March 29, 2012

Washington University in St Louis

Jennifer R. Smith

The future dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St Louis wants to use her elected position to "promote the education of undergraduates as green, environmentally aware citizens", in line with her academic specialism. Jennifer R. Smith, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences and environmental studies at Washington, added: "I hope to support on-campus initiatives for sustainability and environmental education in our community." Professor Smith earned a bachelor's degree in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard College before undertaking an MSc in geology and a doctorate in earth and environmental science at the University of Pennsylvania. She joined Washington in 2002 after a year's lectureship at Harvard University. Professor Smith will lead Washington's largest undergraduate school, which caters for 4,000 students, and will also be responsible for the institution's liberal-arts curriculum. "Working with students, I became greatly interested in how a liberal-arts education can foster intellectual engagement and apply multiple perspectives to a problem," Professor Smith said. "I think it is [as] important for science-oriented students to be exposed to the arts and humanities as it is for [arts] students to be exposed to the sciences."

University of Sheffield

Helen Davis

One of the University of Sheffield's senior medical academics has been appointed professor and chair of orthoptics, a first for the UK sector. Helen Davis, formerly senior lecturer in the institution's Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, said she wanted to ensure that the subject "remains on the map". Orthoptics is the investigation and management of disorders of binocular vision and eye-movement defects, and Sheffield is one of only two institutions in the UK to offer degrees in the subject. Professor Davis acknowledged that her field is not widely known. "As a small specialty, it is easy for orthoptics to be overlooked," she said, "but there are examples of excellent research, innovative education and good clinical practice (in the discipline) that need to be acknowledged, and my promotion is a valuable step in that process." After studying orthoptics at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, Professor Davis began her clinical career at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital in 1979. She remained in the health service as a clinician, teacher and researcher until she joined Sheffield as a senior lecturer in 1991, later setting up its orthoptics programme.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson

An American academic who has worked for more than 20 years at a university in the Midlands has admitted that she will have to "learn the lingo" of US higher education when she returns to her native Midwest to take up a senior university management role. Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson, professor and pro vice-chancellor of research and innovation at De Montfort University, has been appointed provost and vice-chancellor of academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She said the move was a "big step" given that she had spent a large part of her life in the UK, "but it is fantastic to be close to family after over two decades [away]". Professor Macpherson said her aims in the new role included maintaining Wisconsin-La Crosse's position as an "excellent public comprehensive university". The academic admitted feeling indebted to De Montfort, which "took a real chance on me" when it hired her as dean of humanities in 2007. Before then she had held numerous positions at institutions including the University of Central Lancashire and Newcastle University (where she obtained her PhD). Professor Macpherson graduated with a BA in English and creative writing from St Cloud State University in the US.

Edge Hill University

Carol Poole

Edge Hill University's new ambassador to MediaCityUK in Salford believes her institution and the North West will "benefit enormously" from the often-criticised project - the gains are already becoming apparent, she said. Carol Poole, Edge Hill's former head of media, said the opportunities on offer at MediaCity had attracted her to the role. "We are benefiting from [MediaCity] now," she said. "I can see it when I'm there. There are lots of activities, meetings and people interacting. I want to be in the centre of that interaction." Ms Poole will use her experience of steering a partnership between the BBC - one of MediaCity's major tenants - and Edge Hill to develop fresh relationships between media companies and the institution, with student employability in mind. "We have this huge project sitting on our doorstep...and I have to make sure that the university gets a crack of the whip there," she said. Ms Poole was head of media at Edge Hill for 12 years. She graduated from the University of Liverpool with a degree in political theory and institutions, and has dedicated most of the past 30 years to the development of media-related curricula, from basic education to the postgraduate level.


Northumbria University has appointed Olivier Sparagano as associate dean for research and innovation and professor of health and biotechnology in the School of Health, Community and Education Studies. He was previously research director at Northumbria's School of Life Sciences.

Thom Brooks, reader in political and legal philosophy at Newcastle University, has been elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is editor and founder of the Journal of Moral Philosophy and has authored books on John Rawls and Georg Hegel.

A taxation expert has been made head of The Open University Law School. Jane Frecknall-Hughes, a professor who has worked as a chartered tax consultant, has taught across a wide range of business subjects.

Kingston University has made Alice Foxley course director for landscape architecture. Ms Foxley joins Kingston after eight years at Swiss practice Vogt Landscape, where she was head of research and development.

Robert Gordon University has made Donald Cairns head of the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. Professor Cairns previously held positions at De Montfort University and the University of Sunderland.

Toni Hilton, currently acting dean at Westminster Business School, has joined Regent's College as dean of the Faculty of Business and Management.

The British Heart Foundation has named Nicola Smart as the first BHF Fellow of the Year, recognising her achievements in researching ways of repairing tissue damaged by heart attacks. Dr Smart recently relocated to the University of Oxford after more than a decade working at University College London.

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