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Whitworth psychology professor named university's first dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

March 1, 2012
Noelle Wiersma to assume role July 1

Following a comprehensive national search, Whitworth University announces the appointment of Noelle Wiersma, current professor and chair of the psychology department, to the new position of dean of the Whitworth College of Arts & Sciences, effective July 1.

"I love that this is a new role that can be shaped in creative and exciting ways to direct fresh energy and attention to the mind and heart characteristics of the Whitworth mission," Wiersma says. "Study of the liberal arts and sciences lends us a world of ideas to consider and a world of people to care about. Our distinctive Christian mission motivates both our intellectual and relational engagement and helps us understand how these things are intricately connected. Equipping faculty, and thereby students, to think and relate in meaningful ways is what this role is really about. And anyone who identifies fondly with the name 'Whitworth College' can take great pleasure, as I do, in seeing that name and the best of all that it conveys, intentionally carried forward and re-envisioned for the future of a vibrant university."

The university established the Whitworth College of Arts & Sciences to bear the primary responsibility for providing an education grounded in the liberal arts and sciences and committed to the integration of faith and learning. This education seeks to develop intellectual, relational, and professional skills and to foster a faithful response to God, to cultivate individual character, to work for just relationships with others, and to demonstrate responsible care for the creation. Over the next decade, Wiersma will collaborate with faculty to accomplish these outcomes for students.

The college consists of 122 faculty, supports the general education of students for the entire undergraduate program, and offers 41 majors in art, biology, chemistry, communications, English, health sciences, history, kinesiology, math & computer science, modern languages, music, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, sociology, theatre, and theology. In addition, the college is also home to Whitworth's innovative interdisciplinary programs including the U.S. Cultural Studies program, the Women and Gender Studies program, and the Core Worldview program.

"Whitworth is richly blessed to have Noelle Wiersma serve as the inaugural dean of the Whitworth College of Arts and Sciences," says Barbara Sanders, Whitworth's senior associate provost. "Noelle's passion for and commitment to students and faculty has been demonstrated through her excellent teaching, innovative research, and service in campus leadership roles. I look forward to working with her in advancing the strategic plan initiatives relating to the arts and sciences."

Wiersma, who received bachelor's degrees in psychology and French from Whitworth in 1990 and joined the Whitworth faculty in 2000, has nearly 20 years of teaching experience. A noted scholar, she has pursued diverse research interests including counseling and psychotherapy (particularly related to trauma and college-student development issues); sexual abuse (effects on victims and their partners); qualitative research methods; and college-student development. Wiersma also has held several leadership positions at the university including serving as Whitworth faculty president from 2007-09 and as psychology department chair since 2007. She received her master's in psychology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Barbara Sanders, senior associate provost, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4303 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or