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NMSU College of Arts and Sciences names associate dean

Longtime New Mexico State University math professor and department head Joseph Lakey was named associate dean for academics for the College of Arts and Sciences this spring.

Head and shoulders of a man
Joseph Lakey, associate dean of academics for the College of Arts and Sciences following nearly a year in the interim position. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

“I’m here to assist (College of Arts and Sciences) Dean (Enrico) Pontelli in crafting the overall vision for the college,” said Lakey, “what we want to be known for and how we can be effective at getting our job done. There is a lot of thinking right now about how we can be better which, at the end of the day, is really exciting.”

Pontelli named Lakey to the position in February, after nearly a yearlong search.

“Dr. Lakey brings experience and vision to this position, and we are delighted to have him as part of our team,” said Pontelli.

Lakey had been serving in the interim capacity since May 2018 after Beth Pollack, who served in that position for 8 years, gave notice she would be retiring. Lakey said Pollack’s mentorship has been important to his success.

“I’ve seen a lot of the situations that pop up here by this point,” said Lakey. “There’s still some that come up that I haven’t seen, but it was very helpful for me to be trained by someone who had been doing the job for several years. Problems can happen when you don’t know what the processes are.”

Lakey earned his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1991. Following three years of postdoctoral research at the University of Texas at Austin, and a brief stint as a visiting professor at Texas A&M University, Lakey came to NMSU, where he has remained for nearly 25 years.

“I’ve actually been here for a long time, since 1995,” said Lakey. “That’s nearly half of my life at this point.”

Lakey began his NMSU career as a faculty member within the mathematics department, becoming a full professor in 2006. He was named department head of mathematics in 2010, where he remained for eight years, before taking the interim position in the dean’s office last year.

“There were a lot of different challenges in switching over from department head to associate dean,” said Lakey. “One of the biggest in the first few months was just learning about the people. I was familiar with many of them from working so long at the university, but I didn’t really know them. And, in this job, that’s essential. Interacting with the administration and with a variety of the people who do various services for the university is a big part of the position.”

The main focus of Lakey’s job as academic associate dean of the largest college in the university is the welfare and success of students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“This position is mostly about serving the students,” said Lakey. “Working directly with students who have hurdles they have to get over, be it financial or degree requirements or anything else they might need in order to excel. A big challenge, for example, is trying to figure out what are the things that set our students on the best paths for their potential careers. What can we do better to improve their prospects?”