February 29, 2008

C.U. Hopes to Announce New AAP Dean This Fall

Print More

The University is making headway in its search for the next dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning following the resignation of Mohsen Mostafavi at the end of last semester. Under the leadership of John Siliciano, vice provost, a search committee began looking for Mostafavi’s successor after he told Cornell last August that he would step down to become dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
“Dean Mostafavi stepped down somewhat unexpectedly, so we are not on our normal cycle. The search is moving fine, and we have app­oi­nt­ed a search committee made up of faculty, staff and a student. We also hired an outside search firm to assist us and then bring those names to the search committee,” he said.
The committee’s goal is to narrow potential candidates down to four by late spring and introduce the next dean in the fall.
Prof. Milton Curry, architecture, said finding a dean to lead the college is particularly challenging given the nature of AAP.
“The dean of the college is important in maintaining the continuity of academic and research initiatives and getting those robustly funded. It is very important to have a new dean in place as soon as possible — College of AAP is a small college, and the dean of our college has to be very aggressive in advocating for the appropriate resources to maintain and achieve leadership in the three disciplines represented in the college,” Curry, a member of the search committee, said.
Furthermore, he stressed the importance of finding a dean who can maintain Cornell’s reputation in the art and architecture fields.
“It’s not just about finding a full-time corporate fundraiser — that’s not what academia is all about. They have to be excited about ideas and student work, faculty creative work and new initiatives that cement Cornell’s leadership among its peers in architecture, art, and on urban issues globally,” Curry said. “In order to continue to attract the best students particularly at the graduate level, we need to fill both the position of AAP dean and architecture chair.”
Recent years has seen significant turnover within the AAP administration. In July 2004, Mostafavi replaced Porus Olpadwala as dean, and in June 2006, Nasrine Seraji resigned as department of architecture chair. Mark Cruvellier is currently serving as interim chair of the department.
“In the past four years, we’ve have a lot of change in AAP. From a student’s point of view it would be nice to have some stability. What I’ve seen is that the instability affects the faculty existence, meaning the hiring of faculty,” Molly Chiang ’08, who is the only student on the AAP dean search committee. “A faculty member leaving affects students who have established relations with that professor, especially because writing a thesis is a requirement of AAP students, and students really look to establish strong rela-tionships with professors starting freshman year.”
He identified three main areas the next dean will have to confront.
“The paramount issue that any new dean will face is, one, developing a strategy to hire the next generation of talented and diverse faculty for our college, as we face massive retirement in the next 10 to 15 years; two, creating the right atmosphere for faculty to do their best research; and three, ensuring that the college’s departments are able to attract the very best graduate students available globally,” Curry stated in an e-mail.
He stressed the importance pushing forward efforts in the M1 first professional degree program, the AAP New York City Center and a growing number of interdisciplinary and international initiatives.
One particular concern is whether the current “visiting” faculty members, who signed one-year contracts while Mostafavi was dean will have their contracts renewed.
Currently, W. Stanley Taft is serving as interim dean of AAP. Since Mostafavi departed, Taft has had to take the lead in projects including overseeing the planning of Milstein Hall, which has suffered numerous setbacks in the past seven years. He has also worked to build up the NYC Center.
Milstein Hall plans and other programs Mostafavi set in motion are moving forward, Taft said.
“We are moving ahead with plans for Milstein Hall. There is no change in the direction of the project or the momentum of the project. I think that the relationships [with the City] are quite good. There are some negotiations continuing between the Univer­sity and Ithaca over the ownership of the road but I think these are quite productive,” Taft said.
The transition to interim dean has been smooth, Taft said.
“I haven’t really experienced any obstacles per se yet. Dean Mostafavi was here for a semester after he was leaving. I don’t know if that can be characterized as quick or not,” said Taft. “I guess the difficulty is just becoming acclimated to the position, which is quite different than associate dean.”
Although programs and initiatives set in place by Mostafavi may not have suffered many setbacks, students and faculty emphasized the importance of finding a permanent dean.
In terms of the state of AAP, Curry explained that it is “not stalled but when you are setting up for the long term there are a lot of long-term decisions that need to be made.”
“Interim Dean Taft is doing a good job,” Curry said. However, “we should not expect or want an interim dean to make long-term decisions that would constrict a new dean in the future — so I appreciate the difficulty of continuity with the previous leadership, wanting to be decisive and yet not wanting to make too many long-term commitments,” he added in an e-mail.