Thursday, June 20, 2024

UNCW names new dean of Watson College of Education

Tracy Linderholm will assume her position as dean of the UNCW Watson College of Education. (Courtesy UNCW)

WILMINGTON — UNCW has appointed Tracy Linderholm dean of the Watson College of Education after a months-long search.

Linderholm joins UNCW with 16 years of administrative experience, including most recently as associate dean of the College of Education at Georgia Southern University. She previously served at the University of Florida as associate director for the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education, and program director of the educational psychology doctoral program. 

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Linderholm to the Watson College of Education,” said Provost James J. Winebrake. “I believe Dr. Linderholm’s leadership experience in the education field, her demonstrated commitment to community engagement and her passion for supporting students, faculty and staff will enable the Watson community to flourish in the coming years.”  

In her role as associate dean, Linderholm led a number of successful initiatives for Georgia Southern University’s College of Education. These initiatives led to significant student enrollment increases, expanded external research funding, new scholarship opportunities for faculty, and additional support from donors to support student success.  

“I am honored to have been selected as incoming dean of the Watson College of Education,” said Dr. Linderholm. “Watson College has a long tradition of providing high-quality, innovative programming that promotes student success. I look forward to continuing that tradition by forging new collaborations with school, community and campus partners.” 

The hiring comes after Watson’s previous dean, Van Dempsey, was removed from the leadership position in June 2023.

University leadership unseated Dempsey from the deanship after he revealed to the press inside details on the 2023 Razor Walker Award nomination process. Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) received one of four awards, though the legislator ranked second to last among committee members.

In the wake of faculty protests against Lee’s award, Dempsey defended his colleagues’ right to protest after UNC System board of governors vice-chair Wendy Murphy pressed university leadership to discipline them. 

Dempsey also revealed UNCW Chancellor Aswani Volety pressed him to choose a conservative for the award. These details were published in The Assembly on June 8. Several weeks later the university announced Dempsey was “leaving” his position; in actuality, the dean wasn’t given the choice. 

Dempsey then hired Rhine Law Firm, which issued a statement stating the “demotion” was retaliation for speaking to the press, despite Dempsey’s First Amendment right to do so. The two parties eventually reached a deal and Dempsey remains on as a professor in the department.

As the new dean, Linderholm will provide leadership as the college’s chief academic and administrative officer. This will include strategic planning, enrollment recruitment and retention, budget administration, curriculum and program development, accreditation, external funding, community engagement and more.

Linderholm will assume her new role on June 24, 2024. 

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