New Deans bring student-focused perspectives and fresh visions for an Exceptional UND


Kate Menzies

Document Type


Publication Date



New Deans bring student-focused perspectives and fresh visions for an Exceptional UND

The University of North Dakota held a special campus and community reception Tuesday, Aug. 13, for the new deans of the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education & Human Development, Dr. Debbie Storrs and Dr. Robert Hill, respectively.

The following is a profile on each new dean, their background and what they hope to accomplish at UND:

Art & Sciences' Dr. Debbie Storrs sees great potential for UND, North Dakota

New Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Debbie Storrs is ready to take the College of Arts and Sciences and the University of North Dakota to new heights.

With a passion for education and an appreciation for the arts and sciences, Storrs is excited to bring her vision and experiences to UND.

Storrs says her background in sociology and her personal experiences in the liberal arts field help her appreciate what the College of Arts and Sciences has to offer.

"I know its value personally by the impact it has had on my life," Storrs said.

As a first generation college student, Storrs went to school to study business, but ended up falling in love with sociology as well as the education process.

Storrs came to UND from the University of Idaho, where she served for five years as associate dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Science. She joined the University of Idaho as assistant professor of sociology in 1997, moving through the ranks to full professor in 2010. In addition to her leadership experience as associate dean, she served as interim chair of the Department of Modern Languages & Cultures, and as co-president of Athena, a faculty-staff association dedicated to gender equity.

She views the world through a sociologist's lens, mindful of people, organizational and group dynamics.

UND President Robert Kelley's vision for "Exceptional UND" is one of the main reasons Storrs was drawn to UND. She loved the emphasis on relationships with the community. Storrs also appreciated that the College of Arts and Sciences included a full scope of disciplines and that there were more connections between the disciplines than her previous university.

Storrs was intrigued that UND had hired new Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Thomas M. DiLorenzo. She was a fan of DiLorenzo's reputation for innovation and looked forward to working with him.

Storrs also liked UND's diverse leadership team. Of the five vice presidents under Kelley, three are women.

Storrs saw potential in UND as well as the state, and that is why she is here. The booming North Dakota economy added to the list of things that made a move here appealing.

At only five weeks into the job, Storrs is adjusting to her position quite nicely. She has met with all department chairs within the college, to learn more their needs and interests and how she can support faculty success and student learning.

Storrs will bring her passionate belief in life-long learning, effective communication and listening skills, as well has her reliance on decision-based data, to improve the College of Arts and Sciences.

Storrs plans to contribute to President Kelley's "Exceptional UND" vision by facilitating improved student learning, supporting faculty and staff, making connections with the community and by supporting and encouraging research among departments. She wants to be the catalyst for collaboration across disciplines.

As dean, one of her early goals is to engage the College in a strategic plan for the future and then align resources based on that plan.

Of course, let's not forget the students. Storrs enjoys working with students and admires how they bring their hopes and optimism to campus.

During orientation this summer, Storrs was actually able to visit with incoming freshman, who, just like her are new to campus. She has even had the ultimate student experience by living in the residence halls.

"They really embrace possibilities and get excited about a challenge."

After all, she added, "they are the key to solving the world's problems."

Storrs believes that the University is at a turning point to move from great to exceptional, and she wants to add to that positive change.

Education and Human Development's Dr. Robert Hill drawn to close-knit campus and community

Dr. Robert Hill is returning to his rural roots and settling in Grand Forks to fulfill his position as new Dean of UND'S College of Education and Human Development.

As overseer of over 100 faculty and staff along with five departments, Hill is looking forward to the tasks ahead of him.

A native of Hanford Calif., ? a small city about the size of Grand Forks in the state's Central Valley ? Hill comes to UND from the University of Utah, where he started as an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in 1988. There he eventually attained the rank of professor and served as chair of the Department of Educational Psychology.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, Hill was a Leadership Fellow of the American Council on Education, which enabled him to work closely with the President of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Hill was drawn to campus because of the people.

"There is a lot of integrity in folks here," Hill said.

Growing up in a small rural area, Hill appreciates the close-knit feeling UND prides itself on. He admired the organization of UND and the value system instilled in its students.

With big changes occurring on campus, such as the new Provost and new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Hill wanted to make the move and be a part of that change.

With any job there is an adjustment to a new culture and new people, but Hill has become nicely accustomed to his new surroundings.

He is fascinated with American Indian culture on campus and wants to learn more about it. He is also trying to brainstorm with faculty members on ways they can improve their careers.

Hill also has settled in to the newly renovated and environmentally friendly Education Building on campus.

"I am so grateful it is here," he said. He wants to put the space to optimal use so that students and faculty can interact easily and effectively.

As a former department chair and faculty member, Hill has the right tools and skills needed for the position as Dean.

He plans to contribute to President Kelley's vision of an "Exceptional UND" by improving faculty's quality of life, making faculty's research visible to the public, increasing course offerings for students and inviting the public to attend gatherings put on by the College.

One specific improvement being made to the College that has Hill particularly excited is a new online reading certificate being offered to students.

Another change he wants to see would be the addition of a teacher-training exchange program with Canada. Students would be able to have a study-abroad experience while still remaining close to home.

Overall, it is Hill's love of students that makes his job so enjoyable. He admires the new ideas they come up with.

"I love seeing students trying to become themselves," he said. "And sometimes, I can be a part of that."

Kate Menzies

University and Public Affairs student writer

This document is currently not available here.