Emory University recently started the search process for the next Emory College of Arts and Sciences dean. The position was left vacant after former Emory College Dean Michael Elliott accepted a position to become president of Amherst College (Mass.) on Aug. 1.
The University’s search for the next dean will be a long process, with candidates expected to begin applying over winter break, according to William R. Kenan Professor of Philosophy John Lysaker, who is chairing the search committee alongside Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Ravi Bellamkonda. Lysaker said that Emory will select and announce the new dean toward the end of the spring semester.
“Sometimes these searches … get resolved very quickly, and it’s an internal candidate,” Lysaker said. “This is not one of those searches. We’re going to look at everyone and see, but there’s no presumption that the person has to be from outside, just like there’s no presumption that a person from inside will be better or worse.”
Currently, Goodrich C. White Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Carla Freeman is filling in as the interim Emory College dean.
Emory launched a website to describe its process for finding the next Emory College dean. The website describes the dean as the chief academic leader and administrative officer for the College, working collaboratively with faculty, students, staff and alumni to further advance the College’s education, research and service goals. The Emory College dean is also responsible for working with the deans of other schools within Emory, setting the College’s priorities and overseeing a budget of approximately $300 million and about $25 million in grants.
Bellamkonda and Lysaker were in charge of putting together the team for the Emory College dean search. Lysaker stated that he wanted all perspectives in Emory College to be represented on the council.
“Like in any search process, you want broad representation — people from different divisions, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities,” Lysaker said. “You want demographic differences. You want gender, race, ethnicity differences. You want a committee that feels like a mini college.”
Sam Goldstone (25C), who is the lone undergraduate student on the committee, said that he was chosen to help with the search because he reached out to senior faculty at Emory and described his experience giving input when his high school was hiring new principals and superintendents.
The University hired an outside global executive search firm WittKieffer to help decide what they wanted in the next Emory College dean, Goldstone added.
Goldstone called into question how such an important decision only has input from one undergraduate student.
“I think it’s very important to center student voices in this decision, and yet, I’m the only undergraduate student on the selection board, which is very interesting,” Goldstone said. “It’s a testament to how difficult the work is going to be.”
Lysaker said that listening to every academic department helped him realize what the next college dean has to be able to accomplish, noting that the ideal candidate will not favor either the humanities or the natural sciences.
“They need to be attentive to and responsive to what people now call the undergraduate experience,” Lysaker said. “Emory is striving to be an elite research university but deliver an undergraduate education that feels much more like a residential liberal arts college, and that’s harder than it sounds.”
Goldstone and Lysaker both agreed that Elliott would be a tough act to follow, saying that he was great at making a big University like Emory feel like a small liberal arts college where everyone knows each other.
Lysaker added that Elliott’s “great strength” was taking accountability and explaining his reasoning behind difficult decisions.
“People will digest a decision they don’t like much more easily if they’re given good reasons and it’s clear the person was thoughtful,” Lysaker said.
The next dean’s ability to fundraise for the College is also of great importance to Lysaker, who said that the College has been “relatively poor given the wealth of the University” compared to when he arrived on campus 14 years ago.
“It relies heavily on tuition dollars for its operating budget and that just means there’s not a lot of wiggle room for innovation, and it means a sudden surge in need for financial aid, which Emory excels at, will come at the expense of other initiatives,” Lysaker said.
Goldstone said he wants the new dean to be a leader who will listen to student’s wants and needs while also balancing the role of overseeing faculty and other undergraduate responsibilities.
“It’s really important to me to have a dean who truly cares and wants to be involved in the everyday lives of the students, not somebody who’s just going to sit in their office all day doing administrative work, but truly do the work on campus, talking to students, getting to know people and using what they learned from the student experience to improve the student experience at the college at an academic level,” Goldstone said.
Spencer Friedland (26cC is from Long Island, New York and is the Emory Wheel's News Editor. He is a Philosophy, Politics and Law major and has a secondary major in Film. Spencer is also apart of the Franklin Fellows program at Emory.