The hiring process for one of the most important administrative positions at the College of William and Mary is public and multi-faceted, qualities that were demonstrated during the vetting of the second Dean of Arts and Sciences candidate Tuesday.
Candidate Kate Conley comes from a background in the liberal arts. She has served as a French professor and the associate dean of the faculty for the Arts and Humanities at Dartmouth College.
“At its core, a liberal arts education must stay grounded in history,” Conley said. “Every liberal arts university strives to maintain learning in the past along with creating a spark for moving forward in the future. The successful liberal arts education cultivates the imagination.”
Adapting to changes in what students desire to study was one of Conley’s top priorities, along with the integration of technology and sustainability into campus life.
“Changes to the curriculum must be made to respond to new populations and generational changes,” Conley said.
Financial hardship was one topic raised by concerned faculty.
Recalling the financial difficulties universities faced in the mid-1970s during another economic downtown, Conley expressed optimism about the College’s capability to weather the current economic situation.
Yet she was reluctant to name what specifically she would do in regard to startup funds for finding new faculty and the extent of her support for the new fine arts complex.
Conley was equally diplomatic when it came to a question about Obama’s recent proposal for a scorecard for universities, raising the issue of federal and state oversight of universities.
“There is a very good process at the College of William and Mary that already assesses how each of the departments are doing,” Conley said.
When Conley’s lack of scholarly or teaching experience in the sciences came under fire, she stressed her experience working alongside such faculty and the benefit of their research.
“It is true that my background is in French and the liberal arts and I don’t have much experience teaching or working in the science,” Conley said. “One of the highlights of my job at Dartmouth University was learning about the scholarly work of my colleagues. Strong research institutions like William and Mary are beneficial to teaching because a faculty member who is very excited about his or her own work is going to bring that excitement into the classroom.”
Faculty members asked Conley to be more descriptive about her decision-making process as an associate, which Conley described as primarily consultative. Conley cited her and her predecessor’s work as putting the “arts” back in “liberal arts” at Dartmouth by fighting for enhanced facilities and greater resources for smaller majors.
In addition to serving as an Associate Dean for Dartmouth, Conley headed the Dartmouth Department of French and Italian. Her experience as a professor witin the Dartmouth French department commenced in 1998. Conley also graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and holds two Master of Arts degrees in French from the University of Colorado and the University of Pennsylvania.
This appointment to the Dean of Arts and Sciences is perhaps more significant than in earlier years since the dean will oversee the first curriculm review in 20 years in addition to the generation of a new financial model.
Deans from the various departments at the College report to the Dean of Arts and Sciences.
Faculty and forum attendees were capable of evaluating the candidates on online evaluation forms following the forum.