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Saint Mary’s searches for new VPs

Kelly Meehan | Wednesday, April 5, 2006

As two of the top three Saint Mary’s administrators prepare to step down from their positions this spring – marking a new era at the College – students and faculty have the opportunity to meet two candidates vying for the position of vice president and dean of faculty at open forums this week.

Saint Mary’s religious studies professor Joe Incandela and Dean of the Faculty at Colgate University Jill Tiefenthaler, a Saint Mary’s alumna, will participate in two open forums today and Thursday, as well as closed sessions specifically for faculty members.

The candidate visits are part of a broader search to fill the vacancies soon to be left in the heart of the administration by current Vice President and Dean of Faculty Pat White and Vice President of Student Affairs Linda Timm – a gap that will give College President Carol Ann Mooney significant shaping power over the school’s future.

The search began when White announced on Jan. 28 that he was leaving the College to head Wabash College in Crawford-sville, Ind.

This announcement occur-red only days after Timm announced she would leave Saint Mary’s to serve as president of Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wis.

The vacancies left by Timm and White’s departure will be filled prior to the start of the 2006-07 school year, said Mooney, who hopes to name the vice president and dean of faculty before the conclusion of the spring semester.

Although the specifics regarding the search for the vice president of student affairs have yet to be publicly released, Mooney, the search committee chair, said she plans to fill the position before August.

Despite being faced with the challenge of hiring two head administrators at once, Mooney said she does not “foresee any period of instability during the search process” and said replacing more than one administrator at a time is not “particularly unusual.”

Mooney said the search committee is seeking “someone who will recruit and retain a strong and diverse faculty, articulate a clear academic strategy for the College, provide administrative leadership to the faculty and be a strong spokesperson and excellent communicator.”

The primary role of the vice president and dean of faculty, White said, is to serve as the chief academic officer of the College and to lead faculty to continue personal development through reviewing and improving academic programs and promoting quality teaching, scholarship and service.

This transition period within the administration comes while the College is facing several challenges as it strives to implement initiatives to continue its tradition of academic excellence – something White is confident his replacement will be able to achieve, he said.

“I am sure the new vice president and dean of faculty, whoever that person is, will bring to the position personal and professional integrity, clarity of thought, a sense of humor and an affection for the College, our faculty, staff and students, a commitment to the excellence of teaching and learning at Saint Mary’s College, a devotion to the education of Saint Mary’s women and a passion for helping faculty and students grow and develop,” he said.

White said he hoped the new vice president and dean of faculty would continue to expand upon the potential of the Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadership and remain enthusiastic about providing an education that fosters diversity while encouraging the Saint Mary’s faculty and students to grow as both teachers and learners.

White’s positive outlook is apparent among other members of the College community who say they embrace the transition.

“Anytime you bring new leadership there is an opportunity for new ideas and a new vision for the College,” biology professor and search committee member Tom Platt said. “This is a critical point for the College to look toward the future both academically and for student engagement in shaping their educational experience.”

Communication studies professor and search committee member John Pauley stressed the importance of students’ presence at the forums – one scheduled for Incandela today from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 in Welsh Parlor in Haggar, the other for Tiefenthaler at the same time and place Thursday.

He said the value Saint Mary’s puts on student input was “almost uncharacteristic of other colleges and universities.”

“The [vice president and dean of faculty] could influence the academic climate of the College … something everyone should care about quite a bit,” he said.

Those who attend the open forums, Mooney said, will have the change to submit an evaluation form to be used in the final selection process.

Both candidates were selected from an applicant pool and met privately with the search committee prior to addressing the campus community as a whole.

Mooney said these two candidates do not necessarily exhaust the College’s replacement options and a third may be visit campus in the near future. The candidate who best fits the College’s vision will be chosen as the next vice president and dean of faculty, she said.

“The successful candidate must support our distinctive mission as a Catholic college and as a women’s college and have a thorough understanding of the goals of a liberal arts education,” she said.

White echoed Mooney’s goals for the new vice president and said he hopes that he or she will continue to guide Saint Mary’s in a positive direction.

“I hope that Saint Mary’s will get better every day and that under the leadership of the vice president and dean of faculty teaching and learning at Saint Mary’s will achieve new heights of excellence,” he said. “Saint Mary’s College is a great college, as we all know, but we are great in part because we are always striving to do better.”