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News @ PSU

News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New chairpersons for biology, communication

Two academic departments at Pittsburg State University have new leaders at the helm.

Dr. Lynette Olson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, announced recently the appointment of Dr. James Dawson and Dr. Cynthia Allan as chairpersons of the Department of Biology and Department of Communication, respectively.

Dawson, who has taught with the university for 30 years, will take over the interim leadership of a department with more than 400 students studying biology as a major.
"Dr. Dawson brings great knowlege to the interim chair position," Olson said. "As a senior faculty member, he has been integral to the governance of the department and has illustrated his concern for strong academic advising. I am pleased he is willing to provide leadership for the department over the next three years."
Originally from northeastern Ohio, Dawson received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He did his graduate work at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, and earned his Ph.D. in algal physiology from the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
Dawson said Pitt State was searching for someone with his unusual educational background in algae and plant physiology when he came here as a professor in 1978. Over the years, as biology professionals turn more toward careers in medicine, he has seen many changes.

“The biology department is in a state of transition. We are moved from a field-oriented department to a laboratory-based department,” he said. “The interest is not as much in fisheries and park management but in developing new drugs and surgical procedures.”

With a research focus on algae capable of generating hydrogen gas (a possible source of new energy), Dawson has held research grants from Hercules Aerospace, Astro Zeneca, and is a coonsultant and adviser with the Culture Collection of Algae at the University of Texas in Austin.

He has served as advisor for the Beta Beta Beta fraternity for 28 years, and is a member of multiple phycological societies at the national and international level. He hopes to present his newest findings at a conference in Britain next January.

Dawson and his wife Joyce (BS ’92, MS ’97) have twin sons, David and Adam.

After the retirement of another longtime PSU faculty member, Dr. Peter Hamilton, a familiar face will officially be heading the Department of Communication. Dr. Cynthia Allan, who served as interim chairwoman last year, began her duties July 1 overseeing the department and its seven areas of discipline.

Allan has been with PSU since 1999, previously serving as an associate professor and as Director of Theater, a position she continues to hold.

Olson praised the leadership Allan demonstrated last year, and noted the high regard other communication faculty hold for her.

"She has provided outstanding leadership, and I am pleased she is willing to continue," Olson said. "The Communication Department is broad in scope of programs and Dr. Allan has an understanding and appreciation for all these areas."

Originally from Florida, Allan earned a bachelor of arts degree in speech and theater from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. She received a master of arts degree in theater from Florida State University, and a Ph.D. in theater and drama from the University of Georgia.

In the years between earning her graduate degrees, Allan built a career in manufacturing management. For a time, she took classes toward a degree in metrology (the study of measurement) and worked for companies that made high-end components for organizations like the United States Navy. She worked her way up to running an $8 million piece of the company before changing careers.

Allan has performed freelance theatrical lighting and design for 18 years, and has written several improvisational plays including “The History of Laundry,” “American Edit,” and “Macaroni and Jell-O.” She has produced her work in Pittsburg as well as at the Clemson Theater in Clemson, S.C., and at Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn., where she worked as an artist in residence. At PSU, she directs mainstage shows each year.

“I want to honor the legacy of Dr. Hamilton in this position,” she said. “We have many areas of discipline in this department and we work together seamlessly, respecting each others’ differences. I have a strong vision for the department and look forward to new progress.”

Allan is a member of the Association for Theater and Higher Education, the American Theater and Drama Society, and the Mid-America Theater Conference. She had a lead essay on applying culture shock to student audiences at universities published in Theater Topics, and last year was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year by seniors in the Department of Communication.

---Pitt State---