Dr. Christopher Leskiw has been promoted to Vice President of Academic Affairs at University of the Cumberlands (UC).
Leskiw is entering his 15th year on faculty at Cumberlands. During that time, he has taught in the Department of History and Political Science, served as Chair of that department and worked as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. Leskiw said he sees his new position as enabling him to be a “force multiplier” and “champion for the faculty.” His hope is to “provide vision, guidance and resources” so UC’s academic departments continue changing and growing.
“This position is not only about working with people, it’s about dealing with their dreams, hopes, problems, issues, and blessings,” said Leskiw. “It’s giving them opportunities to grow and getting to see them succeed. I feel like I’ve been called to this position and that I have become equipped over the past year to do this job well.”
Leskiw is now the liaison between faculty members and accrediting bodies. He has already signed articulation agreements with local community colleges allowing students throughout the region to continue their education in areas such as healthcare, information technology, and business.
He is also conversing with faculty and staff about programmatic and academic goals within their departments. The current focus is on career readiness, seeking partnerships with local businesses that will enable internship and employment opportunities for students. Leskiw is also leading an initiative to ensure Cumberlands’ academic programs are aligned with labor market projections in order to develop academic programs with growing career opportunities throughout the nation, further helping to ensure the employability of UC students.
“I will be bringing a lot of new things forward from an academic perspective by looking at labor market statistics, industry trends, and predictive job growth modeling in order to expand our academic offerings,” Dr. Leskiw said. “I feel like this is a new vision for investing in the future of our students.”
The goal, Leskiw said, is to position Cumberlands as an innovative academic center that operates as an incubator for new ideas and opportunities.
“I want to lead a new initiative on student-led research,” he explained. “We have some terrific student-faculty collaborative research that we can amplify. I want to couple existing opportunities with funding we haven’t fully taken advantage of yet. There is abundant potential here. I’m going to encourage departments across campus to promote intensive, educational research in their fields so students have the motivation and resources to pursue the academic, experiential learning that will benefit society and equip them for their careers.”
Leskiw also hopes to change UC’s approach to community service in the local area, tying academics in with service-mindedness and increasing the level of community service that Cumberlands provides. For decades, UC organizations like Mountain Outreach (MO) and Appalachian Ministries (AM) have partnered with churches and community members to impact the region year-round. Leskiw himself has devoted 10 Spring Break vacations to MO, helping construct ramps and porches for impoverished families in the area. He has also volunteered with MO’s summer teams, which build one house per summer from the ground up.
“Service is key to the mission of this University,” said Leskiw. “Our founding documents discuss students being servant leaders. We have a foundation set here in the mountains for a reason. Who are we to the community? How can we serve them systemically? I want Cumberlands to be a difference-maker that serves this community in all the ways we’ve been gifted.”