Permanent LAS dean close to selection

By Connor Carynski, Campus Reporter

Four faculty members presented their qualifications for the next Dean of the School of the Liberal Arts and Sciences at a series of April 18-20 meetings, explaining their plans to address dwindling enrollment, faculty retention and other critical issues.

Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden, who is expected to select a dean within the next two weeks, reminded the Columbia faculty, staff and students  who attended the presentations how well-qualified the internal applicants are.

The candidates include Eliza Nichols, professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department; Sean Andrews, associate professor in the HHSS Department; Pegeen Reichert Powell, associate chair of the English Department; and Steven Corey, who is currently serving as the school’s interim dean. 

At their individual presentations, all of the candidates shared relevant experiences and expertise, explained their interest in the position and took questions from the audience.

Eric Freedman, dean of the School of Media Arts, said he attended the presentations because he will be working and collaborating frequently with whoever is given the position.

“For me, [the presentations] are a way to see whether a candidate has a clear understanding of the institution and landscape of Liberal Arts and Sciences in relationship to the national landscape,” Freedman said. “I can read their CVs, resumes, previous experiences and their research. The presentation is a key moment where I can ask a question to see if that vision translates into something that can really work.”

As the former Dean of the School of the Fine & Performing Arts from 2007–2012, Nichols discussed the skills she learned in that position and as vice provost for The New School in New York, 2005–2007. She said her administrative experience would help with increasing and retaining faculty.

“The college is in a moment right now where leadership is important,” Nichols said. “I actually encouraged a lot of people to apply because I feel like we should all be helping the college.”

Andrews said during his presentation that his time serving as a graduate lecturer at George Mason University in Virginia and on various Columbia committees gave him experience he can use as a dean. Andrews also outlined plans to foster online education opportunities and improve collaboration between major and core classes in a newly proposed pathway system. 

“I wanted to share some ideas I had about the future of the college and to see if other people agreed and might want me to help implement some of those ideas,” Andrews said. “I’m also committed to the liberal arts and sciences as a philosophical and professional way. Students take some important things away from learning about these fields, these disciplines and these courses.”

Reichert Powell cited her decade of research on retention methods and reasons students often leave an institution. She also spoke about the experience she gained directing the “Writing and Rhetoric” program as well as assi-sting the creation of Columbia’s Faculty Senate.

Corey, who has been interim dean since the Fall 2015 Semester, said his experience in that position with budgeting, personnel review and promotion, makes him a good fit for the role. He also discussed recent proposals for expanding honors programs for both Core and LAS courses that he developed as chair of the Core Curriculum Committee. 

“I wish I could say we’ve turned the corner and enrollment is going to pop up again and we will have all the money we need, but that is not going to happen for the foreseeable future,” Corey said. “Whoever is dean will have to deal with these very complex issues and so as odd as this sounds, I am compelled to remain as dean of LAS in order to provide some physical continuity and to continue the work and relationship I have established.”