see and what they feel they need. She’s planning a mid-fall strategic retreat to assist with visioning. “Often it’s just making sure that everyone has what they need to do their job,” she said of academic leadership.
Long says she and her husband, David Long, fell in love with New Orleans long ago, even going as far as to buy a time share in the French Quarter in 1992. Then, as now, she says, she was drawn to New Orleans for its “vibrance,” “toughness” and its “survivor attitude.”
The Longs are searching for a permanent place to live. High on the list is a desire for a walkable neighborhood with easy access in and around the city. For now, they are residing at Lafitte Village, UNO’s on-campus married, family and graduate housing, a spot that gives Long a great view of the job ahead.
“I’m looking forward to just leading the new school into a new era,” she says.