University increases student involvement in search for new Weinberg dean

Olivia Exstrum, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern faculty and administrators are involving more students in the search for the next dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences after students voiced concerns about their lack of involvement in the process at an open forum in October.

A student interview group, chosen by the Weinberg College Student Advisory Board, will assist in the selection of a new dean. The group will conduct an interview with candidates during the selection process. Students are also invited to attend focus groups being held next week to give input about what they want in a candidate.

The search to hire a replacement for Sarah Mangelsdorf has been underway since Spring Quarter, when Mangelsdorf announced she was chosen to be the new provost at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With Chemistry Prof. Mark Ratner serving as the temporary dean for the 2014-15 academic year, the search is on schedule to finalize a selection for the position by the end of Winter Quarter 2015.

Student representatives from the SAB met with Jake Julia, associate provost of academic initiative, and the Provost’s Office after the October forum to talk about strategies to increase student participation.

“We think that we had a very good discussion regarding student engagement in the search and mutually agreed that having a group of students to talk to final candidates and interview them would be good for candidates and student representation as well,” Julia said. “From my perspective, it was a very engaging and positive dialogue.”

Julia said the office originally met with these students last spring, but at the time did not want to change the makeup of the search committee. The 17-member committee comprises faculty members from different departments within Weinberg, one alumna and one student, a Weinberg senior.

“The students will be talking with the Provost’s Office about what the dean does, which is a good thing because it’ll make sure students know what to look for in a candidate, as well as see which candidate will fit their needs,” said Weinberg senior Anna Rennich, Associated Student Government academic vice president.

The student interview group will include four undergraduate students and will be chosen from the SAB, Rennich said. The board’s executive members recently released the application, and executive members and the Dean’s Office will conduct interviews. Two graduate students will be chosen by Julia’s office to be a part of the group as well.

In addition to the interview group, focus groups run by the SAB’s executive board will meet over the course of four days next week, said Weinberg senior Hannah Springer, SAB co-chair. She said any student, but particularly those in Weinberg, is welcome to attend the focus groups. The groups will give input on what they are looking for in a potential dean, and this feedback will be compiled and given to English Prof. Wendy Wall, chair of the search committee.

“After going to (the forum), it was clear students wanted their voices heard and that the open forum wasn’t sufficient,” said Weinberg senior Lindsay Jagla, SAB co-chair. “We wanted something student-driven.”

Jagla said she was pleased with how the faculty have responded to students’ desire to be more involved in the search.

“Prior to the open search forum, the faculty didn’t realize how passionate students were about this and how much we wanted to be involved,” she said. “Once we made it clear that we wanted a larger voice, they were very receptive.”

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Weinberg chooses new interim dean continues search