OGDEN -- After a few months of applying his keen scientific observation skills and examining the evidence, David Matty has concluded he made the correct decision in accepting the Weber State University position of dean of the College of Science.
"The faculty here are very dedicated, and committed to providing students with the best possible educational experience," said Matty, who left a job at the National Science Foundation to sign on with Weber State this summer. "That's the real strength of Weber State."
Matty, a native of southwest Pennsylvania, is impressed with student enthusiasm, and said he believes WSU has a good mix of traditional and nontraditional programs to meet student needs.
"There's the opportunity, down the road, to develop new programs that will take advantage of existing expertise," he said. Matty said he hopes to develop partnerships with business that will provide opportunities for students and enhance the local business community.
Matty also would like to draw more students to WSU's science and math programs, and to get Weber State the recognition it deserves for its strong programs.
"My goal as dean is to establish our College of Science as one of the premier undergraduate science schools in the region," he said.
Matty's duties at the National Science Foundation included reviewing research proposals and funding requests.
He plans to draw on that experience in helping science faculty pursue outside funding for research.
"Dr. Matty's experience with undergraduate science education and his work with the National Science Foundation will be beneficial to the College of Science," said WSU Provost Michael Vaughan.
Matty may get to contribute ideas to Weber State's proposed new science building, which is high on priority lists for buildings being considered for funding.
"What we know about the way people learn has changed significantly from when the existing Science Lab building was built," he said. "To be most effective as educators, we should have more spaces that favor interactive learning among students and foster greater interactions between faculty and students."
There is one job perk that is a minor distraction from his larger mission, said Matty, who began his academic career as a geology teacher.
"The view from my offices is so spectacular, I have trouble getting work done sometimes," he said, with a laugh. "I was not unfamiliar with the geology of Utah when I came. I have always loved the West because of its geology."
Matty has made multiple geological research trips to Utah and the Mountain West. One Utah rock has been a major part of Matty's teaching career.
While driving near the Alta ski resort years ago, he noticed a volcanic rock, a little smaller than a chicken egg, that someone had painted gold.
"I laughed when I saw it, and it still makes me laugh," he said, picking up the faux gold, a paperweight on his desk. "Someone took the time to find this rock and paint it gold, and to place it there to fool people. That is hilarious. And what are the odds a geologist would be the one to find it and get the joke?"
Matty taught at Central Michigan University for 25 years, serving as geology department chairman from 2000 to 2009.
A standard question on exams he gave was to ask students to identify the golden rock by type. Most were fooled, as the mystery painter intended.
"I'm keeping the rock," Matty said, with a sly grin. "I may teach again."