Leslie Hossfeld began her role as dean of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences July 1, and she has wasted no time to hear from faculty and staff of the college as it prepares to enter a new academic year. She transitions to this role from Mississippi State University, where she served as professor and head of its sociology department.

While Hossfeld is still familiarizing herself with the college and the university in general, she took the time to answer a few questions about what drew her to Clemson and what her plans are for the college going forward. We discussed what she sees as academic priorities of the college, how she plans to acquaint herself with the upstate and what she does in her free time.

What are your first steps now that you’re on campus and what are your goals for a successful first fall semester?

I have devoted my first month to meeting key leaders in the college in order to learn about the great work our departments, centers and institutes are doing. This is a dynamic college that brings together excellence in the behavioral, social and health sciences; finding the points of synergy in which these areas overlap, and building research and curriculum agendas that complement and enhance the overlapping disciplines will be a central goal over the next several months. CBSHS is about building people and communities. This is our primary focus in making CBSHS the “poster college” of the land-grant mission.

What appealed to you about working at Clemson and about CBSHS in particular?

The college represents such innovative thinking in bringing together disciplines that have the greatest potential—in my mind—to make significant, meaningful change, especially when tied to the land-grant mission. Our college is already thriving in the areas outlined in the ClemsonForward strategic plan: research, engagement, academic core and living are central to the mission and vision of the college. Everything we do as a college contributes significantly to each facet of that plan.

Leslie Hossfeld, the new Dean of CBSHS

CBSHS Dean Leslie Hossfeld
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Our college is a diverse collection of departments, do you see a through line in the work that they conduct?

Yes, I was immediately struck by the potential these departments, institutes and centers have in addressing pressing social issues. My background is in working on economic development projects and aligning health policy and agriculture policy through food systems initiatives. I have also worked on poverty alleviation projects in rural communities. There is a clear connection between the work I have done and the needs in various locations across South Carolina. CBSHS houses all the key elements needed to address the myriad overlapping problems as a result of high, persistent poverty.

You’ve spent many years of your career in North Carolina. How familiar are you with the Clemson area and South Carolina? How do you plan to acquaint yourself with Clemson and the state?

I am very familiar with the eastern part of the state along the Highway 17 corridor down to Charleston. I am working closely with Dr. Rob Carey examining key socio-economic trends in the state and working on an economic development plan for CBSHS that aligns with our mission and vision and the expertise of our faculty. We will have that on our website fairly soon as a resource for understanding critical needs in South Carolina.

South Carolina is such a physically beautiful state. It offers so many opportunities to enjoy nature, history, and culture—three passions of mine. I have already begun immersing myself in the history of the state through a gift of the South Carolina Encyclopedia from Dean Emeritus Allen.

What do you do in your free time?

I love being with my family so whenever I have down time I make my way to them. I enjoy both watching and playing tennis, as well as kayaking. I also enjoy learning about plants and birds, and being in nature, so am looking forward to visiting the South Carolina Botanical gardens frequently.

Will you make any trips to Memorial Stadium this fall?

Absolutely! In fact, I am eager to learn about the game day rituals and practices. I am also very excited about ACC Basketball and just purchased my season tickets. I am very happy to be back in ACC territory!