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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Arts and Sciences interim dean pushes college forward

Photo by Kyle Heise

Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Mark Zoran during an interview with The Battalion on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

Under new leadership, the College of Arts and Sciences looks to further integrate the different colleges and expand hiring, with the Interim Dean Mark Zoran, Ph.D., emphasizing communication and collaboration.
Following the resignation of José Luis Bermúdez, Ph.D., on July 31, the Texas A&M Board of Regents appointed Zoran as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, assuming the role effective Aug. 1.
Zoran joined A&M in 1991 as a researcher in the biology department, where he focused on brains and animal nervous systems.
“Over a decade and a half ago, I was asked to oversee the graduate programs here at [A&M] and in the former College of Science, and that got me into administration,” Zoran said. “From there, I’ve been kind of sort of working my way up through the administrative ranks to now being the interim dean until the university decides who wants to be the permanent dean of the new College of Arts and Sciences.”
Zoran was appointed as the executive associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in June 2022, where he spent a year building the new college.
“We were tasked with the job of basically, in a year, of standing up a new college at [A&M],” Zoran said. “And that was being stood up by taking three legacy colleges — legacy geosciences, legacy science and legacy liberal arts — and combining those three colleges, all their faculty, staff and students into one new college.”
During that time, Zoran said he worked on multiple initiatives, such as ensuring promotional and tenure guidelines for new faculty.
“We had to do that time and time again, for large tasks or for very small tasks of, ‘How are we going to do this?’ or, ‘How are you going to do that?’ and there are literally thousands of those things that we had to accomplish,” Zoran said.
Zoran said within the next couple of years, the university will host over 80,000 students, with more than a quarter of those entering the College of Arts and Sciences.
“That’s a big task,” Zoran said. “It’s just a massive endeavor that we were tasked with getting up to speed, and we think, humbly, we’ve done a pretty good job of [standing] up the largest college at [A&M] — kind of too many of us it seems, overnight, we were asked to do that.”
Zoran spoke about a long-term and short-term goal: effective integration between the colleges and increased hiring, respectively.
“So my long-term goal is to get our faculty in the geosciences, the sciences, in the liberal arts, to think more of themselves as one and become one,” Zoran said. “When you bring different viewpoints and different cultures together, and viewpoints and different cultures together, and you include more people with more diverse kinds of backgrounds, great things grow out of that.”
Zoran said the college loses about 50 faculty a year to retirements and other reasons, emphasizing a need to hire more.
“We’ve been trying to do so many things to get this organization up to speed that we really have some spaces in terms of faculty and in terms of staff that we need to really hire,” Zoran said. “I’m going to be looking for support from the new president, Gen. [Mark] Welsh to help us out.”
Zoran said he was dedicated to addressing pain points from faculty, such as a lack of communication.
“I think there has been a little dip in [communication] recent years across this university, and perhaps in the Arts and Sciences, where we were asked to do a lot of things really fast,” Zoran said.
In the future, Zoran said the college will be taking things slower and asking for more input from faculty, staff and students.
“Sometimes, when you’re challenged to build something really fast, you don’t get enough input that you need to building it,” Zoran said. “I’ve told people this, and I’m not afraid to say this, I think it would have been better to move more slowly in some of the things that we’ve done here at [A&M] over the last couple years and get more shared governance and … input into that and build something maybe more patiently and maybe more stably, and maybe more correctly.”
In text messages revealed from an internal investigation, A&M Board of Regents member Jay Graham said they were told the reason the college was created was to “control the liberal nature that those professors brought to campus.”
“If anybody’s idea was to diminish the liberal arts by creating an arts and sciences college, they have failed miserably in that effort,” Zoran said. “Because we’re stronger than ever. And we’re moving forward.”
Zoran said he joined Welsh’s committee to look into academic freedom at A&M.
“I’m not going to be asking any faculty member whether they’re liberal or conservative, or whatever, when they come in,” Zoran said. “I’m going to be asking them, ‘Can you impact our students in our research and our university and make it stronger?’”
Zoran said he was also looking into how former-President M. Katherine Banks’ The Path Forward initiative has affected the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I’m passionate about increasing my communication,” Zoran said. “How can you have shared governance? How can you really build in the right direction if you’re not communicating with people appropriately? I think Gen. Welsh is asking the same thing at the university level: How can we better communicate our message and what we’re doing?”

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About the Contributor
Nicholas Gutteridge
Nicholas Gutteridge joined The Battalion in January 2023 as a news reporter before being promoted to news editor in August 2023. He interned at The Pentagon in Washington D.C. from January-May 2024 with the U.S. Air Force Office of Public Affairs before rejoining The Battalion.
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