CAS Dean Candidates Interviewing this Week

It’s that crazy time again, the end of not only the term but also of the school year. Just to make matters worse, my department has been thrown into what certainly feels like a new level of crisis because of some significant and last minute changes to the way stuff is done. I’m going to intentionally leave it vague like that for now, but once again, I believe the academically correct term for describing the situation is “clusterfuck.” 

Anyway, to add to all of this, EMU is interviewing finalists for the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). A word about academic pecking orders for those potentially reading this not familiar with these things: the academic part of things at EMU, like most universities, is divided up into colleges (and then there are departments within colleges), and CAS is the largest of the colleges by far. In theory, the Dean works for the Provost and the department heads within CAS would work for (or at least report to) this dean. Needless to say, it’s a significant leadership position.

I’m going to try to go to at least some of these, though we’ll see how it works out. Personally, I only have two questions I’d ask if given the opportunity: first, some variation of a question like “This equivalency mess you’re about to step into: um, how are you going to deal with train wreck coming this Fall?” and, closely related, “Can you explain to me how it is possible to add together a combination of threes and fours and arrive at 12? That is not ALL threes or ALL fours, but a mix of threes and fours– can you explain that math to an English major like me?”

The first candidate (he’s going to be on campus today and presenting to anyone interested at 1:30 pm in 108 Marshall Hall) is Roy Barnes. He’s an associate dean at the University of Michigan-Flint. He’s a sociologist, though he seems kind of like more of a business scholar/academic in the sense that his scholarship is about how corporate boards operate. I’m not sure I get that. Anyway, as far as I can tell from looking at his CV (all the candidate CVs are here, though it looks like you have to have the right EMU credentials to see these documents), Barnes has been at UM Flint since grad school and he’s been one version or another of administrator since 2002.

The second candidate is Charlene Gilbert and she’ll be doing her public presentation on Tuesday, April 11,  at 4:00 pm (again in 108 Marshall). I won’t be able to go to her presentation because of something else I have scheduled and that disappoints me because she strikes me as the interesting wildcard in this pool. Gilbert is the “Dean and Director” of Ohio State University at Lima (which I guess means she’s completely in charge of what is a satellite campus of THE Ohio State University), but she’s only been in that job since 2014. Prior to that, she was chair of women’s/gender studies at the University of Toledo (and if that department is anything like EMU’s women’s studies department, it means she was chair for a very small group of faculty). Prior to that, she did some other administrative work at Toledo along with being a professor there; prior to that, she was faculty at American University in DC and SUNY-Buffalo. The “wild card” part of things for me though is she is a documentary filmmaker whose terminal degree is an MFA in filmmaking.  Don’t get me wrong– her CV notes excellent achievements as a documentarian and she’s an impressive speaker and presence on various YouTube videos (here’s one link, but do a search for her and you’ll see more). I’m just not sure she has the administrative experience or academic background to make the jump to being dean of CAS.

The third candidate (she’ll be doing her public presentation thing on Wednesday at 1:30 in 108 Marshall) is Vandana Kohi. She’s also trained as a sociologist, though her PhD from Michigan State describes her field as “demography.” Interestingly enough, her MA and BA both come from universities in India, what I presume is her native country. She’s been one flavor or another of administrator at California State University at Bakersfield since about 2000 or so, and she’s been in an interim Associate VP position since 2015. Also on her CV is work in CSU’s faculty senate and time as the “Faculty Rights Officer, California Faculty Association,” which I think is the union for CSU faculty out there.

The fourth candidate– Thursday at 1:30, 108 Marshall– is Andrae Marak. His PhD is in Latin American Studies (I am not sure, but I think that he sees that work fitting into both Political Science and History) and he’s been some flavor of administrator at Governors State University (he’s the interim dean of CAS there now), Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (never knew there was a Columbus, Indiana before), and also at California University of Pennsylvania. That appears to where he started down the tenure-track in 2004. He’s probably the most “academic” of the lot in terms of publications and presentations and the like– though all of the candidates have impressive things on their CVs in that sense.

So we’ll see how this works out. I don’t know what it says that there are no internal candidates here (did no one here who could have applied wanted it? was no one here really viable? was the committee determined to bring in someone with a fresh view?), but I do think the head-hunting firm and committee has an interestingly diverse pool in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and scholarly backgrounds. This is my own bias, but I’m kinda glad that all of these folks seem to lean more toward the “arts” than the “sciences” of things– though sociology is sort of in-between of course.  All I know is whoever takes this job is in for a very VERY bumpy ride, probably for at least a year.

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