“I think this position fits well with the experience I have,” said Dr. Kirchman, science and mathematics chair of Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College in Jupiter.
A founding faculty member of the college in 1999, Dr. Kirchman brings more than 20 years of experience to the dean’s position. He helped build the honors college to more than 400 students and launched several internship programs at hospitals and research centers along the East Coast, including the prestigious Scripps Florida Research Institute and Max Planck Florida Institute.
He becomes dean effective July 1.
“Dr. Kirchman is the perfect match to help us launch our College of Science & Mathematics in the fall,” USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said. “As we continue our plan to expand the science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming, it is imperative to have someone who has helped build a college and knows what it takes to engage the community in the entire process. Dr. Kirchman is an excellent candidate to lead that charge.”
Dr. Kirchman said he hopes to grow USFSM’s new College of Science & Mathematics by building on existing math and science programs, adding new faculty and appealing to students who want to pursue medical school as well as careers in allied health, engineering and technology.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Paul Kirchman as the inaugural dean of the College of Science & Mathematics at USF Sarasota-Manatee,” said Dr. Terry Osborn, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. “His experience in biology and the sciences along with his vision and expertise as an academic leader will help to guide our STEM efforts for many years to come.”
Dr. Kirchman said he envisions an array of course offerings – from chemistry to biology, math and physics – as the basis of a wide-ranging undergraduate program where students receive a comprehensive education. He also supports the formation of a robust internship program in cooperation with regional hospitals and research centers.
“One of the first things I want to do is to meet with the hospitals in the area,” he said, adding that at Wilkes he administers “a medical scholars program” in which students interested in medical school enroll in a seven-year BA/MD program in collaboration with FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.
Eventually, he said, he wants to work toward the creation of a separate campus building dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which is included in USFSM’s strategic plan.
He said he wants to add more laboratory space on campus similar to the top-notch labs at Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island. USFSM students not only benefit from those teaching laboratories, but also from internships at the facility and the skilled Mote researchers who act as adjunct faculty.
Dr. Kirchman said these features helped draw him to USFSM, along with its commitment to attract talented educators and keep class sizes small to encourage a spirit of collaboration between students and professors.
“It’s very important to keep classes small,” he said. “Studies and my personal experiences convince me that students learn better in environments where they’re encouraged to ask questions and collaborate. I’ve also gotten some great research ideas from students’ questions.”
A native of St. Petersburg, Dr. Kirchman, 51, received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from St. Petersburg-based Eckerd College and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Emory University.
In addition to being chair of science and mathematics at the Wilkes Honors College, Dr. Kirchman is an associate professor of biology. He said the decision to leave Wilkes was difficult, but he supported USFSM’s vision to expand while remaining locally focused.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm on the campus to grow and create something exceptional,” he said. “It’s nice to go to a place where everybody is working toward the same goal.”