BETHANY, W.Va. – Dr. Katrina D’Aquin speaks with enthusiasm when discussing accomplishments and opportunities for the academic programs at Bethany College. The new Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty is no stranger to the position, having served as the acting Vice President for much of the past year.
Speaking from her office in iconic Old Main in the heart of the Bethany campus, D’Aquin enthusiastically speaks of faculty accomplishments, program strengths, and opportunities for the future.
“It's an honor to be asked to be the chief academic officer of an outstanding institution,” said Dr. D’Aquin, a long-time member of the Bethany faculty. “When Dr. Miller (Bethany President Scott D. Miller) asked me to fill the position on an acting basis a year ago, I accepted because I was familiar with the wonderful people I would be working with. That includes an experienced, nationally respected President, his senior cabinet, devoted administrative staff and our talented faculty.”
“These are challenging times in American higher education,” she said. “Dr. Miller has done a remarkable job of leading Bethany to a position of financial stability, qualitative growth, strong community engagement and enhanced national reputation during tough times. I look forward to working with him and our leadership team as we advance the next phase of the long-range strategic plan, Bethany 2020.”
As the Vice President, she will be the College’s chief academic officer, responsible for establishing academic priorities and overseeing the 11 academic departments, the libraries, the McCann Learning Center, the Office of International Studies and the Registrar’s Office.
Dr. D'Aquin came to Bethany in 2006 as a member of the psychology faculty and has served as Director of the First Year Experience, Chair of the Psychology Department and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. She has also taught at Seton Hill University, Ohio University-Eastern, Washington & Jefferson College, and the University of Pittsburgh. She hopes to continue teaching as time permits; she is also the Sarah B. Cochran Professor of Psychology.
Dr. D’Aquin received her B.A. degree from Siena College, in Loudonville, NY, where she majored in psychology, and earned a minor in Ancient Greek. She then attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in social psychology.
In her first interview since assuming the position on a permanent basis, she provided a variety of updates on a number of topics:
Dr. D'Aquin also discussed the importance of The Bethany Plan, which aids students in identifying with and becoming a part of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out a student's education at Bethany. The Bethany Plan is a defining characteristic of a Bethany College education, she noted.
She noted that Dr. Miller and Bethany were recently featured in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" for Bethany's commitment to student-centeredness, reflecting the College's initiatives during the past seven years to serving the changing needs and expectations of today's college students and their families. Bethany’s president has expanded student-support services, earning widespread national recognition. He led a Council of Independent Colleges national conference session early last spring on the career focus of liberal arts colleges. The theme of the session was "Building Value: Linking Classroom to Career."
"Bethany College has a remarkable history as a top tier, classical, residential national liberal arts college,” Dr. D’Aquin said. “We're extremely proud of our heritage as West Virginia's oldest degree-granting institution. We trace our origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818. However, we count 1840 as our founding as a degree-granting college. This academic year, we proudly begin the celebration of 175 years and will do so with a distinguished group of prominent Bethanians as featured speakers.”
Spring speakers include:
Dr. D’Aquin admits that serving first as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and then in the acting capacity peaked her interest in senior leadership. She was chosen as one of 32 mid-level administrators in higher education nationwide by Washington, D.C.-based Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to participate in the year-long Senior Leadership Academy.
At the time of her nomination for the program, she was Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Psychology. Individuals chosen for the program are administrators in higher education who have been identified by their institutions as having the potential for senior leadership positions in independent colleges or universities. D’Aquin participated in an SLA Seminar in Portland, Oregon, in late October, and will attend another in Washington, DC, in June. She has also undertaken a mentoring program, work with experts, participate in webinars, and engage in a series of readings and case studies.
According to CIC, the purpose of the Academy is to prepare prospective leaders to assume positions as the chief officers in any division—including academic affairs, student affairs, finance, enrollment management, and advancement—in independent higher education.
The Academy is co-sponsored by CIC and the American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI) with financial support from Academic Search, Inc., and the Henry Luce Foundation. Tom Kepple, president of AALI and president emeritus of Juniata College (PA), is the program director.
“This program provided a great opportunity,” D’Aquin said. “I’m fortunate to be able to apply what I have learned at a College I admire so much.”
Dr. D’Aquin and her husband, Clay, currently reside in New Stanton, PA, and will live in historic Highland Hearth, the Dean’s Residence, on the Bethany campus. Daughter Erika was a 2014 honors graduate of Bethany College and received the prestigious Leonora Balla Cayard Prize and The John R. Taylor Award in the Liberal Arts.