The new vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty is Mark Biermann. He said he is there to help guide all academic programs and faculty, but if you would rather see a hologram or discuss old movies, he is there for that too.
Biermann was born in Alberta, Canada but moved around to Nebraska and Michigan when he was growing up. He attended the University of Rochester for his undergraduate and graduate degrees where he earned his Ph.D. in optics.
Biermann’s professional life has taken him all over.
“I moved around to a lot of institutions, that’s just how it worked out. My CV looks like someone who wants to move all the time, but I hate moving,” Biermann said.
From Washington, Kentucky, to New York and Indiana, Biermann arrived at Wartburg College.
“It’s a combination of a really strong sense of fit with the mission and vision of the institution. The mission, the heritage, everything about Wartburg is just a really good fit for me,” Biermann said.
Biermann said he also likes the commitment of Wartburg to allow the co-curricular activities alongside the curricular so there can be the uniform goal of a whole person education.
As vice president of academic affairs, Biermann will have the opportunity to help guide all the academic programs. He has been dean of natural sciences at a previous job but said he is excited and interested to be working with all departments here at Wartburg.
Biermann said he does have some goals as he begins his first year at Wartburg. A key thing for him, he said, is working very closely with student life and other co-curricular areas. Biermann said he and Dr. Deborah Loers will be co-chairing the student development task force. He said they are looking for a way to more clearly articulate the way co-curricular combines for an overall learning experience.
“It will clearly show some more about the different kind of activities the student had and how those activities impacted the student’s learning experience. Maybe record them formally on a transcript or a document that follows the student after graduation,” Biermann said.
Biermann enjoys many things outside work.
He said he loves to travel. As a kid Biermann said he traveled to all 48 states by car, stopping in small towns along the way. He said he has also been to Europe and Asia, even taking a photograph in Korea at the same place his father had 55 years before.
Biermann said he has spent many years doing research on lasers and semi-conductors. His background is in the study of optics and physics. Biermann said he has made his own hologram before and will not hesitate to show you one in his office.
Biermann’s personality shines through when the subject reaches old movies.
“’Casablanca’, hands down is the best movie. It’s the most quotable movie ever made. I mean there is just line after line after line. It’s such a well made movie. I love Casablanca,” Biermann said.
Biermann said his favorite place in the world is the Tetons which fit with his love for hiking. Biermann also said he enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters age 10 and 13.
Biermann said the job is going really well. He enjoys working with the people and seeing the students walking around campus.
Fred Ribich was interim dean during the 2011-12 school year. When Biermann began in June, Ribich helped guide him into the position.
“He is a very quick study. He has picked up a great deal of information in the short time he has been here. He has a strong sense for what Wartburg College is all about and how that gets translated into maintaining a high quality academic program. So I have a lot of confidence in him that he will be a good leader for us,” Ribich said.
Ribich is currently the director of institution research and assessment.
“So far between the community and the job it has been really good,” Biermann said.