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University of South Carolina Lancaster Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Walt Collins III has been named the university’s new dean starting May 1.
The announcement Friday, March 29, brings to an end a search that began shortly after former dean Dr. John Catalano’s announcement in June that he intended to retire in December after 11 years and return to the classroom.
Colliins, 43, was chosen from a field of three finalists that included USCL Associate Dean for Academic Student Affairs Dr. Ron Cox and Christopher L. Nesmith, director of USC’s evening program.
In a press release announcing his appointment, Collins said he was pleased to have been chosen to lead a school he’s served since 2002.
“I’m honored to serve as dean of this great campus,” Collins said. “USC Lancaster benefits from strong and deep ties to the university community and the community at large.
“I believe in those strong bonds and I am confident that they will continue to sustain the campus and help faculty, professional staff and administrators meet the educational needs of our students,” he said.
Collins, 43, began his tenure at USCL as an associate professor of French and English. He began serving as acting assistant dean of student affairs in 2008 and was officially appointed to the position in 2011.
As part of his service in the position, Collins has overseen program development for athletics, student life and orientation, law enforcement and security, and student counseling services. His duties also included coordinating USCL’s University 101, USC Connect and travel study programs.
Collins has served on several university committees including those for faculty tenure and promotion, athletics, commencement, scholarship assessment and student affairs.
His community service includes membership on the board of directors of Lancaster County Communities in Schools, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Rotary International.
In making the announcement, S.C. Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins, who directs USC’s four regional campuses, said Collins’ experience with the campus, community and collaborative leadership made him the ideal candidate.
She called Collins a “dynamic leader” who would foster the ongoing growth and quality of the university’s associate’s degree programs and whose leadership would be instrumental to the success of the university’s new Palmetto College bachelor’s degree programs starting this fall.
“Dean Collins will provide leadership for the institution and the community as Palmetto College both strengthens the current role of the regional campus and brings new accessible, affordable and flexible bachelor’s degrees to students in the Lancaster area,” she said.
A first-generation college graduate originally from Clinton, N.C., Collins holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in French literature from Wake Forest University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, respectively, and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of South Carolina.
Collins said he chose French literature as his field of study because he was fascinated by French culture.
He said he chose a career in higher education because he wanted to help students, particularly first-generation students, achieve their academic and professional goals.
In addition to his career as a professor, Collins is also a scholar of African literature who has written extensively on the subject. His body of work includes a book, “Tracing Personal Expansion: Reading Selected novels as Modern African Bildungsromane” and “Emerging African Voices,” which he edited in 2010.
Collins will take over for interim dean Stan Emmanuel, appointed in January when Catalano stepped down.
Catalano, who worked closely with Collins, said both the USCL campus and community of Lancaster “are fortunate to have a new dean of Dr. Collins’ caliber.”
“I have known Dr. Collins since his arrival on campus as a new instructor more than a decade ago,” Catalano said. “He is a very good teacher, a talented author and an excellent person.
“I am confident that the campus will prosper under his leadership,” he said.
Collins said over the past 10 years he has seen USCL experience tremendous growth, transforming into a “vibrant and dynamic place to study, learn and grow.”
He said he looks forward to guiding the university into its future.
“I welcome the opportunity as dean of USC Lancaster to help reshape higher education opportunities in South Carolina through the implementation and launch of Palmetto College and find new and innovative ways to support faculty in their teaching and research and students in their studies,” Collins said.
Collins and his wife, Ashley, have four children, Jack, Abby, Caroline and Ellie.