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Evaluating Dean’s Candidates

November 15, 2011

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

For the past few weeks chairs and directors of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have been evaluating dean’s candidates for a vacancy at Iowa State University. In a few months, I will have a new boss, and today I am recommending one of the five for the position.

Five candidates have just finished campus visits. I know two of them, a colleague who chairs the Psychology Department here and a former ISU associate dean (now a dean) who would like to return to campus in a lateral move from a western university.

Whom to choose?

One candidate would be good for the School but perhaps not for the College. Another would be ideal for the College but perhaps not the School. One candidate would rely on department chairs to learn parts of the job, meaning we would help mold him; another would know the job from Day One. Two candidates seemed to emphasize research more than teaching; two, teaching more than research; and one, both.

I thought about my interviews with the finalists. Internal candidates have an advantage because we know them; then again, they are disadvantaged because we know them. With internal candidates, we don’t have to explain who we are or recount our programs’ strengths and weaknesses; they know them. We can use our interview time more selectively by asking (or avoiding) pointed questions.

External candidates require more time. For starters, they do not know our jargon, such as “A-Base” employee for administrators on an annual contract and “B-Base” for those on a nine-month contract. External candidates also have to explain things, such as caring about the social sciences and humanities even though they may be scientists.

Three of the five candidates are scientists; two, social scientists with significant research agendas. All impressed me in one way or another. The Search Committee chose wisely.

After much contemplation, I did not endorse the candidate that would be best for the Greenlee School. Instead, I affirmed the candidate whose vision was closest to the institution’s strategic plan, including these tenets:

  • Recruit, support, retain, and graduate a diverse group of outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and professional students dedicated to making a difference in the world.
  • Foster a university culture and work environment that rewards faculty and staff for their contributions, supports a balance between work and life, and inspires individuals to work together to achieve at the highest level of their abilities.
  • Incorporate research and engagement in the student experience to produce civic-minded graduates who are well prepared to address complex societal problems.

Here is a passage of my letter to the Provost and the Search Committee, underscoring these principles:

“I believe in this candidate we will see a renewed sense of collegial spirit, a dedication to both undergraduate and graduate education across divisions, an ability to handle complex tasks with a combination of firmness and humanness (a rare combination), and a focus on economy, sustainability, diversity and service.”

I don’t know at this point if my favored candidate will be appointed. But I do know that I did my best to represent the School, College and University by emphasizing our shared values.

In the end, sharing values ensures shared governance.

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