April 14, 2010

Search for New CALS Dean Moves to Next Step

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As her second five-year term comes to an end in June, Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University, is planning to step down. The interview process for the new dean concluded Monday. The decision is expected to be announced later this semester.

The search committee is now observing a one-week grace period during which the Cornell community is welcome to submit input and preferences regarding the choice for the position. Following the week of input from the community, the committee will make a recommendation to Provost Kent Fuchs, who will then make a final decision later this semester about who to hire.

Throughout the process, the members of the Cornell and Ithaca community have voiced their concerns regarding specific qualities they would like to see in a new dean. Ron Seeber, vice provost for land grant affairs and chair of the search committee, noted the variety of qualifications that have been mentioned. While some are looking for a candidate who is cutting edge in his or her field and is strong in academic leadership, others are more concerned about administrative experience and prefer a candidate who can “hit the ground running and do a good job in directing CALS during this difficult time here at the university,” Seeber said.

Pooja Sarkar ’11, chair of CALS Ambassadors, said she was impressed by the way the search has been conducted.

“The CALS dean search has been conducted in a thorough, transparent and insightful way, involving everyone from the very beginning [and working] to ensure that we, as a community, are playing an active role in shaping the future direction of the college,” Sarkar said.

David ‘Skip’ Hardie, a Lansing farmer whose son is a junior at the University, said he is strongly in favor of a dean that will look toward making advances in the dairy industry. According to Hardie, the dairy industry of New York, as well as that of the rest of the country, is at “a juncture as to whether it continues to be a strong viable industry or whether it starts to head downhill without much hope for reversal.” He said a candidate with a strong background in both the agricultural sector, and the dairy industry in particular, who can lead CALS to bring the dairy industry forward will be the best choice for the dean position.

One difficult task that the new dean will have to undertake is the management of budget cuts in CALS and throughout the rest of the University.

“The dean will have to deal with some budget issues and have to provide some vision as to how the college, once they go into the future, evolving science with new and emerging issues, under budget constraints, and how the college might be reorganized as part of the strategic plan,” said Prof. Harold M. Van Es, crop and soil sciences, a member of the search committee.

Additionally, Luke Chan ’11, co-chair of the Student Advisory Committee for the Dean, said he worries about the new dean’s connections with the undergraduates of CALS. He noted the closeness with which Dean Henry worked to ensure interaction with CALS students.

“The new dean must be receptive to students and be prepared to meet with students and facilitate the resolution of student concerns,” Chan said.

Lindsay Knable ’11, co-chair of the Student Advisory Committee for the dean, agreed with Chan’s hopes for the new dean regarding the dean’s connections with the students of CALS.

“I sincerely hope that the future dean of CALS will be as receptive as Dean Henry to student input, for it has made a huge impact on the college experience of many CALS students,” Knable said.

When the search process for a new dean began in September 2009, committee chair Ron Seeber began the process by speaking to the different constituent groups within CALS. “[We talked to] alumni, students, staff, stakeholders in the college, among others, and got their sense of what characteristics they thought the next dean should have,” Seeber said.

After posting an announcement for the open dean position, the committee then began receiving nominations for faculty and individual applications for the job. In late October and November 2009, the committee then combed through the approximately 225 applications that were received.

The committee narrowed the number of potential candidates to a dozen, Seeber said. In January, the candidates were interviewed off campus. From this group, the committee selected four finalists for the dean position.

As part of the interview procedure, the four candidates met with different members of the University faculty and administration as well as the committee itself. Additionally, “[the candidates] make public presentations to an open forum to answer questions about themselves and how they view the college,” Seeber said.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh