Weber State Appoints New Dean for College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
OGDEN, Utah – Newly appointed dean of Weber State University’s College of Social & Behavioral Sciences (CSBS) Julie Rich holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in geography with an emphasis on paleoclimatology, the study of ancient climates; what she’s found at Weber is a climate that’s perfectly suited for her focus on teaching and community connections.
From the moment she stepped foot at Weber State as a freshmen “decades ago,” Rich said she’s been committed to the university. Her mother worked in Weber State housing; her father helped install the first seats at Stewart Stadium. “There is a lot of Rich blood, sweat and tears at Weber State,” she said. “I am proud to be part of the faculty, staff, students and programs here. Various opportunities have taken me away for short stints, but I always come back to the university and the Ogden community.”
Weber State’s Board of Trustees approved the selection following a national search.
“Dr. Rich's collaborative leadership approach has earned the confidence of faculty, staff and administrators,” said Provost Ravi Krovi. “She has the administrative experience and a track record of providing high-impact educational experiences by leveraging community and regional partnerships. I look forward to working with her and our faculty and staff to develop innovative academic programming and prioritize student success initiatives in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences.”
Rich has always emphasized teaching and field work in order to help students gain a better understanding and appreciation for the dynamic planet on which they live. Her research and writing focuses on arid environments and environmental change, with an emphasis on Quaternary paleoclimates, paleoenvironments and geochronology, using optical (luminescence) dating methods.
As a geography professor, she has taught courses such as Natural Environments of the Earth, Weather and Climate and Cartography. In her Advanced Regional Field Studies course she has taken students around the world. A professional and personal highlight was taking a group to India for 10 weeks during March/April 1997 where they met Mother Teresa in Calcutta.
“While we were there, she blessed our students,” Rich said. “When I saw this diminutive woman, who had done so much good in the world, it instilled in me a sense of wanting to give back and confirmed that one individual has the power to make a tremendous difference.”
Making a difference to the world often means making a difference to individuals. Rich has served as interim dean of the college since 2019, during which time she helped students, faculty and staff navigate the difficulties of a pandemic. “It turned everything upside down,” she said. Technology, course delivery and even mental health were impacted. Rich quickly assembled “Team Awesome,” a COVID outreach team, that contacted all 2,100 CSBS students and faculty to see how they were doing and if they had the technology and support they needed to be successful.
“Students appreciated the outreach in a time they felt so isolated and frightened,” Rich said. “They were worried about finishing their courses and their degrees. It gave them comfort that we were here for them. It wasn’t just about grades. We deeply care about the welfare of our students.”
The college is home to the departments of anthropology, criminal justice, geography, history, philosophy, political science, psychology, social work and sociology. Although COVID created challenges, it also provided opportunities for change. Rich said the college will continue to find ways to offer flexible course delivery to meet the needs of traditional and non-traditional students.
CSBS is also expanding its offerings with new certificate programs in tele-mental health, crisis intervention, and geospatial analysis; an associate’s degree in social and behavioral sciences; and a master of social work.
“People in our community are saying, ‘COVID made me look twice about where I am in my life, and I think I want to pursue that dream I have always had,’ Rich said. “We are prepared to help them with flexible, relevant programs.”
In addition to her role as dean, Rich will continue to advance Weber State’s Global Community Engaged Learning (GCEL) program, which undertakes projects to help alleviate poverty in developing nations. The international humanitarian works also helps Weber State students develop skills and confidence to be proactive global citizens. Every year 100 plus WSU students are involved in the design, fundraising, planning and execution of the international projects.
The projects have created invaluable real-world, experiential learning opportunities for students in Fiji (2020, 2019); Uganda, Africa (2018); Mozambique, Africa (2017, 2014); Peru (2016); Thailand (2015); and Rwanda (2006). In spring 2022, GCEL has plans to finish construction of a school in Ghana.
“Out-of-the-classroom experiences, transform people,” Rich said. “We all return changed, looking at life through different lenses. Sometimes it takes visiting another location to value what’s most important in our lives: human connection.”
Rich also values the opportunity to lead the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences at this moment in history.
“All of the challenges we face in the world deal with societal issues, whether it’s the political realm or social issues,” Rich said. “How did we become so polarized? Why is the suicide rate so high in Utah? How can we live more sustainably? These big problems we deal with day in and day out are going to be resolved in part by social scientists, people who understand the way individuals think and respond and know how policy is created. The importance of what we teach and learn in this college is critical. We are ready for the future.”
For more information about the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, visit weber.edu/SocialScience
For photos, visit this link.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.