The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees appointed the university’s inaugural Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor in Regional Economic Development and named a new dean for Graduate School and Research at the board’s quarterly meeting Friday, June 3.
Angela K. Dills, associate professor of economics at Providence College in Rhode Island and associate director of the college’s Center for Teaching Excellence, will begin her duties as Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor on Monday, Aug. 1.
Brian Kloeppel, who had been serving as interim dean of WCU’s Graduate School and Research since July 2015, was named to the position on a permanent basis, effective immediately.
The Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professorship, endowed at $500,000, was established through a gift of $250,000 from Florida real estate executives Herbert Gimelstob and Laurence D. Landry. Those dollars were combined with matching funds through a state program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education in North Carolina.
The professorship is designed to address core issues in education and regional economic policy development for Western North Carolina, said Darrell Parker, dean of the WCU College of Business.
“We are pleased that Dr. Dills is coming to WCU. She will provide a new dimension to our ability to understand and contribute to economic development in Western North Carolina and across the state,” said Parker. “She has the expertise to help Western Carolina in its role as a key leader in regional and community development efforts for the mountain region that this university was founded to serve.”
A member of the economics faculty at Providence College since 2010, Dills focuses her research on the areas of public economics and on economic issues related to education, labor, crime and health.
She is a member of the editorial board of the Eastern Economic Journal and the Economics of Education Review. She has taught previously at Wellesley College, Mercer University and Clemson University.
Dills said she was drawn to the position by WCU’s commitment to its students and to helping meet the needs of the people of Western North Carolina and surrounding states.
“I’m excited to work at an institution that engages with its community members and creates partnerships between students, alumni and community stake holders. As the Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor, I seek to build on this foundation by developing relationships with policy makers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers who have questions and potential answers on how to further enhance the quality of life in Western North Carolina. These questions will serve as the basis for undergraduate research projects that will deliver useful knowledge for decision-makers while also providing real, hands-on research experiences for students,” Dills said.
“Much of my research is in education policy, and my first objective is to learn more about the educational challenges specific to rural areas of the country. I am eager to work with local education leaders to continue to improve the educational options in the region and to encourage local graduates to remain in the area,” she said.
She is the daughter of WCU alumni Gary and Nancilee Brown Dills, who live in Otto.
Dills has conducted research into a variety of issues in elementary, secondary and postsecondary education. She has studied the potential benefits of college quality, the role of class time on academic performance, high-stakes testing, peer effects, teacher quality, class size, recess and physical education, and Catholic schools. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Economic Inquiry, Journal of Health Economics, Economics of Education Review, Education Finance and Policy, Education Economics and Economic Letters.
Dills will be a faculty member in WCU’s School of Economics, Management and Project Management.
“In addition to an excellence in research, Dr. Dills brings a passion for teaching and student learning,” said Hollye Moss, director of the school. “She has a record of engaging undergraduate students in research that will be a tremendous asset to our students.”
Dills holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and Spanish from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in political economy from Boston University and a doctorate in economics, also from Boston University.
Kloeppel, who also is a professor in the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources, was named associate dean of the Graduate School in January 2013. He fills a vacancy created last June when Mimi Fenton, dean of Graduate School and Research for three years, stepped down to return to a faculty role in the Department of English.
Appointment of Kloeppel to the permanent position follows a national search conducted by a campus committee chaired by Richard Starnes, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“Brian distinguished himself as an exceptionally strong candidate through his outstanding service as interim dean and as associate dean before that,” said Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “Working in close collaboration with the deans and program directors, he made significant progress in the marketing and support of graduate education at WCU. This has resulted in increased enrollment in a number of our graduate programs.”
Prior to coming to WCU in 2008, Kloeppel was a research faculty member with the University of Georgia for 14 years and was the site director for the National Science Foundation-funded Long-Term Ecological Research Program at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory near Otto in Macon County.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected to serve as the dean of the Graduate School and Research at Western Carolina University,” he said. “It is extremely enjoyable to advocate for the faculty and staff at Western who work so hard to prepare their graduate students for success in current and future careers in a wide variety of fields.”
In addition to his role as an advocate for graduate education at WCU, Kloeppel will serve as chief research officer for the university’s Sponsored Research Office, which supports the faculty, staff and students who conduct research funded by external and internal sources.
“As the value of externally funded research continues to grow, more of our graduate and undergraduate students are able to conduct research under the mentorship of faculty and staff that reinforces the skills and concepts taught in classrooms, laboratories, clinical studies and the outdoors,” he said. “Externally funded research also provides some of the resources to purchase equipment and supplies, fund professional travel and financially support faculty outside of the academic year.”
Kloeppel has taught and conducted research at the University of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Georgia. He earned his bachelor’s degree in forest science from the University of Wisconsin, his master’s degree in tree physiology from Penn State and his doctoral degree in forest ecology from Wisconsin. His research work has taken him from western Montana near Glacier National Park to the eastern border of Poland near Belarus.
The Graduate School dean reports directly to the provost and is responsible for the development, promotion, coordination and evaluation of graduate education, and oversees and promotes sponsored research and compliance at WCU.
The university’s graduate education offerings currently includes 38 master’s programs, three doctoral programs, nine certificate programs and various teacher certification programs. More than 1,500 students are enrolled in graduate education at WCU through on-site classes in Cullowhee, in Asheville through WCU Programs at Biltmore Park, and around the world through online courses.