Douglas Dempster was named dean of the College of Fine Arts in December. Below he shares his vision for the future of arts at the university and what he likes to do in his spare time, which includes training for his third marathon.
1) Where are you originally from and what brought you to the university?
I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and Washington, D.C., the grandchild of ambitious, but not highly educated immigrants from Scotland. My father was the first member of my family to pursue a college education as a result of the GI Bill. I came to UT to be the senior associate dean of the College of Fine Arts, which I saw then, and still see, as promising the brightest future of university and professional arts training in the U.S.
2) What are your short- and long-term goals for the College of Fine Arts?
Over the short term, we need to be very determined about correcting several long-standing shortcomings of our support for faculty, students and programs just to get on a competitive footing with peer programs around the country. That means supporting our faculty more generously, guaranteeing more attractive financial aid to our students, building staff support in critical areas such as student recruitment, technical support and fund raising, and setting out an achievable plan for rejuvenating aging teaching facilities that are in some cases 40 or even as much as 70 years old.
Long term, I want our programs–beyond being “top-ranked” in the fine and performing arts–to be recognized as national leaders for the distinctive ways we prepare and launch the professional careers of our graduates, in the ways our graduates influence cultural trends in the nation and world, and in the ways the college acts as a driver of creative life and the “creative economy” on the Forty Acres and for the Central Texas region.
3) What is your favorite part of the job so far?
The best part of being a dean or department chair is getting to know, learn about and advance the original work, the scholarly research and creative activities of our many talented faculty, students and staff members. The dean of the College of Fine Arts, after 10-12 hours a day in the office, at meetings and at lunches with donors, spends four to five nights a week at student and faculty performances and shows as well as local and regional professional performances. What could be more fun than that! On my best days, I imagine my job to be every bit as gratifying as Lorenzo de Medici’s or Prince Leopold’s—and I don’t have to wear a powdered wig!