April 10, 2009

Surge of Candidates Slows Eng. Dean Search

Print More

The marathon race for the deanship at the College of Engineering will be prolonged, the Dean Search Committee announced in an e-mail on Tuesday.
As of last evening, the Dean’s position is contested among about 240 potential candidates, according to John Siliciano, vice provost and chair of the dean search committee. While the committee had hoped to announce and bring the finalists to the Cornell campus by the end of this term, the sheer volume of applications and nominations they received made this impossible, he said.
Therefore, the Provost and the committee decided to extend the preliminary search process in order to ensure a careful evaluation on each candidate.
The new Dean is expected to be chosen by early to mid fall, according to Siliciano. At the moment, the committee aims to identify and interview 10 to 15 candidates in a confidential and off-campus setting. Siliciano said that three to five finalists will be chosen by the end of this term, but their names will not be announced until the end of summer, when students and faculty return to campus.
The finalists will visit Cornell and speak with all constituents early during the Fall Semester. The search committee will then submit its recommendations to Provost Kent Fuchs is expected to choose the new dean in two to four weeks, after consulting with President David Skorton. The Provost’s final selection has to be approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.
Among the current pool of applicants and nominees, Siliciano said that there are more external candidates than internal ones. While the nature of the job to lead “a top engineering college in a top university” — has attracted many who now work in other institutions, Siliciano maintained that there is also “a significant number of internal nominations.”
The committee will strive to evaluate internal and external applications equally, he added.
While the selection process is confidential now, the committee hopes for student involvement when the finalists visit Ithaca in the fall.
“We want students to get involved in the stage when it really matters, when we bring [the finalists] to campus,” Siliciano said.
Siliciano added that the ideal candidate should understand the college’s dual emphasis on both research and education, and be able to relate the two aspects. The position announcement also stated that the ideal candidate should have “a strong record of accomplishment as a scholar, coupled with a commitment to research,” demonstrate “creative leadership,” and possess “experience [in] setting sound strategic priorities in challenging times,” among other qualities.
The importance of diversity is also listed in the announcement, which stated that “nominations of and applications from women and other underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged,” and cited the “demonstrated ability [in] recruiting and retaining women and minority faculty, staff and students” as one of the many sought-after qualities.
“[Encouraging applications and nominations from minorities] is what we do in all searches, but especially in engineering, because typically the engineering field is less diverse than what we want,” said Siliciano, emphasizing that diversity is only one of the many factors.
One of the biggest challenges for the search committee, which is comprised of 11 faculty and staff members and convenes for at least two hours every week, is to encourage interest in the position while evaluating the candidates.
“It’s a two-way street,” Siliciano said. “You are doing the picking and evaluating, but you also want to do it in a way that attracts them to the opportunity.”
The search began last October when Fuchs, who was then dean of the College of Engineering, was chosen to succeed Biddy Martin as University Provost.