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Administration vacancies at SMC leave room for change

Liz Harter | Friday, May 19, 2006

Just weeks apart this past January, two of Saint Mary’s top administrators announced they would be resigning from their position at the College to head other academic institutions – leaving a major void within the hierarchy and a marked opportunity for change.

At the start of the spring 2006 semester vice president of student affairs Linda Timm announced she would be leaving Saint Mary’s to serve as president of Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisc.

The second announcement of position vacancy came from Vice President and Dean of Faculty Pat White who announced Jan. 28 that he would depart Saint Mary’s at the conclusion of the spring 2006 semester to begin his presidency at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.

The resignation of these two administrators has given College President Carol Ann Mooney significant shaping power over the school’s future.

In early April, Mooney and her search committee – comprised of College faculty, staff and students – invited the community to open forums to meet three candidates vying for the position of vice president and dean of faculty.

These forum discussions were meant for the College community to meet with the three candidates – who, Mooney said, did not necessarily exhaust the College’s options.

Although Mooney has not met her originally stated goal of naming a new vice president and dean of faculty by the conclusion of the spring 2006 semester, she has recently appointed business administration and economics chair and professor Jill Vihtelic as the acting vice president and dean of faculty until a replacement is found.

“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,” Mooney said.

Mooney said Vihtelic would serve as vice president and dean of faculty “for all of the fall semester and perhaps for spring as well.”

The primary role of the vice president and dean of faculty, White said in a January interview, 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 – something Vihtelic said she hopes to fulfill during her interim term.

In a letter sent to all students in the department of business administration and economics, Vihtelic explained that Professor Mary Ann Merryman would take over as chair of the department on June 1 when her appointment as vice president begins.

Vihtelic’s fall 2006 courses have been reassigned to other professors in the department.

“Following a short stint in administration, I expect to return to the department as a full-time member of the faculty sometime next year,” Vihtelic said.

A search committee has also identified a group of finalists for the position of vice president of student affairs, Mooney said, but because they have not all been contacted no names have been publicly released.

Vice President for Enrollment Management and head of the vice president of student affairs search committee Dan Meyer said even though the search is taking place over the summer, students would still be involved in the process.

“Since most students are no longer on campus, we decided to solicit nominations from students from the local market and those who are participating in summer courses,” Meyer said. “We have five to seven students recommended for interviews [with the candidates].”

Mooney said in an early April interview that she hopes to fill Timm’s vacancy prior to the start of the 2006-07 school year.