Meet Your Dean


Benjamin Akande

By: Lorena Macias

Benjamin Akande, Ph.D., 49, has been recognized as one of St. Louis’ Most Influential Leaders for the last five years, but he remembers his busy college days.

“I was carrying 18 credit hours each term, working part-time at Sears and serving in the student government council first as a senator, then as vice president and later as president,” Akande said. The dean’s credentials include two master’s degrees, one in public administration and the other in arts in economics, a doctorate in economics, and a post-doctoral in leadership.

As the dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology,  Akande has a whole new set of responsibilities. The responsibilities include “addressing issues that impact students like staying in touch with alums raising money and connecting with the global community at large who support our institution.”

Besides being dean, Akande is also chief of Webster University’s Office of Corporate Partnership, making him responsible for getting funding for the school. Among projects Akande has been involved with is a master’s in forensic accounting program, which was launched this fall semester.

To students pursuing degrees in economics, Akande would like to “urge them to pursue their degree in economics knowing full well that their future job will likely be in an area they least expect.”

Debra Carpenter

By: Caillin Murray

After becoming dean of the School of Communications, Debra Carpenter was allowed to teach only one class a year, and every year she has chosen to teach a freshman seminar. Carpenter said she loves having students for their very first college class. She ensures her freshman seminar class starts early on Monday so she can be her students’ very first college professor.

Carpenter taught public relations and strategic relations classes for 10 years at the SOC before accepting the position of dean, a position she has held for nearly 16 years.

She makes sure to stay in tune with her students, and hosts monthly Student Advisory Council (SAC) meetings for students of the SOC. The SAC meetings give any student the opportunity to voice their opinions on topics such as equipment, curriculum and potential new programs. These meetings, stocked with free pizza, keep the students well fed while providing Carpenter with necessary feedback. It’s now with student needs in mind that she can begin her new role as leader of the upcoming renovation of the SOC’s Sverdrup building.

Of all the changes Webster has experienced, she is most excited by the continued growth of international opportunities for Webster students, and believes that having a global experience is more than just traveling.

The best part of being a dean, Carpenter said, is hearing from alumni about their successes, both professional and personal.

Brenda Fyfe

By: Megan Favignano

Brenda Fyfe, dean of the School of Education (SOE), was finishing her doctorate and working in the Ferguson-Florissant school district when she received an advertisement for a faculty position at Webster University.

“Someone put the advertisement for the job in my mailbox,” Fyfe said. “I never found out who it was. Things just came together.”

Fyfe joined the faculty in 1983. Over time, she gradually took on more administrative responsibilities. When the SOE began in 1995, Fyfe served as acting dean for the first two years. Then Fyfe returned to teaching. She was asked to serve as acting dean again in 2002.

After serving as acting dean a second time, Fyfe applied to be the full-time dean for the SOE. She was selected in 2003 and has held the position ever since.

“My path was a gradual one,” Fyfe said. “External forces moving me in this direction until the point where I finally decided this was the path I wanted to take.”

In graduate school, Fyfe focused on early childhood education.

“I got a sound and strong understanding of the importance of looking at a child within the family, within the community from a systems perspective,” Fyfe said.

One of the SOE’s goals involves collaboration with families, colleagues and community. Fyfe feels this goal is extremely important in early childhood education.

Peter Sargent

By: Brittany Ruess

At age 10, Peter Sargent took to the stage as a child actor in a play entitled “The Corn is Green.” Sargent soon grew more interested in theatre production as he worked on lighting with his father for community theaters.

Sargent now heads the lighting design and stage management program for the Conservatory of Theatre Arts and is dean of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts. He received his bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1959 and his master’s at Yale University in 1963. Sargent has been at Webster since 1966.

In addition to his work at Webster, Sargent has also contributed his talents off campus at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. He’s helped light up the Rep’s stage for 40 years.

Of all his recent repertory productions, Sargent said he is most proud of “You Can’t Take It With You” and “St. Joan.”

Sargent said he is most proud of his work when it has been part of a bigger picture — a broader collaboration. Other proud points in Sargent’s career happen when alumni find success of their own. He said he visits New York City regularly to see alumni work.

Sargent is excited by the new freshman class this year.

“I’m seeing the fruition of everybody’s effort to recruit strong classes,” Sargent said.

The academic deans, Sargent said, are looking toward the future.

“We’re looking at where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Sargent said. “I’m convinced we’re on a continuing advancement.

David Carl Wilson

By: Kendra Hicks

Before coming to Webster University in 2002, David Carl Wilson received his Ph.D. in Philosophy at University of California Los Angeles and went on to be assistant provost at UCLA from 2000 to 2002. Wilson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he knew he wanted to make a difference in the world by working in higher education.

“I came to Webster nine years ago because it’s committed to social justice, a strong orientation toward the student and it’s international,” Wilson said. “As much as I loved UCLA this just seemed like a better fit.

During his time at Webster, many different programs have been created, but he is most proud of the Global master’s degree in International Relations. Wilson and the other deans from the international campuses came together for a workshop in Geneva and brainstormed this program.

Wilson agreed to do this because he wants to move people to think.  Despite the stress of being a dean and holding multiple positions on different committees, he knows why he got to the place he is in today.

“I got were I am because I believe in the mission that a place like Webster provides and it’s a wonderful way to spend my life is advancing a mission like that,” Wilson said.

When Wilson isn’t in the classroom teaching or having meetings, he loves going to Cardinal games, filling out the New York Times crossword puzzle, going to opera and being with his new fiancé.

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