Search for new academic dean begins


Augustana will know its new academic dean no later than late  March of next year, according to President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

The academic dean search committee, a group of 14 tasked with discovering the university’s next vice president for academic affairs, held its first meeting Sept.  20 and laid the foundation for its six-month search.

“We’re looking for someone who wants to make a commitment to Augustana,” Herseth Sandlin said. “We want the most talented individual who can give all of his or her talents for as long as he or she is going to be here.”

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The search committee is comprised of three faculty members from each academic division and five representatives from the Diversity and Inclusion Office, the Registrar’s Office, Campus Ministry, the academic division chairs and the Student Success Center. 

The representatives will work alongside Witt/Kieffer, the same national executive search firm that organized the presidential search last year.

So far, the committee has met to establish qualities it is looking for in a candidate and, by the end of the month, it will release an advertisement listing the qualities and begin accepting applications.

Representatives and Witt/Kieffer can also suggest potential candidates and, as the search progresses, they will narrow the selections down to three or four final candidates.

In February, the committee will release the names of the final candidates and invite them to campus for final interviews. At that point, professors will be invited to meet and interview the candidates.

By the end of March of next year, the university will make its official offer and the candidate, if he or she accepts, will join campus next summer.

Jerry Jorgensen has been the interim academic since 2016 when former Academic Dean Sue Hasseler accepted the presidency of Muskingum University, a liberal arts institution in New Concord, Ohio.

Religion professor and a representative for the humanities division in the committee Rich Bowman said former President Rob Oliver wanted to allow the new president to make the appointment rather than making the appointment for them.

“He had a couple of years left so it just made sense to keep an interim dean for a couple of years,” Bowman said.

Herseth Sandlin said the search will look for candidates both on campus or off campus and the faculty will be able to make suggestions as well.

“We could have members of our faculty who nominate either an internal candidate or they know of someone externally at another institution that they think would be well qualified and a good fit,” Herseth Sandlin said. “That’s how I was found.” 

The academic dean is responsible for all academic programming and activities on campus, organizing new programs and supervising existing programs and departments.

“[The dean] is primarily the faculty’s voice on my senior leadership team,” Herseth Sandlin said. “And I am hopeful we can attract qualified candidates who are a good fit and are looking to provide a measure of continuity as the university begins to grow and evolve in its university structure.”

Genetics professor and a representative for the natural science division in the committee Seasson Vitiello said she is looking for a dean who can encourage the faculty to flesh out their ideas.

“If I could distill it down to a few qualities, I am looking for someone who can empower the faculty,” Vitiello said. “The faculty has a lot of great ideas about diversity and creating an inclusive environment for learning and curriculum development. [The dean] should be able to empower the faculty to pursue those ideas.” 

“It is exciting time to be around here,” Bowman said. “We have a new president, new changes, a lot of energy moving forward, and now picking the dean that can work with the new president. Keeping this momentum going forward is important.”

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