The beginning of the new academic year comes with a new beginning for Montevallo’s College of Arts and Sciences, as Dr. Ruth Truss steps into the role of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Truss, a Montevallo alum and professor of history, has served as interim dean since 2019.
Truss cites her period serving as interim dean as, “excellent preparation,” for stepping into the role of dean, saying, “In effect, I served a two-year trial period in the role, with the positions having the same job description.”
She also points towards her other roles as a faculty member as being beneficial to her as she takes on this new role. Truss first began teaching at Montevallo in 1993 as an adjunct professor teaching one class. From there, her, “role evolved,” as she became a tenure-track faculty and began working her way, “through the promotional ranks.”
Truss points towards her time working with Dr. Cindy Tidwell as co-coordinator of the Undergraduate Research Program as her, “first experience with some administrative duties.” From there, she became chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences—a role she held for seven years before being appointed as interim dean.
She describes her path towards the role of dean as, “an on-going opportunity and challenge.”
Truss also believes that her status as a Montevallo alum impacts her in her roles as a faculty member and dean, saying, “I had an understanding of the campus itself and some idea of the organization from my years as a student.” Additionally, she said her role as a faculty member has expanded her perspective, saying, “I have a broader perspective; I have developed a better appreciation both for the unique qualities of a UM education and for the dedication of UM faculty generally.”
As dean, Truss said, first and foremost, she wants to, “experience the role in as ‘normal’ a year as possible,” pointing out that she was only nine months into her role as interim dean when, “the appearance of the coronavirus necessitated many changes in a short time.”
Outside of hoping for a year free of COVID-19 related interruptions, Truss said she aims to, “focus on the needs of our various programs whether in terms of replacement of retired faculty or in terms of other resources that would help to provide the best UM experience for students in CAS programs.” She points out that she, “sees the dean’s role as supporting faculty, and by extension the students, in CAS.”
When asked why she wished to return to Montevallo as a faculty member, Truss reminisced on her experience as an undergraduate, saying, “My experience as an undergraduate provided the contrasting background for my graduate work, which naturally came at a much larger, more impersonal institution. The UM faculty who mentored me as an undergraduate continued to be instrumental in my return to graduate school after a three-year break. My professors remembered me and were willing to write letters of recommendation for graduate school. I was gratified by their response to my request, and my naïve assumption was that such care and concern must be standard at the collegiate level.”
She adds that she, “soon learned differently, of course,” and found herself comparing her undergraduate experience at Montevallo to her graduate experience at larger institutions. Truss says, “Once I finished my Ph.D. and was ready to search for employment in the field, I knew that UM’s focus on teaching was the best ‘fit’ for me; I love being in the classroom and seeing students develop if not a ‘love’ then at least a ‘like’ for history,” adding that she has, “found nothing else that provides such a sense of professional fulfillment,” and that, “UM is one of the few institutions of higher education that values and emphasizes excellence in teaching.”
Truss highlighted this as a guiding principle in all her roles at Montevallo— “That, also, is my overarching goal in any capacity at UM—to maintain the focus on providing a solid educational experience at the center of whatever we do.”