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Dean Marilyn Hoskin Welcomes Whatever Comes Next

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 27, 2008

Marilyn Hoskin, dean of the largest college at UNH, has made it a point to teach a class every year so she can maintain her strong connection to students. Not many deans teach on top of their administrative duties, but for the past 13 years, Hoskin has engaged undergrads with courses on immigration (her area of expertise) and American politics.

“The students don’t think of me as the dean,” she notes, “and that is probably a good thing. When I’m in the classroom with a group of students, we are all interested in the same thing; it’s a level playing field, and a field of give and take.”

She calls being in a classroom her way of “staying grounded” yet anyone who knows the College of Liberal Arts dean would tell you she doesn’t need the students for that. Hoskin has a reputation for being incredibly down to earth.

At the end of the semester, Hoskin will step down as COLA dean and begin an administrative leave that will bring her back under the same roof with her husband, Ross MacKinnon, on a day-to-day basis -- something that hasn’t happened for 10 of the last 13 years she has been at UNH. MacKinnon will retire in June as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UCONN.

A professor of political science, Hoskin came to UNH in 1995 from the University of New York, College at Buffalo, where she was dean of Natural and Social Sciences.

“Being able to teach a course is just an added plus,” Hoskin says. “In this office, you see only the very best students or the very worst. Teaching allows me to see all kinds of students.”

When she talks about teaching—usually American politics—the energy in the room ratchets up noticeably. New Hampshire is a great place for such a course, she says, noting it is unique politically with its 400 representatives and its dogged pride in its First-in-the-Nation primary status.

“Students love to talk politics; they all come in knowing something. It’s one area where everyone has an opinion. Some have pretty strong opinions,” Hoskin says. “My job is to get them to put those opinions in storage so they can be open to new ways of thinking.”

Her job as dean of COLA has been centered on the university’s mission and fleshing out how that is best served; identifying strengths and ways to maximize them; and identifying weaknesses so steps can be taken to turn them into non-weaknesses.

“I’m a facilitator and a leader only to the degree that I’m involved in sensing if something is wrong,” she says.

The author of “New Immigrants and Democratic Society: Minority Integration in Western Democracies,” Hoskin plans to use her yearlong leave to pen another book on immigration. After that, she may come back to teach.

“I don’t work well without structure. I can always find time to fritter away the day,” she says. “It’s better if I have lots to do.”

From the sounds of it, that won’t be a problem. In addition to writing, Hoskin is hoping to explore parts of the country she hasn’t had time to visit before now. She also wants to return to making music; she plays the piano and likes playing with groups, something she hasn’t done much of lately.

Then there are her two dogs, whom she calls the great levelers of the world because “dogs don’t care if you’re dean. They just want their dinner.”

And while the notion of her next adventure is exciting—she and her husband will be giving up New England for the Southwest--Hoskin acknowledges it will be hard to leave her colleagues.

“I love working with them. At this point, I know everyone in the college,” she says. “Every day brings new interactions.”

She says she will miss the young faculty members as well as the chance to meet all the candidates for tenure track jobs, and adds, “I get ecstatic listening to eager people.” She will also miss the sense of renewal she feels every fall when school begins, a sense she describes as being “like a wonderful breath of fresh air.”

But she is ready for whatever lies ahead and eagerly welcomes the unknown.

“In truth, when you stop doing a job, you should have an adventure planned,” Hoskin says. “A sabbatical is the equivalent of recharging your batteries. So, in a sense, I’ll be doing that. I just don’t know yet what I’m recharging them for.”

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