College seeks to fill dean positions


Santiago Covarrubias

Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden, spoke to faculty and staff about what he seeks in potential dean candidates Oct. 21 at an open forum.


The college initiated searches for new deans for the schools of Media Arts and Fine & Performing Arts during a pair of open forums in which faculty and staff could discuss qualities they are seeking in potential candidates.

The Oct. 21 and 22 forums were led by Rebecca Swartz and Matt Tzuker from Isaacson, Miller, a leading higher education executive search firm that assisted previous searches that brought President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim, Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden and Vice President of Business Affairs and CFO Michelle Gates to the college.

Prior to the forums, members of the firm met with administrators and faculty members to discuss the process and ideal qualities and characteristics the college is looking for in a dean, according to Sheryl Ash, vice president at Isaacson, Miller who also spoke at both of the forums. She said the firm hopes to select two deans by July 2016. 

Constantin Rasinariu and Onye Ozuzu currently serve as interim deans of the School of Media Arts and the School of Fine & Performing Arts, respectively.

The dean search committees are composed of full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, staff members and students, according to an emailed announcement from Wearden on Oct. 16. Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost, said she will chair both of the search committees.  

Wearden told the audience he is looking for deans who are excited about leading the conversations about change and transition.

Wearden described his preferred candidate as a “change agent” who has “professional, courageous will” and is collaborative with  an understanding of shared governance.

“There are people who want to move into administrative jobs and be a caretaker, and there are people who want to be builder[s],” Wearden said. “I think there will be people who will be very excited about being part of the building process here.” 

At both forums, faculty and staff members addressed concern for more interdisciplinary work and collaboration between departments. A number of people spoke of restructuring the college in a way that fosters more internal and external outreach and communication.

Peter Hartel, an associate professor in the Cinema Art + Science Department, said Columbia could strengthen its presence in Chicago and higher education communities by clearly and distinctively identifying the college as an innovative creative environment. He said the college has been promoted as such in the past and attracted a great number of students to the college.

Julie Harris, an internship coordinator in the Communication and Media Innovation Department, said the potential candidates need to be builders of communication, and that it is important to have a strategic leader who will promote the college’s authentic voice, which she said, can get clouded at times.

“As we move forward with a strong and creative voice, [it is important] we pick up on what I think is one of Chicago’s best-kept, hidden secrets is, [which] is how creative Columbia students really are,” Harris said. “There are so many success stories waiting to be heard.”

John Green, chair of the Theatre Department, said the restructuring of the school should be one of the primary goals of the new deans for both schools, especially because when the new deans are chosen, the college will be already in its second year of Strategic Plan implementation.

“I hope we are looking for someone who is going to be fearless and essentially a team player,” Green said. “This is going to have to be a dean who will work well with not only the provost’s office but with the other deans in transition.”

Frances Maggio, an associate professor in the Theatre Department, said she hopes for a dean who is “in it for the long-haul” and will not simply “make a mark and move on.”

A profile—outlined from the forum discussions and dean search committees—of what the college is looking for in candidates will be released the week of Oct. 26 and will describe the challenges and opportunities for potential candidates and lay out the qualifications for the position.

“I am committed to finding you the best dean we can find,” Wearden said. “There is a bottom line, non-negotiable quality, which is the quality of being a ‘high functioning grown-up.’”