Jun 19, 2014
By Gretchen Gregory
Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit has announced that Ohio University Associate Professor of Music Theory Elizabeth Sayrs has been appointed to the position of dean of University College and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.
Sayrs has served in various capacities within the University community for the past decade. Most recently, she served as chair of Faculty Senate and has served as the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees’ Academics Committee, where she presented updates on program review, academic quality and faculty issues and worked to improve relations between board members and faculty.
“Choosing the next dean of University College proved to be a pleasant but challenging task,” said Benoit. “The candidates for this position presented with engaging, thoughtful visions of the future of undergraduate education at Ohio University. Elizabeth has demonstrated her commitment to student success in her teaching and scholarly activity since joining the faculty in 2004 and in her leadership roles, including her term as Faculty Senate Chair. She combines qualities of strength and compassion, strategic vision and practicality. Her reputation as both a champion and collaborator make her the ideal choice for this position. I was so very pleased with the strong showing by all of the candidates. We are fortunate to have such distinguished colleagues and leaders among our faculty.”
Sayrs chaired the University Curriculum Council during the quarters-to-semester transition and also served on the 1804 General Education Task Force. As chair of Faculty Senate, she has worked with the Educational Policy and Student Affairs Committee to approve resolutions changing student academic policies, such as extending excused absences for student military members participating in military reserve training days — as requested by Student Senate members — and requiring that information about accommodations for students with disabilities be included in course syllabi.
As associate professor of music theory in the College of Fine Arts, Sayrs was heavily involved in undergraduate curricular reform at the University, which helped improve the passing rate for first-term music theory classes by offering a summer online fundamentals course to incoming students. She also served on the curriculum committees of the College of Fine Arts and the Honors Tutorial College, and developed the proposal for the bachelor’s degree in music when it moved from College of the Arts and Sciences to the College of Fine Arts. She developed the Honors Tutorial College degree in music and also served as its first director of studies.
Sayrs has worked with a broad range of faculty, staff, students, administrators and board of trustee members on both the Athens and regional campuses, and has done research on educational access for low-income students and students who live in areas where music is not well-supported in the primary, middle or high schools.
She has programmed and authored a music fundamentals interactive e-text that covers the music fundamentals and core theory ideas that students need in order to succeed in theory core, and the e-text is available for less than half the cost of a traditional fundamental textbook. Since her research indicated that high-speed Internet access was still a challenge for the students she most wanted to reach, the e-text does not require Internet access. Students can carry the text on a flash drive to the library, school, or wherever a simple Windows or Mac computer is available.
She is the incoming editor of the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, and continues to research trends in pedagogy. She has participated in the flipped classroom workshop offered by Academic Technologies and is working on incorporating ideas into core theory classes. As a participant in the Ohio Leadership Academy, she has worked with administrators one day per week for a year at Wright State University, which has open admission and is working on addressing the intensified challenges that come with open access. Her research project for the Ohio Leadership Academy focused on the history and best practices of successful Learning Communities, such as that offered at Ohio University.
Sayrs has a doctoral degree in music theory from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree in music theory from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and a bachelor’s degree in music from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., where she was a Katharine Malone Scholar and graduated summa cum laude.
Sayrs' new position is effective June 25. The position was formerly held by David Descutner, who held the role of executive vice provost since 2010 after serving as dean of University College for three years. Descutner, a professor of communication studies, will return to the faculty on the early retiree program this fall. He has been a member of the faculty since 1979.