Hunt for new Humphrey Institute dean to begin

The current dean Atwood is leaving for a Paris-based think tank in January 2011.

by Sarah Nienaber

The search for a new dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs is on.

The current dean, J. Brian Atwood, will take leave from the University of Minnesota to join a think tank in Paris. A search committee of Humphrey Institute faculty and a University student was named Monday to search nationally and internationally to find a replacement by the end of the spring 2011 semester.

Committee member Larry Jacobs said the search for a new dean is a “tall order.”

“We have had the best dean that I have worked under in almost a quarter century at the University of Minnesota, so the bar is set very high,” Jacobs said. “Dean Atwood has been extraordinary in reviving the Humphrey Institute and generating a lot of interest.”

Jacobs sees the committeeâÄôs primary focus set on how to continue this momentum.

Atwood said the ideal candidate will be “someone who can manage through whatâÄôs going to be a very difficult biennium the next couple of years.”

“ItâÄôs not going to be easy,” he said. “I think someone who is really a good academic manager is the type of person we need right now.”

The committee, working with a search firm, will start with a search for candidates from across the country, Jacobs said.

Jacobs anticipated a list of about three candidates at the end for the community to scrutinize.

“The process is set up to be as transparent as possible,” Jacobs said. “There will be a lot of people who want to weigh in on this decision.”

Jacobs said the replacement must be “skilled in leading” in various environments within the school, which works the government, business and nonprofit sectors.

The sole student on the committee, Aara Johnson, hopes a new dean can keep the school competitive with others in the nation and is also pleased with the short projected timeline.

As a student, Johnson said she also hopes the new dean will be able to remain as accessible as Dean Atwood has been.

“He still has been able to relate to students and teach a class,” Johnson said. “I took his class last year âĦ it was really fascinating just to have that time with him.”

Atwood is impressed by the strength of the selected committee and is confident it will find the right replacement.

“ItâÄôs an outstanding committee,” Atwood said. “ItâÄôs got some of our best faculty.”

Atwood will start as the chairman of a committee for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentâÄôs Development Assistance Committee in Paris in January.

The 50-year-old organization was set up mainly by industrial nations. The new appointment will be a “major challenge,” Atwood said, but he “looks forward” to what is on the horizon.

The position was not something that Atwood sought, but he was commissioned by the Obama administration and sees its request as an important call that he needs to answer.

Professor Greg Lindsey was appointed Nov. 23 as the interim dean of the Humphrey Institute.