Campus / News / February 20, 2013

Behling stresses importance of liberal arts approach

Dr. Laura Behling speaks to a forum of Knox students on Jan. 15 in Ferris Lounge. She described her work at Butler University and her interest in working at Knox. As part of the discussion, Behling also listened to the concerns of the students ranging from professor accountability to the organization of the different departments at Knox. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

Dr. Laura Behling speaks to a forum of Knox students on Jan. 15 in Ferris Lounge. She described her work at Butler University and her interest in working at Knox. As part of the discussion, Behling also listened to the concerns of the students ranging from professor accountability to the organization of the different departments at Knox. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

After an extensive search to replace Lawrence Breitborde, Knox College has selected Laura Behling, Knox’s new dean of the college and vice president for academic affairs.

Behling was one of several candidates that were interviewed over the last few months by faculty and students in search of someone who was a good fit for Knox. Breitborde, who currently holds the position as Dean of the College, will retire from his 17 year term in June. Behling takes up the office July 1.

Although Behling was chosen out of a group of well-vetted applicants, she considers Knox a good fit for her as well.

“One of the things that I wanted to do was to get back to a residential liberal arts college. And that’s the experience that I had as a student at Kalamazoo College. I loved it and thought it was wonderful,” Behling said.

Kalamazoo College is another small liberal arts school in the Midwest. In a city roughly twice the size of Galesburg, it is similar to Knox in that it is not a big state school with a wide reputation and a large incoming population. Behling found Knox hard to overlook, despite its small size.

“[Knox] is a place I think for me that’s really hard to ignore,” Behling said. “It’s clear that there’s academic excellence and has been for 175 plus years at this point, where the mission shows the commitment to diverse perspectives and experiences is really crucial for me.”

Behling’s own scholastic career is full with academic achievement. After completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature at Kalamazoo College, Behling received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English and American literature from The Claremont Graduate School, an M.S. in journalism from Boston University’s Program for Reporting on Science and Medicine as well as a certificate from the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, according to Knox’s Communications office.

While being considered for the position, Behling has traveled to and from Galesburg three times in the past month, but she was already somewhat familiar with the city and school. On a trip between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Indianapolis, Indiana her academic spirit drew her to Knox.

“I think a lot of academics, when you see a sign for a college or university on a freeway, you get off and you go look at it,” Behling said. “So about three years ago or so, I have pulled off of 74 and gone through Galesburg and looked at Knox and thought to myself, ‘Well this is a good school in a nice little town,’ and then continued on my way.”

Though she is months from beginning her time as dean of the college, Behling, coming from a small liberal arts school background, feels a connection with the Knox students.

“I think it’s clearly the liberal arts focus, that sense of how to work in multiple different venues and how to think about particular issues from a variety of perspectives and how to think critically and how to communicat­­e—­­­­­­all the things that Knox really succeeds with its students,” Behling said. “In education I had a similar kind of experience, and that was really crucial into helping me do the jobs I’m doing today.”

Lizzy Rodgers

Tags:  Dean of the College english literature kalamazoo laura behling lawerence breitborde liberal arts small school

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