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Search for the Dean of the College and Graduate School

Winter 2007

This is a first report on the search for the dean of the College and Graduate School who will succeed Dean Ayers when he becomes president of the University of Richmond next summer. My purposes here are to explain the process, to express gratitude to Mr. Ayers for uncommon leadership in uncommon times, and also to ask for your advice about several issues related to the College's future and about the search. In this note, I am using College to refer to both the College and the Graduate School.

Search Procedures

Mr. Block and I began working on this search together. We will continue to provide the customary support, although with the understanding that as Mr. Block prepares for his new duties at UCLA he may be less easily available than I will be. We are cutting back on my schedule of travel for fund-raising in order to free time for this search.

James F. Childress, the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics in the Department of Religious Studies, has agreed to serve as faculty chair of the committee. Mr. Childress chaired the dean's reappointment review committee in 2005. We are now preparing invitations to faculty members and students to serve on the committee. The College Foundation has supplied two names, and can supply a third if needed. At the urging of department chairs who offered advice on committee membership, I have asked Dean Jeffries to serve as the outside dean, and he has accepted. The Rector has designated a Board member to serve in whatever capacity may seem useful going forward.

We are interviewing search firms now. All who have submitted proposals understand that the consultants' task of preparing search materials and building lists of qualified external prospects must begin at once. The consulting contract will be awarded tomorrow (Friday). Ads will appear during the second half of this month. Mr. Childress and the committee will begin seeking internal prospects as soon as the committee is able to convene at the start of the semester, and they will continue that process throughout the search. Any person who wants to propose a name may do so by email to Joan Fry at jbf2f@Virginia.EDU. Nominations should include a letter explaining your knowledge of the prospect as well as your reasons for believing that the committee should consider that person, and also whatever biographical information you are able to supply. You are welcome to send more than one name. It will be helpful to have a separate email communication for each person you suggest. The search consultants' initial reports on external prospects will become available to the committee in early February. Interviews and visits will occur in early spring. We plan to complete the search and appoint the next dean in late spring.

Background Information

Searches of this kind begin with assessment of how the position and its duties have changed since the prior search, which is to say, assessment of what the job is today. The deanship in Medicine has been revised on two occasions since 1990. On both occasions, the core issues addressed the growing internal complexity of the school as it grew its research programs and fund-raising and the need to hedge the school against potential damage in consequence of the high level of financial risk inherent in operating advanced-care hospitals. Similarly, both the Darden School and Law devised new internal structures as they completed the conversion from dependence on state or central University funding to the degree of financial self-sufficiency that they have today.

In the current instance of the College, the retrospective assessment has extended further back—to 1995, when the former position of dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the position of dean of the College were combined, and also to 1990, the last fiscal year before the state budget cuts that have driven the need for private philanthropy to support the College's buildings and programs. This span of years has seen progress in the College toward greater financial self-sufficiency, success in finding philanthropic support, and new construction, with more in progress or soon to begin. It has also seen dramatic increases in interdisciplinarity, in joint programming with other schools of the University, in innovative curricula (including implementation of the J-Term), in new applications of digital technologies, in the emphasis on independent research as a component of undergraduate education, and in international activities. Mr. Ayers' leadership has been essential to all of these ventures.

The College's progress in discovering and building its base of alumni support during the tenures of three deans, Messrs. Nelson, Leffler, and Ayers, and especially since the beginning of the current capital funds campaign with major new gifts committed since January 1, 2001, has few rivals anywhere. Its acceleration during the nucleus phase that began on January 1, 2004, is equally extraordinary. Despite the state budget reductions of 2000-04 and the need to find private support for phase I of the South Lawn project, the College has continued to grow stronger.

The College in 2007 is at once a successful old institution and a successful new institution. Its traditional centers of strength have endured despite obvious pressures since 1990. Its faculty is arguably the strongest in any comparable liberal arts colleges. In addition to new centers of strength in American Studies, Environmental Science, and a dozen other fields, the College today has greater organizational and financial independence than it had before its Foundation came into existence and before two capital campaigns began to generate the funds it needs for the future. Its interdependent relationships with our other schools and units—in the sciences, in the study of government, and in other collaborative enterprises—are more complex and more valuable now than they were in prior times. They add strength and underscore the College's position at the University's core.

Some Measures of the College's Evolution in Recent Years

Candidates for the deanship will consider many kinds of evidence as they ponder whether or not to accept what is by any assessment one of the most challenging positions in all of American higher education. Most of these issues will be matters of academic practice and policy. Some will be managerial or fiduciary. As we begin thinking about how to make the case for the College to these persons, comparisons of some material characteristics of the College now and in 1990, prior to the most severe budget cuts, are useful. This list is not exhaustive. It covers matters that are already coming up in preliminary conversations with consultants and others.

  1. The College is larger, and its resources are deployed somewhat differently. Institutional Research reports that in 1990, just before the first permanent state budget cuts occurred, the College enrolled 8310 FTE students, and the Graduate School enrolled 1814 FTE students. The College has 9902 FTE students this year—an increase of 19.2%, and the Graduate School has 1510 FTE students—a decrease of 16.8%. Both trends resemble those at other AAU universities. The combined College and Graduate School had 10,124 FTE students in 1990, and 11,412 FTE students in 2006—a net increase of 12.7%. The College had 471 FTE tenure-track faculty members in T&R positions in 1990-91. It has 465 this year. On the other hand, it had 95 FTE non-tenure-track faculty members in 1990, and it has 153 this year. The total T&R faculty has grown by some 9.2% from 566 to 618. Enrollment growth in this period has been heavily in-state, as the state has required, but the state did not provide incremental funding to cover the cost of educating new students.
  2. In this same period, the College's unadjusted total budget grew from $51,896,369 (1990 before reductions) to $166,066,091 (2006), with the proportion from state tax dollars shrinking from 46% (1990) to 24% (2006). Owing to transfers from central University accounts, primarily for faculty salary increases and positions created since 2001, the College's share of the total E&G budget remained constant at 17% in 1990 and 17.2% in 2006. Net of payments made through sponsored programs, financial aid and tuition remission to graduate students enrolled in the Graduate School grew from $1,959,944 in 1990 to $22,841,410 in 2006. The most dramatic areas of income and expenditure growth for the College have been revenues from the tuition fund and sponsored programs in the sciences—from $4,824,104 in 1990 to $43,160,050 in 2006, with the growth distributed across many disciplines, including Psychology as the department has evolved, and not clustered in any one area. Other contributors have included the provost's reserve funds, the central Fund for Excellence that I administer, and other funds identified by Mr. Sandridge.
  3. Combined, these historic changes have made the College's internal financial and managerial issues complex, indeed more complex than those in any of our other schools except Medicine. The College took on (a) new autonomy and responsibilities in the early 1990s as the state ceased supporting or enumerating specific faculty positions in its budget and control processes (initially under the revised FY1991 budget, and subsequently under decentralization), (b) greater managerial obligations as the provosts devolved various functions, including some elements of position control, to the several deans, and (c) direct responsibility for its fund-raising as it moved into the kind of appeal to alumni and donors that others of our schools have used successfully since 1990. The College Foundation's leaders believe that considerable numbers of new fund-raisers are necessary to bring the College's campaign to a successful conclusion. They have asked the University to participate in financing these new positions. Financial and management personnel have been added in recent years. The Foundation's leaders believe that we need to supply additional resources there as well. One issue for the current assessment is how to deploy new resources and how to assure that these resources enhance the dean's capacity to advance the College.
  4. The dean's fund-raising duties now resemble more nearly the duties of deans of the colleges of our major private competitors than they do the duties of Land Grant university or other public university deans. They are not dramatically different from the duties of presidents of independent colleges whose scale and budget would resemble the College's. Particularly with regard to capital projects funding (i.e., the South Lawn project) Mr. Ayers now sets the mark for deans of the liberal arts colleges within the AAU universities.

Faculty Consultations

To seek advice on issues the next dean will have to address, we have met with several groups (in all, some 82 persons) to ask for brief consensus statements on these topics: five major agenda items for the first five years of the next dean's tenure; five major issues the College must resolve during the next five years; longer-term issues the College must resolve during the next ten years.

These groups included department chairs (arranged as humanities, social sciences, mathematics and science, and fine and performing arts), the steering committee of the College faculty executive council (two meetings), the executive council of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Forum for Scientific Research, the College's development officers, the associate deans, the Association deans, and the College Foundation's leaders (several conversations) and former and current chair. In addition, the vice president of the student Arts and Sciences Council sent written advice and offered to provide additional advice later this month when Council members are back in town. Mr. Block was able to participate in one of these meetings. Milton Adams participated in most of the meetings that Mr. Block was unable to attend. Joan Fry, who will staff the search committee, and Nancy Rivers attended all, as I did. I asked also for notes about any persons thought to be good search committee members.

Sample statements about the agenda for the first five years suggest the general character of this advice. The statements differ only somewhat from one another in their general conception of how the position should be structured and supported going forward. These elements appear with minor variations of emphasis in more than one statement: pursue the stated goals for the current capital campaign, including the South Lawn project; diversify the faculty and student body; recognize the special needs of each discipline within the College and affirm the importance of all to the College's mission; enhance faculty diversity and interdisciplinary activity; develop additional funding for graduate programs; enlarge the science faculty; create and promote a culture of science development [i.e., fund-raising for the sciences] … and foster the administrative structure necessary to sustain this effort; enhance building and laboratory infrastructure, including multidisciplinary space for the sciences; address the impending wave of retirements stemming from … age; begin construction on a new science facility, either a new Psychology building or Life Sciences building; address faculty salary compression; re-energize and coordinate the planning process for the new arts facilities, including [lists facilities]; consider adding an associate dean of fine and performing arts or other advocate for the arts within the College administration; develop programs and policies to improve hiring and retention of women and minorities [details strategies for the purpose]; effectively represent the academic interests of the College to potential donors; provide for the Development Office enough staff to ensure success in meeting the $500 million campaign goal; advocate both the central role of the College in the University and its mission to provide a broad, progressive liberal arts education; improve the faculty-student ratio; support the existing advising system, including the role of academic faculty in advising; lead in pedagogical innovation, including emerging technologies; revisit the internal structure of the Dean's Office to improve both the administrative process and communication with faculty; enhance the clarity of the administrative structure and forward planning; articulate the responsibility and decision-making authority of associate deans; develop clear and transparent forward-looking budgets at the departmental and unit level; ensure clear lines of communication between the dean and departments and chairs.

Under issues, several groups suggested considering alternative configurations of responsibilities (and titles) for administrators reporting to the dean as well as developing more transparent and accessible budgets and budget information.

Organizational Issues

It seems clear to me that all of us admire and appreciate Mr. Ayers' leadership and his accomplishment in moving the College forward. These reports consistently urge staying the course with regard to the College's core values and culture and with regard to developing a firm financial base for the future. All who spoke admire Mr. Ayers' emergence as an effective spokesperson for the liberal arts within the University and for the College itself. To the extent that these statements of advice suggest the need to rethink various aspects of the organization, they seem to me to speak common sense: the College has changed and grown; its work requires more and more complex support than it has in the past; its future depends in part on its coherence as an academic whole.

No one has suggested fragmenting or dividing the College as a means to improve support for it. Nor would I. Yet few see it (or any other institution) as finished or perfect in its present configuration. The advice to enhance the clarity of the administrative structure and forward planning; articulate the responsibility and decision-making authority of associate deans; develop clear and transparent forward-looking budgets at the departmental and unit level; ensure clear lines of communication between the dean and departments and chairs and to consider alternative configurations of responsibilities (and titles) for administrators reporting to the dean as well as developing more transparent and accessible budgets and budget information speaks to recurring needs within all living institutions. Transparency in budgeting and in delegating responsibility (and authority) is a basic collegial value with which few in a university would quarrel. It keeps organizations honest with themselves. Overly flat organizations that grow rapidly and face new challenges can and should improve as they undergo the kind of assessment that these statements of advice represent.

I am hoping to receive additional advice about one issue that has recurred in virtually all of these conversations and follow-up reports: the suggestion that (a) better internal communication, (b) more advanced and transparent financial management, and (c) increasingly ambitious fund-raising, especially fund-raising for the endowments (i.e., to support innovation in existing programs, of which the Linder endowment for Art History and the Clay Endowment for the Humanities are good examples, and also to increase the number of fully endowed chairs and endowed fellowships) that are ultimately the College's financial future, may now require elaboration of the support structure that keeps the College working. We have time yet to decide how best to respond this suggestion. In its simplest form, this suggestion might retitle the positions now styled associate deans to make each responsible under the supervision of the Dean of the College, for some specified subset of the whole—a dean of or for the arts, the humanities, the social sciences, and mathematics and science. On first examination, this seems fairly simple. If this or some other remedy that may make better sense turns out to be complex in ways not now apparent, we can defer a decision on the support structure until the new Dean of the College has been in office for a year.

These discipline deans (perhaps along with an enhanced dean for undergraduate studies and dean for the Graduate School) would support the Dean of the College and the disciplines by opening up the broader communication that several of these groups advocate, by acting under the Dean's supervision with regard to position or hiring processes and the budget, and would have direct, delegated roles in fund-raising—speaking to donors as the College's Dean of the Arts, for example, and generating the donor proposals that professional development officers must have in order to raise the funds that the College needs to raise in this campaign and beyond. To phase a change of this kind would involve charging the new Dean of the College with (a) convening discipline or other advisory committees in the fall of her or his initial year as dean to determine how to configure the academic, financial or managerial, and fund-raising duties to be assigned to these positions, and then (b) following a proper selection process, with appointing qualified faculty members to carry out these duties for a specified period.

Titles matter when one seeks to be transparent about responsibility. They matter to donors also. Faculty members who have looked at this model generally prefer it to the fragmentation into separately budgeted divisions (or schools) that has occurred in other AAU universities of our kind and size. They have generally seen the need for early consultation with the new dean on the conduct of the business of the College and also on its evolving academic and scholarly character. All who have commented recognize the great mass of the work that the new dean will confront, and want ways to keep that position to a manageable scale while also succeeding in achieving the academic, managerial or financial, and philanthropic goals that they see as essential to the College's future. I will welcome your advice on how to achieve these goals, and I will seek advice from the search committee itself. It can come now or later as you think about how we can work together to continue building this old and new College that is so well begun. My email is Mr. Childress, Mr. Block, or I (as appropriate) will provide progress reports as we move through this search.

Final Thoughts

There is a sense in which we will not say goodbye to Ed Ayers. Like the line of distinguished deans who preceded him, he leaves a legacy—one that informs learning, teaching, and research in every corner of the College and throughout the University. He brought to the position a uniquely timely vision of the College amassing and deploying the strength and resources necessary to reshape liberal education in the context of the modern research university. He succeeded in doing that, and in doing much more. To move or grow from strength to strength is a daunting challenge. Yet that is the challenge of building a new generation of leaders within the dynamic organization that the College, indeed the University, have had to become in order to stay strong and grow stronger in these years since the sponsoring partner left the table. The search committee that identified Dean Ayers for us six years ago did its work well. I invite your support and counsel for our colleagues who now commence the work of identifying and attracting the next Dean of the College. Let us wish for them no less success than their predecessors achieved.

John Casteen
January 4, 2007