CLA dean to step down

Parente announced in an email he’ll return to teaching this summer.

College of Liberal Arts Dean James Parente announced Wednesday he will step down this summer.

After more than a decade as a University of Minnesota administrator, Parente will leave his current position June 30, he said in an email to faculty, staff, students and alumni. He will return to the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch to teach.

A national search for Parente’s replacement will begin as soon as possible, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson said in an email to CLA students, faculty and staff.

More than 15,100 students are enrolled in CLA this spring, making it the largest college at the University.

Parente said in an interview that he didn’t have enough time for academic work since becoming dean in 2008, and he plans to focus on research and teaching after he steps down.

“It’s always been part of my plan, even when I became dean, to allow for some time to go back to the faculty and to re-engage with students,” he said.

Parente’s colleagues describe him as warm and student-focused.

He would reference “anything from Tolstoy to ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ to lighten up meetings,” sociology professor Chris Uggen said.

As former chair of the sociology department, Uggen said he worked closely with Parente.

“He’s always been somebody that I looked up to and trusted,” Uggen said.

Parente showed openness toward innovation, said Joachim Savelsberg, a sociology professor who worked with the dean on a number of committees.

Savelsberg praised Parente’s decision to return to teaching and said faculty should move back and forth between administrative and academic work.

“That, I think, contributes to a healthy university,” Savelsberg said.

Uggen said Parente worked to make CLA more focused on students and always considered the impact his decisions would have.

“I think our students have had a great friend in the dean’s office with Jim Parente,” he said.