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Ohio State College of Optometry to have its first ever female dean

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Dr. Karla Zadnik stands in her office. She is set to become the first female dean of the College of Optometry in June.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

The Ohio State College of Optometry will have its first ever female dean in June 2014.

Dean Dr. Melvin Shipp is set to step down from his position and be replaced, subject to approval by the OSU Board of Trustees, by associate dean Dr. Karla Zadnik, who has been involved with the optometry program for about 17 years. Shipp has confidence his replacement will have no trouble fitting in the leadership role.

“She’s a sharp learner and a smart woman,” Shipp said. “I don’t imagine she’ll have difficulty learning very quickly her responsibilities here.”

In 2013, Shipp’s annual base salary as dean was about $246,000 and Zadnik’s salary was more than $196,000, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email.

In regards to the future leadership of the college, Shipp said he expects the momentum of the program to continue.

“I think of this role as not an ending itself, but a sequence of leaders, and each one doing his or her best to contribute and then to pass the baton on to the next person, sort of like a relay race,” Shipp said. “The race isn’t over — you’re always running. The goal is to be preeminent to the extent that I’m able to build on to what my predecessor provided and provide a basis for Dr. Zadnik to build further.”

Shipp said he has goals left to accomplish before he continues on to the next chapter.

“I want to leave things here better than I’ve found them,” Shipp said. “I know that’s cliché, but I’m focused on trying to make sure things that I’ve started that I can clean up are done. (I’m) working very closely with Dr. Zadnik that, with the things that won’t be finished (that) will require attention, that she is aware of (those) and will assume responsibility without any due strain or stress.”

As associate dean, Zadnik has been responsible for the professional and graduate programs and research. She said she has also been proud of the college’s achievements and predicts the areas that will maintain her focus.

“There are so many things in this college that are great, so (I will continue to focus on) concentrating on the professional program, the grad program (and) patient care, because we have a clinic here that our students learn in, but also administers care to the community and our research portfolio,” Zadnik said.

Shipp said different administration will be able to impact on how much focus is put on specific areas of the college.

“Clearly she will, as you say, ‘fill someone’s shoes,’” Shipp said. “(But) I think everyone brings their own shoes. You basically contribute to the program in a way that is consistent in who you are, where your interests and passion rest.”

In terms of replacing her associate dean’s position, Zadnik said she sees an opportunity for junior faculty members.

“It doesn’t have to be the same pattern of administration that the dean has used. Each dean gets to kind of figure that out,” Zadnik said. “So it may not be (that) there’s a single person in charge of all the things I have (done in the past) … All of those opportunities help people develop their own careers if they want to seek administration in the future.”

Zadnik said she’s confident in her ability to be able to do what’s best for the college.

“I’ve been here 17 years and although I did not come from here, I have a good idea of what those challenges and opportunities are and that I hope as new ones arise that I am poised to fix the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities,” Zadnik, a graduate of University of California-Berkeley’s School of Optometry, said. “But the good thing now is that I’ve got some months to kind of figure out how I want to do some things the same and things different.”

Reflecting on some of his accomplishments, Shipp said during his time as dean the past nine years, he was proud of the faculty he worked with and the optometry program’s progress.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to modify our curriculum to make it more meaningful for clinicians,” Shipp said. “We try to make sure our students were doing some critical thinking with respect to patient care, acquiring new knowledge that will allow them to grow continually in their professions and that is a very important contribution to our program.”

In a statement emailed to OSU faculty and staff Oct. 2, Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz said Shipp will be missed.

“Mel (Shipp) is a distinguished leader, and we will miss him as a faculty colleague. We will also long appreciate his legacy to the college and to the university,” Steinmetz said.

The College of Optometry raised nearly 94 percent of its fiscal year 2013 fundraising goal of more than $1.84 million, according to a Board of Trustees report.

Shipp said he’s appreciated his time at OSU.

“There’s nothing like being here and I appreciate that institution (and) the people that are here. It has been an extraordinary experience,” Shipp said. “Whatever expectations I’ve had before my experience has far exceeded that.”

His retirement has been planned for a few years, and Shipp said he is ready for the college to experience new leadership.

“I leave with mixed emotions. It’s been fun and I’ve made great friendships and had great experiences, so I’ll miss that,” Shipp said. “But by the same token, it might be nice focusing on the next chapter of my life that is spending a little more time with my family.”

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