This fall the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) welcomes a new Dean: Reinhard Andress, PhD. After a 19-year stint at Saint Louis University (SLU), and with an extensive background in German literature, Andress hopes to make the undergraduate experience at Loyola “the premier experience in Chicago.” Inside Loyola writer Karis Hustad sat down with Andress to find out a little more about him and his plans for the CAS.
Why did you decide to come to Loyola?
I had been at SLU for 19 years, and I think at some point you think about moving onto something else. I had applied fairly broadly, but Loyola was the one I had pegged from the beginning. For me it was an easy shift, and I think that was attractive to the folks here as well, because I’d be transferring from one Jesuit Catholic institution to another. And then of course–Chicago! That was no problem at all. What I found attractive as I looked into Loyola and delved into it more closely is the whole way they set up the idea of transformative education. Most institutions try to do something along those lines, but here it is just well formulated and very intentional.
Your background is in German literature. How did you get interested in that, and what does that bring to your role as Dean?
My parents are both German immigrants. They came to this country in the 50s, so I grew up in a bilingual household. I am very grateful to my parents that they kept up German at home, because it became the basis of my career. I was then involved with teaching German for 25 years. It’s been very important for me, because I don’t think there is anything more educational than learning another language. It’s never just an issue of learning the language itself, you have to become culturally proficient in another culture as well. So there is also a level of intercultural competence there. Negotiating culture and being able to move easily between cultures may help me with this position because I will have to negotiate many different kinds of cultures in the CAS.
Loyola does not have a German minor or major. Are you planning on bringing that here?
Well, for me there are some contradictions between being one of the largest Jesuit Catholic universities and not having a program in German. I think the larger Jesuit Catholic universities all have a full program in German. So I’m not saying I’m going to go out and create a German program here, but that is something that I think needs to be looked at. On the other hand, Loyola does have some unique language strengths. With regard to Italian, given the campus in Rome, and there is this uniqueness of Polish Studies as well. We’ll have to see what the balance is between what’s standard for a Department of Modern Languages and Literature and what the unique qualities are here in Chicagoland.
What are your plans for the College of Arts and Sciences?
One significant challenge we have is to institute the revised Core. There is the immediate matter of making sure the mechanics of it work, and that we have enough courses for the incoming class. The long-term concern is to maybe tweak it at some point. Another short-term and long-term goal is making sure teaching loads are equitable for full-time faculty. Another one is integrating non-tenure-track faculty. We have tenure-track appointees who generally have a strong research agenda. Non-tenure tracks generally have a teaching focus. The tenure-track system is quite old, but there has been a shift in the last few years to hire more and more non-tenure tracks. It’s a way for the University to dedicate more of its resources to teaching, but it’s a different brand of faculty. They have different foci, different requirements, and I’m worried about creating a two-tiered system. I don’t think it’s good for a college or for a department to have colleagues who may feel like they are second-class citizens. So I want to do as much as I can to integrate the non-tenure track. I will also advocate for the College both internally and externally.
This is your second job at a Jesuit institution. What draws you to Jesuit education?
Many institutions are trying to do the same thing: they have these students and are trying to give them a broad range of experiences through core requirements, expose them to many disciplines, and develop them as human beings. But I think Loyola does it in a clear, coherent, and intentional way. They talk about cura personalis, the care of the whole person, and they package it very attractively in this idea of transformative education.
What was your college experience like?
I went to Rockford College. It was a very good experience. It was a small liberal arts college, and it opened my eyes to the humanities and interdisciplinary thinking to some extent. But undergraduate education has come a long ways since the late 70s in terms of student support. All these student-support services, they were probably all there at Rockford College in some form or another, but they weren’t as extensively developed as they are now. I also had a great junior year abroad experience, spending three semesters abroad in Vienna, Austria. I fell in love with German-speaking culture.
Have you read any good books lately?
Ronald’s Wright’s A Short History of Progress. It talks about how civilizations fail. It talks about Easter Island: what went on there, why are the inhabitants all gone, etc.? The same thing with the Mayan civilization and ancient Rome. He shows in this book how each of these civilizations failed because of issues of sustainability. The ultimate point of the book says if we don’t think in terms of sustainability, we may become a failed civilization as well. It’s good to see that Loyola is implementing plans for an Institute of Urban Environmental Sustainability. I hope the College will be able to make a significant contribution to it.
What is a fun fact about you?
I’m not sure this is fun, but one of my hobbies is to speak Spanish. I majored as an undergraduate in Spanish, but it fell to the wayside as I focused fully on German. I came back to it about eight or nine years ago while doing research. Saint Louis University has a Madrid campus, so I was able to spend a year there, and that really got my Spanish going again.
Is there anything you would like to tell College of Arts and Sciences students?
I think Loyola offers a wealth of opportunities in the framework of the transformative education I mentioned earlier. I think students should adopt a carpe diem attitude toward that, seize the opportunities an undergraduate education offers at Loyola. They have an enormous amount of freedom now to explore and figure out who they are, freedom in a way they won’t have once they get their bachelor’s degree and once they move into professional and family lives. Do all you can with the opportunities you have in these four years.