New Deans and college restructuring  

Zoe Charles

In May of 2021 Oklahoma Baptist University announced Dr. Matthew Emerson, former Dean of Hobbs College, and Dr. Larinee Dennis, a new addition to OBU faculty, as the two new Deans. This restructuring occurred after OBU announced their plans for leadership restructuring in February of 2021. 

In an email sent out in February of 2021 the university said “[t]hese academic organization changes are intended to bring more faculty to the leadership table, to facilitate better communication between our academic divisions and to create a more cost-effective structure for the university to position us well for the future.” Those changes included a decrease from six deans to two. 

The newly appointed Deans began their duties effectively on the first of June. According to OBU, “OBU has selected two candidates to fill the newly established roles of dean of theology, arts and humanities and dean of business, health science and education. Dr. Matthew Y. Emerson, dean of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry at OBU, has been selected to serve as dean of theology, arts and humanities. Dr. Larinee Dennis, vice president for academic administration at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri, has been selected to serve as dean of business, health science and education.” 

According to an OBU press release “[Emerson] earned a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University. He then earned both his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to OBU in 2015, he taught at California Baptist University, where he also served as chair of the Arts and Sciences Department in the Online and Professional Studies Division.” 

Emerson also has extensive experience in publishing and leadership roles. 

According to the release “Emerson has authored or co-authored 20 publications. He serves as co-executive director of the Center for Baptist Renewal, co-editor of the “Journal of Baptist Studies,” steering committee member of the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar, and senior fellow for the Center of Ancient Christian Studies.” 

According to the same press release “Dennis [. . .]  serve[d] as professor of education at HLGU in addition to her role as vice president for academic administration. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She then earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from New Mexico State University.” 

As for Dennis’ previous education experience outside of HLCGU, “[s]he began teaching at HLGU in fall 2008. She previously served as interim associate dean of academic administration and assistant dean of academic administration. She spent several years teaching in public schools in Missouri before launching her career in higher education.” 

When asked about the accomplishments he would like to oversee as dean of his college, in September of 2021, almost three months after starting the position, Dr. Emerson said that “My goals as Dean are to foster our mission, vision, and values as a Christian liberal arts institution in each of the six academic areas under my supervision; to equip and empower faculty to teach, research, and serve in their disciplines; to facilitate dialogue between students, faculty, staff, and administration; to help recruit new students into and develop career pathways out of my academic areas; and to assist faculty, students, staff, and administration in accomplishing their goals through the use and implementation of healthy, clear processes and procedures.” 

When asked if he felt that the restructuring had broadened/changed his duties as a Dean he said “In one sense, no, because the duties are essentially the same as they were when I served as Dean of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry prior to the reorganization. But obviously the scope of responsibility has changed quite a bit, since I am not responsible not just for one area but for six. I’m incredibly grateful for the six chairs in my area, and for the faculty in each of those six divisions and schools, because they’ve helped me tremendously as I become acclimated to this new position.” 

Dean Emerson and Dean Dennis oversee twelve academic chairs that relate to the different departments on campus. 

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