December 3, 2016

No active searches for interim occupied dean positions

For the majority of this academic year, two dean positions at Webster University have been held by interim appointments, a concern raised at the most recent meeting of the Faculty Assembly.

Vice Provost Nancy Hellerud said there are no active searches to permanently fill the two dean positions. She said it is not uncommon for searches to be put on hold while interim deans are in place.

The positions waiting to be filled include dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and dean of the School of Business and Technology. There are currently interim deans in place.

wilsonFormer Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Wilson stepped down Sept. 16, 2015. In an email Wilson sent to faculty members the day he stepped down, Wilson wrote he would be taking a sabbatical for the remainder of this academic year, with the expectation that he would return next year as dean emeritus, philosophy professor and senior advisor for external affairs. Emeritus is a term used to describe a position of retirement or leave.

Two interim co-deans now fill Wilson’s position: Jenny Broeder and Joseph Stimpfl, two faculty members of the College of Arts and Sciences. The announcement of the co-deans was made Oct. 8, 2015.

Former Dean of the Walker School of Business and Technology Benjamin Akande was named Westminster College’s new president on May 8, 2015. Thomas Johnson, Webster’s Associate Vice President and Chief of Strategic Initiatives, was announced as the interim dean to fill Akande’s position on June 3, 2015.

At a January meeting of the Faculty Assembly, some faculty members raised concerns about the delay of the search process for permanent deans.

Members of the Faculty Assembly submitted an array of questions they hoped would be addressed at the meeting. The 39 questions were published in a six-page document titled “Compiled Questions for President Stroble and Provost Schuster.”

At that meeting, President Elizabeth Stroble addressed some concerns about interim dean positions and the search process for permanent deans. She said searches for new deans had not begun because there were things the interim deans needed to accomplish first.

Martha Smith, associate professor of math and sciences in the School of Business and Technology, said she is concerned a search for a permanent dean has not begun. She also said this is a widespread concern among the School of Business and Technology.

“It’s hard to tell where the school is moving — what direction we are moving — since we don’t have a permanent dean,” Smith said. 

Program Director of the College of Arts and Sciences Kelly-Kate Pease said she has no concerns about the search process for a permanent dean in her college.

“Given that the need for a replacement [for the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences] became open at the beginning of the fall semester, we wouldn’t search until July because you can’t get somebody in the middle of the semester,” Pease said.

Pease said from her understanding, the search for a permanent dean will start next academic year and that a permanent dean would be in place the following year.

“In terms of the College of Arts and Sciences, I don’t think we are delayed,” Pease said. “These things take time. Now if we’re not moving [in the search process] by July, I’ll have some concerns about it.”

Of the university’s five dean positions, three of those are currently filled with permanent deans. Administrative interim employees are identified when a position cannot remain unattended for any length of time. Employees who are identified are those with the skills and credentials needed to step directly into a position and be effective very quickly. Interims remain on the job until a permanent employee is identified.

Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said he does not have an update on any active searches for new permanent deans, but will contact The Journal with any new information.

Check back with The Journal as this story develops.

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