Dr. Steven Moser was recently named Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at The University of Southern Mississippi. He has also served as director of the Pride of Mississippi and conductor of the Symphonic Winds. In this Q&A feature Moser reflects on his current responsibilities and outside interests.
Q: What is your hometown and educational background?
A: I was born in Olivia, Minn., but we moved to Thorsby, Ala, when I was 5 and on to Dauphin Island, Ala., when I was in the sixth grade. In high school we moved to Calhoun City in North Mississippi. I attended Ole Miss on a music scholarship. From there I went to Texas where I studied and later worked at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
Q: How did you end up working at Southern Miss and what other positions have you held here?
A: In 1990 I applied for the director of the Pride of Mississippi and conductor of the Symphonic Winds. I worked in that capacity and as a music education faculty member until 2002. From there I moved into administration in the School of Music and in 2005 moved into the Dean’s office as an associate dean under Elliott Pood.
Q: Was it a dream of yours to become a college dean?
A: My dream was to be a conductor, but through my hard work with the band program I had to learn to become an effective leader and later the administration work benefitted from that development. I seemed to have a knack for that type of work, but I think the work chose me, rather than me choosing the work.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face in your position as dean?
A: The College of Arts & Letters is a diverse college with unbelievable faculty talent, remarkable students and programs that rank among the best among our peers. The great challenge is in telling our story. We have all had our heads down working to meet the demands of a changing institution and hanging on to what we’ve accomplished during these rough economic times. It’s time to start celebrating the great work we do, and to use those accomplishments to build capacity and reach. Leveraging our good work will require building an infrastructure that supports the work of our faculty.
Q: Do you miss the classroom atmosphere and daily interaction that comes from teaching?
A: I still teach and will always teach. I suppose I will not have as much contact with students, particularly undergraduate students, and I will miss that. But my passion and inspiration has always come from my classroom or studio work.
Q: What are your immediate goals as dean?
A: We will begin a year-long process to develop a five-year strategic plan. I hope to have that completed sometime next spring. Such a plan will inform decision making with regard to resource allocation and faculty support. We have to focus on a long-term strategy for addressing growth, profile expansion and external support development.
Q: When you’re not in the office, how do you prefer to spend your free time?
A: When I have free time, I read. Before coming into the dean’s office, I traveled a great deal, but that has slowed to a trickle.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received and from whom?
A: Harold Luce, former dean of the old College of The Arts, once said that his primary job as dean was to be a facilitator, and he was a great model for that. Through his work the faculty in the Arts made remarkable progress towards meeting their potential. Under his leadership and through the efforts of Jay Dean, for example, our orchestral program became a premier program at the university.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception people might have about you?
A: I think there is a perception out there that I am a numbers person, perhaps to the exclusion of being a visionary leader. I do think data does help build arguments and that good decision making is informed by good data, but I don’t spend my free time tinkering with budgets or forecasting models. In moving forward, one has to first imagine what could be.
Q: Who is your favorite artist/author of all-time and why?
A: I own everything Faulkner wrote. I think I am influenced a bit by my undergraduate days romping around Rowan Oak and imagining what it must have been like to be a Faulkner writing in that authentically preserved home. But today I read very little for fun. But when I do indulge in reading for fun, it is either a great biography or anything on the Bolshevik Revolution (don’t ask me why, but Russian history fascinates me). My favorite artist is Barry Tuckwell, not only because of the genius of his talent, but also because of the tragedy of his life. My iPhone holds ever genre in Western music, ranging from Rene Fleming (classically trained voice) to Alison Krause (bluegrass) and a little Boston and Kansas in the mix. I think most would be surprised at the diversity of my playlist.