Dr. Mike Knedler
Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences
Bachelor of Music in Education, Phillips University, 1978
Master of Music, Baylor University, 1980
Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, 1994
Mike came to Northwestern as an assistant band director in 1983 and now serves the university as its dean for the School of Arts and Sciences. During these 25 years, he believes his bond with Northwestern is pretty strong.
“It’s a great place to work, and Alva is a great place to raise a family,” he said.
He went from assistant to being the sole director of the Ranger band in 1989 and stayed until 2005. From 1996 to 2002, he was the chairman of the music department; from 1999 to 2002, he was dean of humanities and social sciences; and he has been the dean of arts and sciences since 2002.
“For awhile I had a full teaching load, chaired a department and was a dean,” he said.
Knedler has been out of the classroom for long enough now to be able to see similarities and differences between his teaching and administrative duties.
As a faculty member, Knedler said he really enjoyed working with students.
“As band director, I was in a unique position to work with students throughout their time at Northwestern, since they tended to stay in band from the time they were freshmen until they graduated,” he said. “That’s an experience that not every instructor has, since they may have students for only a semester or two. That’s the thing I miss the most about teaching – not being in contact with students.”
He explained that the most rewarding thing about being a dean is when he feels like he has made a difference, whether it’s helping a faculty member with something, or work on a major project.
As he began reflecting upon his years as the Ranger band director, a few moments stuck out in his memory.
He remembers fondly the year the Rangers made the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference playoffs in football and played Southwestern.
“Dr. (Steve) Lohmann was the coach then,” Knedler said. “I remember a pep rally downtown one evening and a night game at Southwestern. That was when excitement about Northwestern football really began to take off.”
He also said he’ll never forget winning the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship in football in 1999.
“We were behind at halftime with no hope in sight, and came out to win in the second half,” he said. “Amazing! It was fun to go to all the championship games, but that was the best.”
He also remembers the band making two trips to Washington, D.C.
“The first was in 1998 to celebrate Northwestern’s Centennial,” he explained. “I arranged through Rep. (Frank) Lucas’ office for a proclamation to be read on the floor of the House commemorating the centennial. We also had a group photo with Sen. Don Nickles. The second trip was in 2004 when we marched down Constitution Avenue in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
As a dean, Knedler said that one of the things he cherishes most about his job is the opportunity to continue to grow professionally.
“Northwestern has given me great opportunities for professional development,” he said. “I am a member of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences and attend their annual meetings. That association has provided me with the opportunity to network with other deans from all across the country.
“Probably the highlight of my professional development was getting to attend the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard University in 2005,” he said. “I met education professionals from all across the world there, including Shawn Chen, founder of Sias University in Zhengzhou, China. It was that meeting that generated his visit to our campus in the fall of 2005, and our visit to China in Spring 2008. We have now signed a partnership agreement with Sias that will open doors to international collaboration with an emerging world power.”
If that’s not enough on his plate, Knedler has been Northwestern’s General Homecoming Chair for nine years, since 2000.
“What I like about Homecoming is getting to work with people all across the university and from the community to organize a celebration of Ranger spirit,” he said. “The committee is an all-volunteer organization that basically runs itself. Everyone has their own area of responsibility, and they handle it well. Plus, it’s always fun on Homecoming Day seeing all the alumni and friends of the university.”
When Knedler isn’t at work, he enjoys traveling, boating and reading. He is married to Ragina, and they have one son Blake.
Q. What does Being a Ranger mean to you?
A. Being a Ranger is all about spirit – not just spirit at athletic events, but a spirit that involves dedication, devotion, persistence, pride and sacrifice.
Q. What is it about Northwestern that makes you want to be here?
A. I have always enjoyed being able to witness the transforming effect that Northwestern has on students’ lives, from the time they enter as freshmen, to the time they enter their chosen professions and beyond.
Q. What would you tell a prospective student on why they should choose Northwestern?
A. Over the past few years I’ve had opportunities to meet many outstanding alumni who have established extraordinary careers – careers than have taken them to places like NASA, the U.S. government, the publishing industry, and the top of the medical field. They are living proof that you can go anywhere from Northwestern.
Q. While here at Northwestern, what are some of the rewards you’ve received through teaching?
A. My biggest rewards have come from seeing my students graduate and become successful professionals. For example, Sheri Lohmann, one of my former students, has become an outstanding teacher and president of the Red Carpet Band Directors Association. I think that somehow I had a hand in the success that her students enjoy.
I’ve also found it rewarding to work on projects that impact lives in broader ways – projects that run the gamut from revising general education to bringing performing arts events to northwest Oklahoma.