Committees work to select new deans for colleges

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The two soon-to-be-vacated college dean positions for next fall will undergo a thorough screening process by search and screen committees, committee members said.

With the deans of the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Business and Economics scheduled to depart at the end of the school year, the committees must find an applicant whose academic vision reflects those of the college and the university.

“Our aspirations have to match,” said Shan Barkataki, computer science professor and chair of the search and screen committee. “He or she makes (his or her) own path. And the path the college takes can’t be too far away. It’s very tough to find a good, solid chemistry.”

As chair of the search and screen committee, Barkataki said the committee’s task is to narrow down the applicant pool for the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science in time for the Fall 2006 semester.

Because of a potential dean’s responsibilities and the financial compensation the university provides them with, determining which applicants warrant further consideration by the search committee is no small accomplishment, committee members and university officials said.

Barkataki said fundraising abilities are just one of the many attributes the search committee looks for in a potential dean, and that under the leadership of the college’s present dean, Sheng-taur Mau, the college was able to recently secure a $1 million gift.

Barkataki said many within the college would miss the guidance of Mau, who decided to return to teaching next year.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Barkataki said. “You have to be very talented with significant accomplishments in scholarly work and administration. But some people find fulfillment in doing what a dean is required to do.”

Abe Feinberg, chair of the search and screen committee for the dean of the College of Business and Economics, said the current dean, Fred Evans, has a limited three-year contract.

Working on a committee is time-consuming, and before Feinberg even begins to look at the applicants’ files, he must have the screening questionnaires approved, he said.

Feinberg, a professor in the Systems and Operations Management Department, said the committee would soon begin phone interviews and reference checks.

After two rounds of reducing the applicant pool, applicants are brought onto campus for face-to-face interviews with committee members in December, and by February the committee sends their report with the recommended top four or five candidates to the office of the provost, Feinberg said.

But even after the long process of searching for a new dean, there are no guarantees a dean will be selected.

“One possibility could be the provost rejects all of the candidates and the search is extended into a second year,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a while to get a good one.”

The opportunity of working on a search committee is usually reserved for senior faculty members, Feinberg said.

“Someone who arrived on campus a few years ago wouldn’t have the experience,” he said.

Before any candidate is offered a contract to sign, the proper search procedures listed in the Manual of Procedures for Search and Screen Committees for Academic-Administrative Positions must be followed, said Penny Jennings, associate vice president of Faculty Affairs at CSUN.

The manual explains how the makeup of the committee is determined, what the first order of business is for the elected members and how they are to evaluate candidates. It also describes with whom the committee will be working and submitting their reports to.

“It is important that the committee have clarity on the step-by-step process so that equity is ensured for everybody,” Jennings said. “Equity means that there has to be consistency in how we do the searches, consistency in the makeup of the committee, and that expectations are met and the process is followed.”

Jennings said the committee consults with personnel from the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Personnel Planning and Review Committee and eventually submits the top applicants’ files to Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, for his final selection.

Filling a dean’s position involves advertising the vacancy on the national level and is a yearlong process, and sometimes deans are hired on an interim basis, Hellenbrand said.

“Sometimes we don’t want to hire a person (permanently) until we clarify what we want that person to do,” he said.

Randy Cohen, a biology professor and chair of the 2004-05 search committee for the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said committee members understand what is expected of them.

The dean’s first year is like the “honeymoon period,” where the faculty goes to great lengths to ensure that the transition runs smoothly, he said.

Cohen also said the faculty seems to be pleased with the committee’s recommendations and the provost’s selection, Jerry Stinner, who began his term as dean Summer 2005 after coming to CSUN from the University of Akron in Ohio.

“I believe it is the most important task at the university to fill the empty (dean) spots,” Cohen said. “It can be very intimidating if you’re helping to narrow down the choices. If you hire a good candidate, the university is better off. If you don’t, the university is not.”

Julio Morales can be reached at Julio.morales.605@csun.edu.