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Elliot Cheu named interim honors dean


(Courtesy Jeff Smith Photography/Fotosmith) Elliott Cheu, the associate dean of the UA College of Science, was recently chosen as the interim honors dean.

The UA Honors College recently announced the new interim dean of the college: Elliott Cheu. Cheu is currently the College of Science associate dean and a distinguished professor of physics.

After former honors dean Patricia MacCorquodale stepped down from her position after 23 years, Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost professor, gathered nominations for the interim dean of the college and consulted with various stakeholders in the college.

Comrie said that there isn’t a full search process for interim deans like there is for permanent deans.

The final choice came down to who would be able to work with the new position with their current work, as well as who is a really suitable candidate, Comrie said. That person turned out to be Cheu.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” Cheu said. “I knew that they were looking for somebody, but it didn’t even occur to me that they were considering me.”

Comrie called Cheu an “all-around great choice.”

RELATED: UA Honors dean Patricia MacCorquodale steps down after 23 years 

“He understands the administration of the university well because he’s already been involved in that as associate dean in a big college,” Comrie said. “He’s really well-liked by students, and he’s also really well-respected by the faculty and all the other deans.”

Cheu has experience working with honors students, as he’s currently teaching an honors course.

He said as associate dean of the College of Science, he works with “the whole gamut of academic activities” within the college.

His new duties will include helping direct the Honors College activities and also figuring out what the college “should look like in the years going forward,” Cheu said.

Cheu mentioned looking into the recent report of the UA Honors Re-Envisioning Task Force. He said that he may meet with the task force, as well as Honors College constituents like honors students, admissions groups and the academic colleges, to work on a plan for what the Honors College is going to be in the coming years.

“In that strategic process, we’ll come up with something I think will be really exciting,” Cheu said. “We’ll be able to attract the best students, not just in Arizona but in the country to the UA.”

Cheu’s experience in the sciences could also be helpful because many honors students are science students, according to Laura Berry, the associate dean of the Honors College.

Berry said that she has worked with Cheu on many projects, as they are both associate deans in their respective colleges.

“[Cheu’s] always been a strong supporter of honors, someone who knows both what happens in honors and also … the broader campus,” she said.

Christopher Impey, associate dean for the College of Science and a distinguished professor of astronomy, said that a large portion of science students are honors students and that Cheu is familiar with working with them.

Cheu said that, through working with honors students in the College of Science, he’s seen there are things that could be done to “make it a more engaging experience” for the students.

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“Even though we have a lot of College of Science students in honors, we don’t have a lot of College of Science students who graduate with honors,” Cheu said. “So I would like to think of ways that we can make that a seamless pathway for them to get all the way to the end with honors notation on their degree.”

While Cheu works as interim dean, he said he plans to take a temporary leave from his position as associate dean of the College of Science, with someone possibly working part-time to cover some of his duties while other duties are given to others within the college administration. When he steps down from the interim position, he would come back to his position as associate dean, he said.

How long until that happens, though, depends on the search for the Honors College permanent dean. Comrie said he is working on getting nominations for members of the search committee for the permanent dean now in order to find the right combination of people to represent the college. Once this committee is put together, the search for the permanent dean can fully begin. This process might take as long as until next summer, but they will try to move faster than that, Comrie said.

In the meantime, Cheu said he is excited to take on his new role and to see how he can take the Honors College to the next level.

“There’s kind of a lot of excitement not about me, but about the Honors College and thinking about just rethinking what the Honors College could be and what it could mean to the university,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a cool time to be here at the UA in this position.”

Follow Ava Garcia on Twitter.

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