SCI dean search committee hears community wish lists

By SUSAN JONES

The search committee for the new dean of the School of Computing and Information is wrapping up the first phase of its process after holding four forums last week to get input from faculty, staff, students and the University community.

Paul Cohen, SCI founding dean, stepped down from that role and returned to the faculty in July 2020. Bruce Childers, senior associate dean in SCI and special assistant to the provost for Data Science, has been serving as interim dean.

OTHER DEAN SEARCHES

In the past two months, three Pitt deans have announced they will retire in the next couple years. These departures will mark a complete turnover of deans in both the provost and senior vice chancellor for health sciences areas since Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s arrival in 2014. 

The other dean positions that soon will be open:

Nursing: In late September, Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob announced her retirement, effective June 30, 2023, after more than 20 years as dean of the School of Nursing. In addition to her role as dean, Dunbar-Jacob is a distinguished professor of nursing and professor of psychology, epidemiology and occupational therapy. Maureen Lichtveld, dean of the Graduate School of Public Health who started at Pitt early this year, will chair the search committee with the assistance of executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

Pharmacy: Patricia Kroboth, who has been dean of the School of Pharmacy since 2002, announced in September that she plans to step down from that role as of June 30, 2022. She will take leave before returning as a part-time faculty member.

Business: Arjang A. Assad, dean of the Katz Graduate School of Business and undergraduate College of Business Administration, also plans to step down as of June 30, 2022, and return to the faculty. Assad has led Pitt Business since July 2015.

No search committees have been named yet for the Pharmacy and Business dean positions.

Steve Wisniewski, vice provost for budget and analytics, heads the search committee and led the forums. Pitt has partnered with executive search firm Spencer Stuart to fill this position.

The school itself is only four years old. In 2017, the School of Information Sciences, the Department of Computer Science, and the Intelligent Systems Program came together to create the School of Computing and Information — the first new school at Pitt in more than 20 years.

The forums sought input on what would make a good dean and what some of the new dean’s goals should be for the next three to five years.

Wisniewski said the information gathered at the forums, and through a community survey that remains open, will help the committee develop a job description, which it plans to complete this month. In December and January, the committee will be soliciting applications, which it will review in February and narrow down to the people with whom they want to do initial interviews.

“We hope to then start inviting the finalists to campus for their visits,” Wisniewski said at the last of the open forums on Oct. 26. “I’m expecting the dean to be in place beginning of the fiscal year, which would be July 1.”

The names of the candidates, including any internal applicants, will be kept confidential until the campus visits.

Those on the Zoom forum said there were several qualities and goals the new dean should have. One goal raised by multiple people was raising awareness of the school on campus, regionally, nationally and internationally.

One grad from 2005 said the new dean needs to encourage more international students and more women to apply to SCI.

Alex Labrinidis, chair of the Department of Computer Science, said the school needs to fulfill its promise of being a hub of computing information on campus.

Terri Taylor, director of development for the school, said she wants someone with proven fundraising skills and accomplishments, “and with beginning initiatives, launching something from the start, because we’re a new school.”

Marcia Rapchak, an appointment-stream faculty member in the school, said one quality she’s looking for is, “someone who can collaboratively form a vision that is very inspirational. … someone who has ideas, obviously, about where they want the school to go, but is also open to input from the faculty and the staff and alums and students into how that vision will be shaped.”

Jeff Lawson, director of community and resource development, said he hopes the new dean will maintain and build on the partnerships the school has made through the Community Engagement Centers.

Berenika Webster, director of assessment and quality assurance in the University Library System, would like to see SCI engage more with the library system, and increase the diversity of disciplinary backgrounds of students in library information systems programs. “The majority, I think still, of the people applying to library schools are probably English or history majors. We are desperately in a profession looking for people with backgrounds in sciences.”

There also is a need for more diversity and inclusion in the makeup of faculty and students, several people said.

One person at the forum summed it up this way: “I hope whoever we have has a plan, a mechanism for planning. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it takes someone with a vision to be able to articulate that vision, get buy-in to that vision. … Then in five years, the plan may not be exactly what was projected, but we would have some some part of that plan in place.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.

 

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