Q&A: CLASS Dean discusses new job, getting to know Mount Pleasant

Richard Rothaus began as Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Aug. 1

Richard Rothaus

Richard Rothaus was hired as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences early last summer. His first day was Aug. 1.

He arrived here from the North Dakota University system, where he worked as the vice chancellor of academic and student affairs. 

His previous positions include teaching history at St. Cloud State University and Oklahoma State University. He also worked as the assistant vice president for research and faculty development at SCSU from 2000-08.

Rothaus sat down with Central Michigan Life to talk about his first three months at Central Michigan University, and what he did before moving to Mount Pleasant.

CM Life: Where are you from?

That’s a hard question. My dad was in the Air Force so we moved all over. Most recently, North Dakota. 

Before that I was in Minnesota. I ran my own business doing archaeological consulting and worked as faculty in the administration for St. Cloud State University.

How have the first few months of the semester been going?

Spectacular. I’m having fun, which is important in life.

I came to Central Michigan because I thought this was a great university, and nothing has happened in the first few months to do anything but convince me that I made a spectacular choice. 

Every day there is something amazing I learn about or that happens that I’m really excited about. About once a week I’m in a meeting saying, “What, we have that? That’s awesome!”

How are you liking Mount Pleasant?

I have grown to love the Midwest.

When I moved to Minnesota to work at SCSU, I was coming out of graduate school and had convinced myself that I really wanted to live on the east or west coast in a big city. But, I have a degree in ancient history. When you have a Ph.D. in ancient history, any job is a good job. 

When I arrived at St. Cloud State I said, “Aw man this is the middle of nowhere… I’m going to hate it here. I need to get out of here.” After about four or five years, my eyes started to open and I thought, “Wait a minute, it’s cool here.”

After that, I wouldn’t go anywhere else than the Midwest. 

What is a typical day like at CMU?

A lot of meetings. Mondays are my hardest days, we start the first half of the day with staff meetings and inevitably other parts of the day are full. When I wake up I say, “Today is all meetings, don’t expect anything else.” 

Other days are mixed. I spend half of any day in meetings or on the phone. I do block out time for other things. 

I visit classes and I hope to visit more. Faculty... can invite me to their class and I’ll come. I want to see how people are teaching and how students are learning. 

I also go to a lot of evening events. 

What is your favorite part of the job?

Getting to facilitate super cool faculty and student research projects or learning activities.

For all the great classroom experiences, study abroads or psychology labs, there’s paperwork that has to be done. 

I actually find it – and I know this is weird – quite satisfying to say, “that lab functions really well because I’m in an office making sure all this crap never gets to them.”

What is your least favorite part of the job?

Budget and personal issues. Right now enrollment is going down at CMU...which means the budgets are getting tighter. 

We are not able to hire as many people as we need and people are not always able to do what they want to do. 

I have already had to say to people, “That sounds absolutely great, and we can’t do it because we don’t have the money.”

Are there any changes that you want to make?

If I didn’t think the college was on really solid footing I wouldn’t have taken the job. I’m not coming in to turn over the way things have been done. One of the great things about working in a university is 80 percent of our mission is really clear: teach knowledge, create knowledge.