Search for new interim arts and sciences dean underway

The search is underway to identify a new interim dean for the Western Carolina University’s College of Arts and Sciences. 

Current Dean Gibbs Knotts, appointed to the position in June 2011, announced in late January that he will leave Western at the end of the semester to assume a position at the College of Charleston. Interim Provost Beth Tyson Lofquist sent out a call for nominations last week but has yet to hear a response.

The decision to appoint a permanent dean falls to a non-interim provost, so the committee will only look to hire another interim dean. Lofquist described the search as “an all internal process,” meaning that the search committee will not be looking nationally and will rely heavily on faculty nominations.

Five faculty members from various departments make up the committee, as well as one staff member not affiliated with a department and one dean representative from the Council of Deans. All are meant to represent a diversity of disciplines and perspectives.

“We thought long and hard about putting a student on the committee,” Lofquist said. “But in the end we decided against it since it’s an interim search with all internal candidates, it may create an awkward situation for the student.”

Many of the candidates will be professors themselves, so the committee did not want to place a student in a potentially uncomfortable position.

However, Lofquist maintained that the committee wanted students and other campus constituents to have input, so committee members will be open to student feedback on the finalists when they are selected, which is expected to happen by the last week of February.

Among the qualities sought-after in the new interim dean are a demonstrated experience in higher education administration, demonstrated skills conducive to leading varied disciplines, as well asmanagement skills relating to resources and personnel. The new interim dean will be expected to work cooperatively with the department heads and have a clear understanding of the university’s mission and vision for the arts and sciences programs. Faculty members have until Feb. 10 to either nominate themselves or a coworker for the position.

“This search will be much more abbreviated than when they move forward for a national search,” said Lofquist.

The new provost will have to hire their own team when he or she is appointed to the position. Until then, the interim dean will be chosen by the interim Provost, who will first consult with  Chancellor David Belcher on the decision.

Lofquist says she and the committee are targeting the first or second week of March to make a decision.