March 29, 2001

Candidates Interview for Engineering Dean Position

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The College of Engineering is now one step closer to choosing its new J. Silbert Dean of Engineering, as administrators, faculty and students are completing the second interview of the five candidates for the position.

The chosen candidate should be announced in late April, according to Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin.

John Hopcroft, the current dean, will vacate the office when his contract ends in June.

As students returned to campus from Spring break, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Prof. Daniel Hastings also arrived at Cornell for his interview with administrators.

Hastings could not be reached for comment about his interview experience.

He is the first candidate to be interviewed by the selection committee, in a process scheduled to end April 12, according to Anthony Cashen, a director at the external committee hired to find candidates from outside Cornell.

“Candidates will spend approximately one and one-half days on campus meeting and talking with the various … University constituent groups that are most interested and connected parties to the dean,” Cashen stated via e-mail.

Cashen indicated that these groups include students, the dean search committee, engineering and interdisciplinary faculty, department chairs and directors, administrators, University deans and Martin, who has coordinated the dean search since its inception.

Prof. Clifford Pollock, electrical and computer engineering, has begun meetings for his interview.

“I’m right in the middle of it,” Pollock said, noting that he still has another full day of conferences with committees and students.

Yesterday included a two-hour question-and-answer period with deans and department chairs. Pollock noted the broad coverage the administrators employed during the session.

“They asked all sorts of questions. It was a very interesting session,” he said.

He stressed that although he is a professor at Cornell, the meetings are aimed at examining internal and external candidates objectively.

“I don’t think it gives me an advantage or a disadvantage,” Pollock said.

He added that although he may have a better understanding of the concerns within Cornell, the process is objective enough to seek out the most important qualities in a dean.

“They’re looking for leadership,” he said.

For Pollock, today will consist of meetings with committees and students throughout the day, starting at 8 a.m.

His views on how to direct the engineering school are only the first in a series of possibilities for the college. As the interview process continues, the other candidates should contribute many more of their own ideas.

Rice University professor and chair of the Rice bioengineering department Larry McIntire will visit Cornell in the first week of April.

University of California-Berkeley Prof. Alice Agogino is the last candidate to be interviewed during the week of April 9th.

Prof. Sidney Leibovich, mechanical and space engineering, who is scheduled to interview the week of April 5, is eagerly awaiting his opportunity to voice his concern for the Engineering College.

“There are a lot of questions and concerns … about the future of the institution,” Leibovich said.

He guides his approach to the engineering school with this principle. “I feel strongly that [the College of Engineering] is a world treasure and it should be kept that way,” he said.

From the information that administrators have given the candidates — who are mostly new to the interviews — the process seems to be progressing smoothly, Leibovich said.

“The people who’ve organized this process know about the major [engineering] constituencies,” he continued, “It [the process] is quite reasonable.”

One important focus the selection committee has addressed is the amount of engineering student involvement in the process.

“My experience has been that … undergraduates are very constructive. They want to see change in the university,” Leibovich said.

Pollock, whose meetings with students begin today, is also pleased with student involvement in the selection.

“I always like talking to students. That should be fun,” Pollock said.

The Engineering Student Leadership Council (ESLC) selected the group of students from applications drawn from their general meetings, according to ESLC president Regina Clewlow ’01.

“The [students] will have lunch with the candidates, where they will be able to ask questions regarding issues that they feel are important to consider in the selection of a dean,” Clewlow said.

These students will participate actively throughout the interview process.

“The ESLC will coordinate the meetings with the candidates,” Clewlow said. “Based on their experiences with the candidates, the student committee members will submit feedback to the ESLC. Our organization will compile all student feedback and submit it to the Search Committee,” he added.

Through this and other measures, the search committee hopes to subdue criticism on the lack of student interest in the process.

The Student Assembly previously criticized Martin and the search committee for the lack of student representation directly within the selection process.

Students participating in the process also feel that they are valuably contributing to selecting the new dean.

“The dean is the chief executive of the college [of engineering] and will have a big effect on its future. He or she will control the budget, and will set the direction of Cornell engineering, maintaining the balance between education and research,” the ESLC states on their website.

Prof. Mike Shuler informed Clewlow of the criteria for deciding who will participate In the entire process, thus allowing the ESLC to determine who would make good candidates.

Shuler noted that the ESLC primarily looked for students that commit actively to engineering, are good leaders and represent “all 10 engineering disciplines,” Clewlow said.

“We wanted a diverse group of students,” Shuler said, “We wanted these to be students that are committed to speaking with all of the candidates.”

Commitment through this long, thorough process is one attribute Pollock notes is important in the candidates and the administration.

“The process is quite interesting,” Pollock said.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins