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Candidates for School of Media Arts dean conclude campus visits

Christalyn Barker
Associate Provost of Academic Services Brian Marth takes notes while Michelle Carpenter talks on her bid to be Dean of the School of Media Arts, in Ferguson Hall on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. Carpenter mentioned her previous work and what she would bring to the table as Dean.

The college hosted three finalists being considered to lead the School of Media Arts.

The third and final candidate visited on Monday, Jan. 29 to meet with academic leaders and administrators, tour campus and deliver a presentation.

The School of Media Arts includes the Audio Arts and Acoustics, Cinema and Television Arts, Communication and Interactive Media Arts departments.

Current Interim Dean Tom Dowd, an associate professor from IAM, stepped into the position this past summer after Eric Freedman left to serve as the provost at Truman State University.

During open forums with the campus community, candidates were given 30 minutes to introduce themselves and speak about their interest in the role and to discuss the current challenges in higher education that will impact Columbia.

A search committee, which has been meeting since last summer, selected the three finalists to bring to campus. The committee included department chairs, faculty, staff and a part-time faculty representative.

The college hired an outside firm, Issacson, Miller, to lead the search for the new dean, which reports to the provost and is responsible for the strategic direction of the school.

The candidates:

Andrew P. Nelson, who visited on Thursday, Jan. 25, is the chair of the Film and Media Arts Department at the University of Utah, a position he’s held since 2019. 

Nelson said during his time as department chair he has increased faculty and staff, raised compensation, diversified the student body and advocated for a flexible curriculum that “affords students the opportunity to learn a broad range of moving image practices, grounded in a holistic understanding of media art.” 

Jason Schmitt, who presented on Friday, Jan. 26, is the associate dean for the School of Arts and Sciences at Clarkson University. Schmitt said his goals include to strategically develop and execute an innovative vision for the SMA, position the school to grow enrollment and support diversity, equity and inclusion and effectively lead the school through organizational management.

He proposed a science-based communication institute as part of his plans.

Michelle B. Carpenter, chair of the Visual Arts Department at the University of Colorado, was the last candidate to present on Monday, Jan. 29, telling the forum her film career and creative work have earned her multiple awards in the field. 

Carpenter described herself as “collaborative and transparent” and said that working with students would be a big part of her leadership style.

“Nothing is ever not talked about because we have to do deep dives into our areas to understand what’s going on and how we can make it better and sustainable for the long run,” Carpenter said.

What faculty are saying:

Senior Associate Provost Nathan Bakkum said “Media Arts has been an important space of growth and innovation for the college for a long time.”

“The world is going to be a very different place and leadership that understands that trajectory and can bring together the community in response to that changing world is really important to the continued relevance and value of Columbia College,” Bakkum said, who is also an associate professor in the Music Department.

Bakkum said the search for a new dean is an important opportunity for the college to “set the direction for the School of Media Arts and the way that it connects with the college as a whole.”

Associate Chair and Professor in Audio Arts and Acoustics Visda Goudarzi said the search for the school’s new dean is vital for the college’s future.

“At a time of rapid change in higher education, the dean’s leadership is crucial for the school’s relevance, and success, making their role significantly impactful in setting the college’s direction and ensuring its continued advancement,” Goudarzi said.

What students are saying:

Student Government Association President Tyler Harding said the school should be looking for a candidate that is “student focused” and a candidate that is going to “reiterate the college’s commitment to students as well as work to improve student’s academic experience.”

 “I think that that’s what the goal of these interviews are, searching for a candidate that can fulfill the needs of the students and serve the students,” Harding said. 

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About the Contributors
Vivian Richey
Vivian Richey, Assistant Campus Editor
vrichey@columbiachronicle.com   Vivian Richey is a sophomore journalism major, who reports on the college's Faculty Senate, Columbia's COVID-19 protocols and campus art exhibitions. She joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Christalyn Barker
Christalyn Barker, Former Photojournalist
cbarker@columbiachronicle.com   Christalyn Barker is a senior photojournalism major, minoring in music business. Barker has covered campus events such as Convocation, Acoustic Kitchen performances, and metro events. She worked for the Chronicle from August 2023 through May 2024.   Hometown: Dearborn, Michigan