Interim arts and sciences dean departing WCU

Gibbs Knotts, interim dean of the college of arts and sciences, professor of political science and public affairs and faculty athletics representative at Western Carolina University, will be leaving at the end of this school year to become the department chair of the political science department at the College of Charleston.

“Charleston and the College of Charleston have always been a city and university that I’ve been interested in,” Knotts said on the move to historic downtown Charleston. “My mom grew up there and I still have family there.”

As the chair of the political science department, Knotts will undertake many of the same duties that he did when he was head of the political science and public affairs department at WCU from January 2008 until June 2011, when the UNC Chapel Hill and Emory University graduate was named interim dean of the college of arts and sciences.

As a department head, Knotts served on the WCU Department Head Council, hired full-time and part-time faculty members and maintained relationships with alumni.

Dr. Jennifer Schiff, assistant professor in the political science and public affairs department, was hired on two years ago when Knotts was department head.

“Gibbs has been one of the bright spots of my first two years as a faculty member at Western,” Schiff said. “He is always so friendly and outgoing, and as the political science department head, he went out of his way to look out for me as a new faculty member. He’s a big reason I felt so welcomed here in my first year at Western, and I’ll miss him terribly. Of course, I know he’ll be incredibly successful in his new position, and I wish him all the best.”

On his colleague’s departure, Dr. Todd Collins, an assistant professor in the department of political science and public affairs, said, “He was a good researcher, good teacher, and a good ambassador for WCU. Everything that a faculty member should be, Dr. Knotts was. That’s what we’ll miss most about him.”

On his time at WCU, Knotts said, “I am most proud of my work with students: Getting students excited about the political process and research, passing on to them skills that will be useful to them, and then helping them apply those skills in their careers.”

Knotts, known for his love of research, said that the balance between teaching and research is one factor that helped him decide on WCU as his home in 2000.

Since then, Knotts has worked his way up from an assistant professor to a full professor, teaching courses on American political parties and state and local government, while also maintaining a solid research reputation. In 2008, Knotts co-edited a book titled “The New Politics of North Carolina” with colleague and Interim Political Science and Public Affairs Department Head Chris Cooper.

“Dr. Knotts is a tremendous asset to our department, college, and university. He is a gifted teacher, a prolific scholar, and a delightful colleague,” Dr. Don Livingston, Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs, said. “He has provided our department and college with superb leadership as a department head and interim dean. I am confident that he will distinguish himself at the College of Charleston just as he has here at Western.”

An Olympic Torchbearer for Asheville in 2001, Knotts, who has enjoyed numerous teaching and research awards, including the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010, recollected on his time at WCU with fond memories.

“The people in this town are extremely nice and supportive and the professors I’ve worked with here are a great group of teacher-scholars,” Knotts said. “It’s nice to be in a place where people know your name. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had at Western and I hope that I’ve been able to have an impact here.”

Knotts will assume his new position at College of Charleston on July 1. He is excited to teach a course on southern politics in a city like Charleston where the first shots of the Civil War were fired at a federal ship entering Charleston Harbor in 1861.