UNK removes interim tag, selects Paul Twigg to lead College of Arts and Sciences

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney has selected Paul Twigg as the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

A longtime biology professor, Twigg has served as the college’s interim dean since September 2022. His appointment to the permanent position is effective July 1, pending University of Nebraska Board of Regents approval.

“I look forward to becoming the full-time leader of the College of Arts and Sciences. I have always felt that my work is the most valuable when it impacts students and I consider becoming dean as another opportunity to do this,” Twigg said. “I am excited to work with our talented and passionate faculty to move our programs forward and to benefit the students and people of Nebraska. We have strengths in so many wonderful programs that make a difference in the lives of Nebraskans and I am ready to extend our impact.”

Twigg joined UNK in 1992 as part of the first faculty cohort hired following the school’s transition to the University of Nebraska System. Since then, he’s taught a variety of courses and mentored countless undergraduate and graduate students. As a researcher, he’s secured more than $32 million in grant funding and presented at both national and international conferences. He has 35 peer-reviewed publications.

In addition to his teaching and research, Twigg served as the graduate chair in the UNK Department of Biology from 2016-20, overseeing an online master’s program with more than 400 students and several grant-funded graduate assistant positions. He also helped launch a new master’s degree program in health science.

As an assistant/associate dean, Twigg played a key role in the creation of the College of Arts and Sciences, formed in August 2018 by merging the colleges of Natural and Social Sciences and Fine Arts and Humanities. Arts and Sciences is UNK’s largest academic college, with 2,400 students and 220 full- and part-time faculty. It includes the departments of art and design, biology, chemistry, communication, criminal justice, English, geography, health sciences, history, mathematics and statistics, modern languages, music, theatre and dance, physics, astronomy and engineering, philosophy, political science, psychology, social work and sociology, along with the international studies, STEM education and women’s, gender and ethnic studies programs.

Twigg was an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences for two years prior to his appointment as interim dean. He partnered with UNK Health Sciences to launch the Health Science Explorers Academy, a pipeline program designed to grow the state’s health care workforce, gained approval for new graduate programs, led the development of new student success programs and enhanced faculty mentoring and leadership efforts.

Additionally, Twigg served as chair of the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance in 2020-21, and he manages the independently funded UNK Greenhouse.

“During the search process, Dr. Twigg was described by the faculty as having ‘vast institutional knowledge’ and ‘an ability to successfully navigate administrative relationships.’ Paul also has the unique ability to gain trust through transparency and he understands that change is necessary in order for UNK to grow,” Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kristen Majocha said when announcing his appointment.

During his time on campus, Twigg has positively impacted UNK and the University of Nebraska System in numerous areas, from student recruitment, alumni engagement and external relations to fundraising, facilities planning and international education. He’s received several awards and honors, including the prestigious Pratt-Heins Faculty Award for Scholarship and Research and Graduate College Mentor of the Year.

Twigg is a member of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences and American Society of Plant Biologists, and he’s been a grant or journal reviewer for organizations and publications such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Great Plains Research Journal and PLOS One.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in botany/biochemistry from the University of Tennessee.