Come summer, the College of Liberal Arts will have a revamped leadership team.
Two new associate deans will begin representing the two corridors of CLA: social sciences, and arts and humanities. Each associate dean will serve as the gateway between the college’s administration and individual departments housed within their respective corridors. School leaders hope the change will break down communication barriers currently lingering between the two.
The associate deans will also advise CLA Dean John Coleman — who’s serving his first year as the head of the college — on issues regarding departmental planning, hiring new faculty members and working out fresh strategies for the college.
Coleman proposed the new structure in October as part of his “Road Ahead” address. The address outlined the new dean’s plans for strengthening the college.
The positions will replace the associate dean positions for faculty and planning positions, Coleman said. The associate dean roles for undergraduate and graduate education will remain the same.
In a recent email to faculty and staff members, Coleman opened the floor for nominations and applications for the new positions, for which he’s seeking tenured professors in the social sciences and arts and humanities corridors.
“The proposal would give each group of departments an academic associate dean with deep knowledge and expertise in the intellectual traditions of that particular corridor,” Coleman wrote in a November post on his blog.
According to the blog post, some faculty and staff raised concerns about whether certain faculty members in the departments would be properly represented by the corridor their department is assigned by the new structure.
Department of Political Science Chair Joan Tronto said that while her department will fall under social sciences in the new setup, her work is more in line with the humanities.
She said these types of concerns are often brought up when dealing with interdisciplinary work. They’re even more pronounced in the current structure, where more than 30 departments are housed under the college’s head dean.
Ultimately, though, she believes the revamped structure will allow the associate deans to build closer relationships with the departments and better understand the issues they face.
“It’s about access to decision making. It’s about getting responses to issues,” Tronto said.
Individuals in departments won’t have to declare themselves part of their department’s assigned corridor, Coleman said, and resources won’t be divvied up based on the corridors. The CLA Promotion and Tenure Committee will also continue to oversee issues of promotion and tenure across the college.
CLA Interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Gary Oehlert said while he can’t predict the exact outcome of the new structure, he believes it will be more beneficial overall for departments to have a dean who better understands their specific needs.
Coleman said he hopes the new associate deans will find opportunities for collaboration across departments — something he says is difficult in the current structure because the scope of the college is too wide.
“I think we’re all aware that sometimes on a University campus the scale is so big,” he said. “It’s both the beauty and the problem.”