Dean of the College of Liberal Arts
Joe Aistrup is the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and joins the Auburn Family from Kansas State University, where he served as the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and as professor of political science. He grew up in Winfield, Kan., and graduated from Fort Hays State University with a bachelor's degree in political science and communications. He attended Virginia Tech for his master's degree and Indiana University for his Ph.D. Aistrup's primary teaching and scholarly interests are state and local politics, Southern politics, water policy and research methodology. He has significant experience in strategic planning for economic development.
1. What are your plans and priorities for the College of Liberal Arts for the next few years?
I plan to focus on strengthening the college's student-centered approach to our instructional mission; raising the national profile of our faculty members' research and creative activities; promoting engagement with the people of Alabama and the rest of the world; and connecting with alumni and friends of the college and university to leverage their support for these academic missions.
2. Why do you think a liberal arts education is important in the current job market?
A liberal arts education has never been more important. In the 21st century, the average person will have several occupations from the time they enter the workforce until they retire. Many of these occupations have not yet been invented but will emerge as technology and globalization continue to reshape our nation's workforce. This means universities are not training students for a single career, but multiple careers.
Liberal arts students are trained to think critically, adapt to new conditions and work in an increasingly diverse and global workforce. Now more than any time in the past, a liberal arts education is a fundamental component to a student's success later in life. We need to increase our emphasis on a liberal arts education, not decrease it.
3. What drew you to pursue a degree in political science?
Three things drew me to political science. First, I had a driving passion for understanding politics and government that went beyond the reporting of these topics from a journalistic perspective. Second, I fell in love with the statistics and science side of political science. Finally, I had three professors who helped to point my intellectual curiosity toward political science. Without them, I would be still hauling hay in the summers.
4. Who or what inspires you?
I have many sources of inspiration, but these days, I am more inspired by students and faculty members who are the real leaders of our universities. Their drive, activities and ingenious ideas inspire me to help create a better university that tears down barriers for students and faculty members and provides a supportive environment for a diversity of people and ideas.
5. Having moved here from Kansas on Sept. 1, what are your impressions of Auburn so far?
Auburn is everything that I expected it to be and more. I expected the campus to be beautiful – it is. I expected the town to be friendly – it is. I expected the university to be full of outstanding students, faculty members and staff – it is. What sets Auburn University apart, making it a special place, is the dedication that all have to the university and a spirit of family and tradition that no other university can match.