In July 2017, Sarah N. Roth joined Meredith College as dean of the School of Arts and Humanities. She came to Meredith from Widener University, where she was a professor of history and associate dean of humanities. Roth holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in history from the University of Virginia, and a B.A. in history from Southwestern University.
The School of Arts and Humanities includes nine departments with approximately 56 full-time and 47 part-time faculty members and five staff. The school, which currently offers 16 majors with six areas of specialization and 23 minors, serves approximately 440 students as majors or minors within the school. Roth is the second person to serve as dean, following Professor of English Garry Walton who retired from the position after 14 years of service.
In this Meredith Magazine interview, learn more about Roth and her goals for Meredith’s largest school.
What made you interested in working in academic leadership at Meredith?
“I was really excited about the fact that Meredith is a women’s college. I believe so much in the mission of Meredith to educate women to be leaders, to be liberally educated citizens. I liked a lot of the high-quality programs that Arts & Humanities has, and I also liked the classroom to careers programs that are in place and are starting to develop even further. I like that Meredith is a small, liberal arts college, which is where my roots are.”
How do you hope your previous experience as a faculty member and in administration benefits Meredith College?
“At my previous institution, I had experience as the chair of the Humanities Student Recruitment and Retention committee, so I know some things about how to attract majors to arts and humanities disciplines. What is really rewarding is when a student comes in as a major in one of the more technical fields, but as they go through the classes and talk to the professors in an arts and humanities discipline, they realize that that is where their passion lies. Then at some point, they develop enough faith to make that leap into doing what they really want to do. Part of the way for us to help students include the arts and humanities in their decision making when they choose a major requires increasing visibility for arts and humanities among students and their parents but also on campus in general. That’s something I would like to do here as well.”
Why is it important that students get an education that is grounded in the liberal arts, no matter what their majors?
“What we need today as a society and as a world are people who are creative and thoughtful, who think critically about things and come up with innovative solutions to problems that they see. And the liberal arts is where that happens, where that training, where inculcating those modes of thinking, happens. Like no other field, the arts promote creativity, and help students to get in touch with that side of themselves so that they can bring those ways of seeing the world into their careers. But at the same time, the liberal arts also allow students to be analytical and to come up with their own perspectives based on research, based on really evaluating a subject or situation with a critical eye. Another quality that we don’t have enough of these days is empathy, and arts and humanities help to instill that sense into people who study them. That’s something we don’t usually measure or assess, but it’s an inherent and valuable part of those disciplines.”
As dean, how can you help support the humanities and arts at Meredith?
“I have a lot of ideas and hope to hit the ground running but with the buy-in and enthusiasm of the faculty. We have a great faculty who are doing amazing things with the resources they have and who are eager to do even more to enhance the educational experience for Meredith students. I see it as my job to help upgrade and enhance those resources so that when students come here and they major in one of the arts and humanities, they have the best experience they possibly can.”
What else would you like alumnae to know?
“Faculty and students are really excited about working with alumnae. They want alumnae to come back to campus, talk to students about their careers and how the Meredith experience has given them the ability to succeed in their professional life. The career path in arts and humanities is not always obvious, and almost no graduates take the same path. Their journeys are individualized. It helps to say, here is a person who was in your shoes ten years ago. And look at the great things she’s been able to accomplish, in an area you may not have even thought was open to someone with an arts and humanities background. I appreciate the contributions that alums are making at Meredith, and I really hope that they will be able to come to campus even more and stay connected with the strong academic community we have developed in the School of Arts and Humanities.”