April 8, 2020
Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University named Brandon Kempner the new dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences April 6.
Kempner was chosen after a national search. He served as the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since July 2019 and is also a longtime professor in the Department of English.
“Strong deans help build strong programs, recruit and retain great faculty, and set the tone for excellence throughout the academic unit,” said Highlands University President Sam Minner. “I am confident Dr. Kempner will be exactly that type of dean.”
Minner said decanal, or dean, leadership is probably one of the most important forms of leadership in any college or university.
“Wonderful deans can come from any number of backgrounds. I think the best are most likely to come from academic backgrounds and a deep well of experience about what it means to be a strong faculty member. Strong deans also understand and appreciate the importance of supporting both the teaching and research missions. I know Brandon will be a strong dean because he embodies these characteristics,” Minner said.
The Highlands College of Arts and Sciences provides education in the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, and nursing.
“As a longtime faculty member at Highlands and former director of our accreditation efforts, coming to the dean position seemed like a natural evolution in continuing to serve our students,” Kempner said. “Highlands is a unique school that performs an important function for Northern New Mexico and beyond.”
Kempner said two goals are to continue to strengthen Highlands’ broad range of liberal arts and science programs and instill a love of lifelong learning in the university’s students.
Kempner earned his Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University. He joined the Highlands University faculty in 2006 as an assistant professor of American literature. Kempner rose through the academic ranks to full professor in 2017 and has chaired the Department of English twice during his tenure. He is widely published in scholarly journals, with a specialty in popular culture and zombies.
“As a faculty member, I understand the opportunities and challenges of teaching at Highlands. As an administrator, I plan to support innovative teaching and new academic programs,” Kempner said.
Kempner has served in a number of key leadership roles at Highlands. For example, he chaired the Highlands University Faculty Senate from fall 2015 through summer 2017. From 2016 through August 2018, he was the director of Highlands University’s Higher Learning Commission accreditation work. In addition, Kempner served on the university’s Executive Management Team at various times.
“Writing the Higher Learning Commission accreditation materials gave me a broad understanding of Highlands as a whole and allowed me to work with many of our excellent staff members, administrators and faculty,” Kempner said.
Roxanne Gonzales, the Highlands provost and vice president for academic affairs, said: “Dr. Kempner brings with him knowledge of Highlands and New Mexico, enabling him to help the College of Arts and Sciences develop new programs, seek grants, and explore partnerships to increase enrollments, meet the workforce needs of New Mexico, and focus on student success.”