Dean of CAS, adjusts to new challenges after merger

By Olivia Nicoletti

When Kelly Bidle first obtained a job from Rider in 2001, she has moved up the ladder, eventually gaining the position of Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2019.

During the recent merger that combined the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and The Westminster College of the Arts (WCA), Bidle moved up once again becoming the overall dean of the newly created College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Not only for Bidle, but for the entire university, this change resulted in the staff facing a lot of new challenges.

Prior to the merger, CLAS was already the largest college on campus. Therefore, the combination of both WCA and CLAS, created a lot more responsibility for Bidle.

“We spent the entire part of our summer, really kind of, building a team and working on that restructure,” said Bidle. “I think we built a really good and efficient structure. It’s just now a matter of getting people to understand who’s who in the college and what we do.”

Working alongside Bidle are Associate Deans Jason Vodicka and Brooke Hunter, as well as Assistant Deans Eileen Gurwitz and Emily Carlin.

Hunter, who became the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 2019, transitioned in 2022 to the role of associate dean of the School of Science, Technology and Mathematics and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Vodicka serves as the associate dean for the other two remaining schools in the CAS, Westminster Choir College and the School of Communication, Media and Performing Arts.

Bidle, along with the accompanying staff, are nothing but “energized by this merger.”

“What I enjoy most about my role as associate dean is advocating for the arts and sciences and helping students make the most of their Rider experience and earn their college degrees,” said Hunter.

“Arts and sciences really have a very natural fit … So we’re talking about disciplines like the social sciences, performing arts, the physical and life sciences, all of these things have a lot of common threads,” Bidle said. “It’s my job to help our students see what those common threads are … because really what my goal is, is to make all of our graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences, broad and open minded thinkers, and I think the best way you do that is taking a very, very broad array of courses that the college now offers.”

Bidle, who was new to the WCA community, felt that she had nothing but positive responses from the faculty and students regarding the merger and her new position.

“I’m committed to helping them grow and thrive, and, I think, part of that commitment was me appointing Jason Vodicka as my Associate Dean. He is very, very steeped in Westminster, and I rely heavily on him to help with some of the decisions and policies we were making regarding that.”

For Hunter, her role as associate dean did not endure as much change; she will “continue to work closely with students, faculty and staff to address academic issues and support the success of all students.”

Through and through, the staff have a positive outlook to the changes being made to campus. Bidle still has the motivation to take on new challenges because of the staff and students who surround her daily.

According to Bidle, “I’ve always loved working with students. I think education is power, and I love being part of helping a student achieve that education.”

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