Professors and Williamsburg community members gathered in the Commonwealth Auditorium Sept. 26 to provide input for the process of selecting candidates for the Dean of Arts and Sciences.
Organized as an open forum, nine of the 13 search committee members primarily recorded concerns and questions about selecting candidates for the position, occasionally clarifying any confusion that arose about the process or priorities of the dean.
Phil Kearns and Laura Ekstrom, co-chairs of the search committee, began the forum by establishing general details in order to provide background knowledge to pose their questions.
“This is an opportunity for faculty and staff to tell us what they are really looking for in the new dean and for us to gather particular questions to ask in the December round of interviews,” Ekstrom told the audience.
Dr. Aaron H. De Groft, Director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art, posed concerns about where the discussion of a proposed arts complex fell into the selection of the new dean.
“The position description does not call out anything explicitly about any planned project because we didn’t want to preclude anyone by making them think they had to have a line on how to plan XYZ,” Sarah Stafford, professor of economics and public policy and a search committee member, said.
Physics professor Bill Cooke expressed his ideas regarding the candidates’ skills to use funds from the Department of Arts and Sciences to implement projects in these two sectors of the College.
“I would hope that way at the top of your list is the ability for this candidate to negotiate with our president and the provost and to command the respect and cooperation from the other deans of the schools,” Cooke said.
Cooke also advised that the committee ask candidates how they plan to stay plugged into the needs of the faculty, because 50 percent of the job description focuses on fundraising.
One other concern involved the use of a third-party search firm, Auerback Associates, to develop the pool of candidates.
“In my experience as co-chair of the committee to select the provost, all the search firms had stables of candidates who are always on the move, so I would encourage [the committee] to not rely exclusively on the firm and to watch their patterns,” Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Kathleen F. Slevin said.
The committee will decide the top three candidates by Feb. 22. From there, the provost and president will together select the new Dean of Arts and Sciences.
“It was nice hearing broadly based concerns and receive help because we have to satisfy thecommunity at large with this decision,” Kearns said.
Gene Tracey, the current Chancellor Professor of Physics, has served as the interim Dean of Arts and Sciences since July 2011. Tracey replaced Carl Strikwerda, who left the College to become president of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
The arts and sciences is the largest department at the College, with 5,600 students.