John Lipski started his college studies in engineering at Rice University, then switched to study linguistics.
That variety, he said, represents why he wants to become dean of Kansas University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
"I've kept a broad interest in the arts and sciences because of that background," he said. "I think this would come full circle with the goals of my career, with sciences and humanities coming together."
Lipski, chairman of the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese department at Pennsylvania State University, is one of four finalists for the KU dean position, which oversees 14,000 students and 550 faculty members. He met with about 25 faculty, staff and students Monday at the Kansas Union.
Lipski said he was familiar with university budget woes. Penn State's budget will be cut by 2 percent each of the next three years, he said. KU could be facing even larger cuts.
Lipski said hiring fewer graduate teaching assistants and having larger classes are two options for dealing with the budget crunch.
"If you have (positions) open, you don't fill them," he said. "If you have an under-enrolled course, you cancel it. If you have travel funds lying around, you swallow them up. These are not desirable consequences."
Lipski said improving mentoring and appointing more minorities in high administrative positions could help recruit minority students and faculty members. And he said more funds must be reserved for minority faculty in what he called a "competitive bidding" market.
Lipski has been chairman of his department since last year. Before that, he had been at the University of New Mexico since 1992. He also taught Spanish at the University of Florida from 1988 to 1992, the University of Houston from 1981 to 1988, Michigan State University from 1975 to 1981 and Kean University of New Jersey from 1973 to 1975.
His research includes bilingualism, variations in Spanish, Creole languages and the African contribution to Spanish and Portuguese. He has written nine books on languages.
Other finalists for the position are Kip Hodges, professor of geology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who already visited campus; Kim Wilcox, executive director of the Kansas Board of Regents, who will have an open forum at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union; and Ruth Maki, professor and chairwoman of psychology at Texas Tech University, who will have a forum at 3:30 p.m. Monday, also in Alderson Auditorium.
The new dean likely will be hired by the end of the school year and begin July 1, replacing Sally Frost-Mason, who left last spring to become provost at Purdue University.