After 12 years in the role of the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Lynn Weiner stepped down to become University Historian and write a comprehensive history for Roosevelt’s 70th anniversary, which will be marked in 2015.
Weiner joined Roosevelt University in 1983 and was appointed as dean of the college in 2001, after she became a full-time faculty member in the department of history in 1991 and served as an associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1993.
“I’ve been around Roosevelt 30 years,” Weiner said. “That’s kind of scary.”
Throughout the years of her deanship, she has worked on multiple projects that ranged from developing partnerships with educational institutions around the globe to adjusting Roosevelt programs to students’ needs.
“One of the ideas that I became very interested in was international education,” Weiner explained. “I made some partnerships with universities such as London Metropolitan University, and actually, the last one I did was with the University of Sydney, which should be done very soon I hope. And we developed study abroad courses so students could study and over Thanksgiving break and over Spring break they would go abroad for part of the class.”
Weiner also helped to improve the quality of Roosevelt’s education by hiring new faculty members and devising numerous educational programs. She admits Roosevelt has made significant progress in many areas for the last 12 years.
“It’s grown so much since I was dean,” Weiner said. “It’s grown in students, probably by 30 percent. It grew in faculty. One thing a dean does is you are always looking at programs, so we eliminated a number of programs and built other new programs.”
This summer, Weiner decided to take up a new role: she became University Historian and will write a comprehensive history book of Roosevelt’s first 50 years.
“It was my initiative to step down from the deanship, absolutely,” Weiner said. “I feel that 12 years is actually a very long time. It’s a long time to be the dean in one place, and I loved doing it … and I loved the students and everything, but you can go to so many meetings, and I just thought I wanted to do something else.”
By taking on a new responsibility, Weiner wants to make a new contribution to Roosevelt University.
“To be able to be given time and the resources to just work on such a great project, it’s a real privilege for me,” said the new Roosevelt Historian. “It’s great, and I hope to return that by writing something that is going to be meaningful for the university.”
Although Weiner has signed a three-year contract that allows her to get back to the Department of History, she is still focused on other projects that don’t always fall within her discipline.
“I’m doing some fundraising for the university, I’m meeting with alumni groups, I’m interviewing people, I’m helping with orientations and stuff like that,” Weiner added.
Weiner doesn’t rule out the possibility of going back to teaching in the future but says she would rather concentrate on the subject of history at this point.
“There have been a few books written [about] Roosevelt but they were good starts, and what I want to do is to write something comprehensive,” Weiner said about her new project.
The new Roosevelt Historian had already started working on her book but admitted she doesn’t have a tentative outline.
“It’s wonderfully interesting and very daunting,” she said. “This week, I talked to an alumna from the 1950s and one from the 1960s just about their experiences and why they came to Roosevelt and what they found here. … Our history at Roosevelt, it’s a history about Chicago and about higher education, as well as the institution. It’s so much bigger history.”
According to Weiner, Roosevelt University deserves a special place in the history of Chicago because it has been a pioneer in social justice since its founding in 1945 and provided education to all qualifying students, regardless of their socio-economic status or ethnic background.
“The main part of the story is we’ve been a university for Chicago that has provided a really great education to really talented students, and we have a place in its history. I think we are pioneers in a lot of things, and that’s going to be the main thing, that Roosevelt is a pioneering institution. … I think we are going to see that Roosevelt had a very special place in that history.”
Weiner said she is excited for Roosevelt’s upcoming anniversary and wants to create a piece that would commemorate the university’s legacy.
“When you know your history, you can use it to plan for your future in a much better way,” she said. “Because I want this university to last for a very long time. I think our students are so wonderful, and I think we have done so much to transform people’s lives. And that’s part of the story is to say how we get there.”