University searching for four deans

Rachel Abbey

Rachel Abbey

Daily Kent Stater

Just like a successful team captain or political leader, college deans have the ability to direct and guide the people behind them. Currently, Kent State is conducting four searches for deans at the Kent State and regional campuses.

The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at the Kent campus, and the Stark and Trumbull regional campuses are undergoing dean searches, said Gayle Ormiston, associate provost for Faculty Affairs and Curriculum.

Four dean searches in the same year is a little higher than average, Provost Paul Gaston said, but it’s not unusual. Normally, Kent State experiences a 10 percent turnover in deans per year, which is low compared to national statistics, Gaston said. Nationally, the turnover rate is about 20 percent.

Any time there is a change in leadership, Ormiston said, an adjustment period is to be expected.

However, a capable interim dean can help alleviate those challenges. Claudia Khourey-Bowers, assistant professor and member of the dean search committee at the Stark campus, said the transitional period has been smooth because of the interim dean’s interactions with the campus community.

Gaston said the change in leadership can actually create opportunities because the new deans have the chance to enact changes, even interim deans, and he said he does not treat the deans as interims.

“We’re all serving fixed terms,” Gaston said.

A short-term transitional period is acceptable, Khourey-Bowers said, but a longer-term transition could create problems.

It becomes necessary to conduct a dean search when the former dean leaves the university. Common reasons for leaving include retirement or acceptance of new positions at different universities.

One of the current dean searches results from the creation of a new college. The College of Architecture and Environmental Design officially became a college in July 2004 and has yet to have an inaugural dean.

“This person has the chance to shape the vision of this new college,” said Larry Andrews, dean of the Honors College and chairperson of the search committee for architecture’s first dean.

Because the college contains many subgroups, the incoming dean will have to be able to smoothly coordinate them all, Andrews said.

Deans of regional campuses face even bigger challenges, creating collaboration not only among different departments, but also between the Kent campus and the regional campus programs. The regional campus dean often serves as the chief operating official, said Jim Gaudino, dean of the College of Communication and Information and chairperson of the dean search for the Stark campus.

The dean of a regional campus has to handle almost all aspects of campus life, such as fiscal responsibilities, faculty and staff issues and curricular development, Gaudino said.

“They’re not unlike a coach for a team,” Gaudino said. “They have to have a vision.”

A regional dean leads academic affairs, manages day-to-day activities and connects the campus with the local community, Gaudino said.

Greg Blundell, instructor in the department of Management and Information Systems and member of the dean search committee for Stark campus, said a prospective dean should be concerned with not only the financial aspects of a university but also the academic mission.

“From an academic perspective, we want someone who’s been in the trenches,” Blundell said.

It is important for the dean to have an appreciation for and an understanding of teaching, he said.

The length of a dean search can vary, Ormiston said, depending on the number of applicants, availability of candidates to come to campus and the nature of the search committee.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].