News Room

Meet the Dean: An Interview with Eric Carl Link

Eric Carl LinkIn July 2015, Eric Carl Link joined the College of Arts and Sciences as our new dean. Prior to IPFW, Link held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Memphis and University of North Georgia. Link is a professor of American literature who specializes in 19th-century American literature and science fiction. You can read a longer bio about our new dean here. We sat down with Dean Link to learn more about him, his interests, his family, and his vision for IPFW's College of Arts and Sciences.

What are you first impressions of campus? And Fort Wayne?

The campus is wonderful. I confess, when I first visited campus back in late January, it was difficult to get a true sense of things. It was bitter cold, and my visit was spent almost entirely indoors and inside cars with the heater blasting. Although I grew up in Boston and have known my fair share of cold northern winters, I’ve lived in the south for the past twenty years. Sure, we own jackets, and even a few things one might describe as coats—but by northern standards, our coats aren’t equipped for a cold blast of wind in January in Fort Wayne.

Actually moving to Fort Wayne in the middle of June was a completely different experience, of course, and the spring and summer in Fort Wayne are picture perfect. The weather is beautiful, the humidity low (by Memphis standards, at any rate) and the bluegrass is stunning when in full color. The IPFW campus in springtime is fantastic, with its blend of historical and newer buildings and the great green spaces and walkways on campus. Also the campus bridges leading to the alumni center on one side and the residence halls on the other side are really distinctive, and give some flavor to our new Multisystem Metropolitan University designation. It’s a very impressive place, with lots of opportunity for gathering for events or just taking a quiet stroll on a sunny afternoon. My youngest son, Nolan, is a soccer player with Fort Wayne United, so we’ve also gotten to know The Plex fairly well.

As for the city of Fort Wayne, we are all completely charmed by the city. We couldn’t be more pleased to be here. It’s large enough to have all kinds of big-city opportunities and events, but small enough that you don’t feel swallowed up by concrete. We’ve had a chance to take in a couple of Tincaps games already, and we enjoyed joining with everyone downtown for the fireworks on July 4th and the bed races during the Three Rivers Festival.

One thing that has really stuck out to all of us during the ten weeks that we’ve lived here is how friendly everyone is. There’s something about Fort Wayne that seems to generate good cheer and good vibes. We walk our dog, Lexi, through the neighborhood every evening, and there are so many folks outside talking, laughing, riding bikes, playing catch with their children. Fort Wayne is a great place to be, for sure, and we feel very fortunate to be a part of the community.

What plans do you have (either immediate or long-range) for the college?

This is a big question, and it’s one I think about every single day. The College of Arts and Sciences at IPFW is the academic heart of the campus. We have the honor and privilege of reaching almost every student on campus, either through our array of programs in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, through one of our research and teaching centers, through one of our interdisciplinary programs, through our many partnerships with the other colleges on campus, or through our substantial participation in the general education sequence here at IPFW. Thus, when I think about the future of the College of Arts and Sciences, my thinking is informed at every level with this appreciation for the size and significance of the role we play on campus.

We have a large and engaged faculty with award-winning teachers, innovative and creative scholars and researchers, and a dedicated staff who are committed to serving our students and providing them with opportunities for success at every turn. My desire is to build on these successes—to allow them to serve as a great foundation for the future.

More specifically, I envision a College of Arts and Sciences that becomes a locus for exceptional teaching and research throughout the region. I would like the College of Arts and Sciences to build relationships with local school systems, with other universities, with industry throughout northeast Indiana, and with global partners in order to open doors for our students and enhance our role as a focal point for innovative and exceptional academic enterprise not just in our corner of Indiana, but throughout the state and beyond. I would like the College of Arts and Sciences to build on its reputation as an environment in which students come to learn, to collaborate, to expand their horizons, to grow, and to change the world.

My desire is for the College of Arts and Sciences—and IPFW more broadly—to become a first-choice destination in the state of Indiana for students seeking a first-class education. I envision a College of Arts and Sciences that is a leading figure in the national conversation when it comes to best practices in teaching, research, creativity, and global engagement, and I hope faculty, students, alumni, and other regional partners will join me in helping to grow the College of Arts and Sciences’ reputation as a place known for its distinctive undergraduate and graduate learning environments. On the way to achieving these goals, I can envision expanding our graduate programs, increasing our global partnerships, and generating new and exciting opportunities for students to study abroad and to engage in new and innovative research projects with faculty members.

Fort Wayne has a vibrant community that is moving forward with exciting economic, public, and social projects. From the riverfront development to business collaborations to community engagement projects, what is your vision for the College’s role in the community?

I’m extremely proud to have joined an institution that values its connection to the local community as much as IPFW, and I hope to continue and enhance that connection as best I’m able. I believe that one of the hallmarks of a great university is the positive role it plays in the leadership and development of the city in which it is planted. One of the things that attracted my wife and me to Fort Wayne was knowing that this is a city that has ambitions. Fort Wayne is not content to let the years slip by as we all grow old. There is an energy here—a desire to grow and to take on projects that will make Fort Wayne a great place to live and learn for generations to come.

The College of Arts and Sciences will be there every step of the way to support the city and partner with it whenever opportunity arises. Already there are important conversations taking place between top researchers at IPFW and those working to develop the riverfront—and I look forward to what the future will bring. It’s a great time to be a resident of Fort Wayne and a student at IPFW.

The role of the liberal arts, death of the humanities, and general education on college campuses in the 21st century are “hot topics” right now. What is your take on the challenges colleges of arts and sciences are facing today?

There is no question that many students and even faculty members in colleges of arts and sciences across the country are faced with challenging questions about their role in preparing students for the global marketplace. These questions are not new, but they are important, and they speak to the concern students, parents, and politicians have about the ongoing viability of degree programs that some people may consider disconnected from the cutthroat business of finding gainful employment in the real world. Nevertheless, the College of Arts and Sciences here at IPFW—and, indeed, liberal arts colleges across the country—remain the best single investment a community, a university, or a student can make in their academic life.

In a marketplace dominated by information systems, in which problem solving, analysis, and communication skills are prized by employers, the work of the College and Arts and Sciences is key to economic growth and regional development. Time and time again, when industry leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, and operating officers across the country and abroad are asked to identify the characteristics they look for in their new employees, they identify the things most valued in the programs offered within the College of Arts and Sciences. But what we do within the College of Arts and Sciences isn’t just focused on preparing students for having success in the job marketplace—although that’s certainly a very important piece of our mission.

We partner with students in order to guide them into the world of learning. We provide the kind of education that gives students the best possible chance to live a life that is richly informed by knowledge and an appreciation for the life of the mind. It’s the kind of education that benefits us regardless of the job we hold or what life throws in our pathways. Through the College of Arts and Sciences all students are given an opportunity to learn what it means to be an educated citizen, a clear thinker, a problem solver, with the ability to learn, adapt, and grow.

Your bio includes an impressive range and amount of scholarship. Can you tell us a bit about any research or other projects you are currently working on?

I have a number of projects ongoing right now. Most recently, I agreed to co-edit a book titled The Cambridge History of Science Fiction with a colleague at Marquette University. I’m also working on another book titled Literary Scholarship: Meaning and Method, which is also under contract with Cambridge University Press. I’ve had to put that manuscript on the shelf for a few months while I got settled here in Fort Wayne, but I look forward to taking that project back up in earnest in the near future.

I’ve also been asked to deliver a keynote address at a conference in a few months, so I’ve been slowly tinkering on that lecture as time permits. My address will be titled “Space Is Not the Final Frontier” and I’ll be talking about (if it turns out on paper the way I see it in my head) the literary text as a kind of metaphorical frontier that exists in a kind of isomorphic relationship with human consciousness, and I’ll be using a couple of texts by Philip K. Dick to help illustrate this idea.

I have a humble blog where I occasionally publish a poem or two when inspiration strikes, but inspiration hasn’t struck in a while, so the blog is getting a bit dusty. Someday I’ll scratch out another poem, perhaps.

Beyond professional accomplishments, what does Eric Carl Link like to do when he is not on campus?

I realize it may sound like a cliché to say this, but with four children (even if two are grown and out of the home) the vast majority of my time off campus seems to revolve around my kids or walking the dog or trying to get caught up on a seemingly endless stream of household chores. When my wife and I do get a few minutes to relax, we like to brew a pot of tea, find something unhealthy to eat like ice cream, and get caught up on the Walking Dead or Fargo or Portlandia or some other show. But we don’t have as much time for that as we’d like, for sure. I do like to follow my chosen sports teams, particularly the Red Sox, who aren’t having the best year this year, unfortunately. I also freely admit that I’m a complete nerd. I would be lost without my library of science fiction and my Xbox One.