Three faculty members have taken on new positions at UCCS during the COVID-19 pandemic: Karen Markel, Lynn Vidler, and Sandy Ho. They each share their experiences, prospects for their colleges and advice encouraging students to focus on their health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
Karen Markel, Dean of the College of Business
Markel joined the UCCS community as the Dean of the College of Business on June 1. Formerly, Markel worked as the dean of the College of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage and, before that, as a professor of resource management and organizational behavior at Oakland University in Michigan.
Markel foresees a bright future for the connection between the College of Business and the Colorado Springs community. “What is really exciting to me is, as the Springs has been growing in population and economic development, I think the College of Business and the university plays a huge role in that,” Markel said. “It’s definitely a city on the rise. The community is looking to the university to help with that economic development and provide the skills and the workforce that are needed for this new economy.”
Despite the limited community engagement as a result of the pandemic, Markel has found a silver lining in the new virtual work environment. “I’m always an optimist, so I try to look on the bright side,” she said. “My conversations are very intentional and deliberate.”
Markel grew up skiing and spending time outdoors in her hometown of Buffalo, NY, so the Colorado Springs community and mountain vicinity are ideal for Markel and her family. She moved together with her husband and two daughters, one of whom started as a freshman at UCCS this semester. “You can’t beat living in Colorado,” she said.
Markel is advising students to recognize the skills that have been developed as a result of the pandemic. “This pandemic has challenged our fundamental assumptions about what life is like right now,” Markel said.
“When you’re going to look for a job you can speak to how the pandemic has taught you about who you are and how flexible and adaptable and resilient you’re going to be and what you’re going to bring to the organization.”
Lynn Vidler, Dean of LAS
The new dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences (LAS), Lynn Vidler, joins the UCCS community from the University of South Dakota, where they were an associate dean at starting in 2017. “I got into higher ed administration when I realized that, not only could I inspire and develop individuals, but I could inspire and develop teams and organizations,” Vidler said.
Vidler has experience working at a university of similar opportunity and size to UCCS, as well as experience with the military as a former civilian professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. “I felt like UCCS and I were a great fit for each other,” they said.
According to Vidler, LAS has been keeping up with its own success as the college has grown and enrollment has increased in the past decade. They commend the faculty within LAS, calling them a “world-class” staff. “They truly embody the spirit of a liberal arts education,” they said.
According to Vidler, the transition from South Dakota to Colorado has been unusual. “I didn’t get to say goodbye properly to my colleagues in South Dakota. I haven’t really gotten to say hello properly to my colleagues here in Colorado Springs,” they said.
“Trying to take on a leadership role when you can’t physically be with your team is the challenge of the moment.”
Vidler describes themself as “creative.” They started teaching ballet at age thirteen, were a member of the California Ballet company in San Diego, are a theatre and performance researcher and a participant of a weekly photography competition to, as they put it, “make sure I’m creating on a regular basis.”
Vidler encourages students, especially now, not to be satisfied with the way things are. “A lot of times in college, we have that moment where we look at the world and say, why? Why are things like this?
“I want to encourage you to think more creatively and innovatively about your life. If you understand who you are and your individual gifts, then you can change institutions, organizations and cultures through your own gifts and unique experiences,” they said.
“You don’t have to settle for the way things are.”
Sandy Ho, Assistant Dean of COE, Director of Student Affairs
After getting a BA in Communication, MA in Leadership with a concentration in Student Affairs in Higher Education, PhD in Educational Leadership, Research, and Policy and working in the Excel Languages Center on campus, Sandy Ho is a familiar face in a new role as the assistant dean of the College of Education and the director of Student Affairs, as of Aug. 1.
Ho is optimistic about the future of the College of Education under direction from Dean Valerie Martin Conley. “[Conley] is positioning us to support the community, the military students. She’s expanding our programs to make sure that we are changing with the times,” Ho said. “I’m excited to be a part of that and pull in some connections that I already have and serve more students.”
Ho has been working to support students during the pandemic by compiling FAQs for the College of Education and supervising graduate assistants in the Student Resource Office to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs. But she is still learning the ins and outs of the new position.
“Usually, you get a new job and you get to learn the new job first, and I’m learning all that, but it just feels faster because on top of that I have to put a layer of COVID considerations,” Ho said.
Ho is originally from South Korea and moved with her family to Colorado before starting college. She originally planned to become a doctor, but after working as a student employee on campus, Ho realized her true passion. “I figured out what I love to do, which is to support students,” she said.
Ho offered some advice for success at UCCS. “Pandemic or not, successful students who are going to transition into being alumni, which is the goal, they do three things.” These three things are: asking good questions, using available resources and making meaningful connections.
“I want everybody to know that I am here, obviously in my role and responsibilities for the College of Education, but I am here for all students,” Ho said.