By Gwen Roley
This fall will mark the beginning of the first full academic quarter Paqui Paredes Méndez will serve as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Paredes was appointed to the two-year term in May after the former dean, Brent Mallinckrodt, announced he would be stepping down.
Paredes is a Spanish professor and served as chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages for six years before being selected as interim dean. She entered this leadership role on July 23 after her predecessor had faced criticism from within the college about meeting department expectations, such as lack of transparency with faculty and students and failure to support diversity, as previously reported by The Western Front.
Since beginning her term, Paredes has made it her mission to understand the goals different departments, faculty and staff have for the college.
“I’ve spent almost two months now reading like crazy so that I can start going on that,” Paredes said. “I don’t come with any big changes in mind or big ideas other than listening to what people want to do and how they envision us moving forward.”
Brent Carbajal, Western’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, said in an email that Paredes was appointed to the position after strong cross-department support.
“Dean Paredes has served as chair of a large and complex department and also co-chaired the university’s strategic planning committee,” Carbajal said. “A dean takes a leadership role at both the collegiate level and the university level, and Dr. Paredes’ experience affords her perspective that will serve her well in both roles.”
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is the biggest college at Western and houses 13 academic departments. One of the big projects for the college this year will be completing its strategic plan, which Paredes said she hopes will give her more insight into what the community wants moving forward.
“One of [Paredes’] greatest strengths is her ability to be impartial and make objective decisions, which I think is critical as the leader of our college,” said Holly Childs, the department manager of modern and classical languages.
Paredes was born in Spain and said one of the reasons she chose to live in Bellingham was its resemblance to her rainy native province of Galicia. She has degrees from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela and the University of Kansas and came to Western in 2002.
“During my interview on campus I had the opportunity to teach a class and the students were amazing,” Paredes said. “They made my job really easy. I had interviewed at other places and that was not the experience I had.”
Since stepping into her position as dean, she has come to admire Western’s dynamic and culture. She said since she began her duties a few weeks ago, she has been amazed by all the things the students and faculty are doing within the college.
Paredes said one of the things she would like to emphasize within her college is close contact between students and faculty. She encourages all students, especially freshman, to attend faculty office hours to get to know their professors.
“For many of them, it will be those relationships they build at the beginning that will really define their college experience,” Paredes said.
Paredes will serve a two-year interim term. Carbajal said a national search for a long-term dean, of which Paredes may be a candidate, will begin in fall 2019