Campus / News / February 1, 2012

Considering dean’s replacement

While the search committee to hire the new Dean of the College is just beginning to form, thoughts on desired qualities for the post are much clearer.

Both President Teresa Amott and current Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde have had extensive experience with the chief academic officer post at liberal art schools and know what is key for the post.

The post is vastly different than at a large school, and the new dean will likely come from a liberal arts background.

While Breitborde is taking a hands-off approach to the search of his replacement, he does know what qualities are vital to the post.

“Chief academic officer position at minimum is very interesting because you sort of meet the institutional program where it is … You have to learn and respect the institutional values that underlie that, but at the same time you have to try to work with people to see if there are ways to make it stronger,” Breitborde said.

For Amott, it is key that the post is filled by someone who can deal with day-to-day tasks quickly, work well with the president and handle presidential duties while she travels more over the coming years to raise funds for the college.

“The person, also in a sense, is the person who acts when the president is unable or unavailable,” Amott said. “This person is your partner in insuring that the education mission of the institution is fulfilled.”

This relationship with the president is central, in Amott’s eyes, to being a successful dean.

“It is very important that the chief academic officer and the president connect. I was, as a chief academic officer, joined at the hip with my president. It is important, in terms of personality, to be complimentary,” Amott said.

The job of chief academic officer requires a strong knowledge of the school and the handling of academics on campus.

“You have to be an academic for this job,” Breitborde said. “It’s the chief academic officer; there is no real question about that. You need someone who has been a faculty member and who has had a depth of experience and even accomplishment as a faculty member.”

While there is a chance that the position will be filled by someone already at Knox, it is more likely that it will be an outside source, in concordance with tradition at Knox.

“You need a person who is both efficient and decisive, but who is deliberative and thoughtful,” Amott said.

With the Dean of the College post comes a variety of struggles and decisions that have to be made each day.

“You’re looking, as the dean, at the whole picture. So sometimes you try to balance things, and people aren’t always happy,” Breitborde said. “So you have to have the capacity to deal with those kinds of issues.”

While Breitborde’s tenure has been “unusually long,” it has provided a stability that is recognized throughout the community of administrators throughout the country.

The small size of the campus makes it necessary for the next dean to be able to handle many direct interactions with faculty and students each day.

“You have to, I think, genuinely want the interaction with people. It’s almost by definition a conflict situation because show me two Knox faculty members who feel the same way about a lot of things. I mean it’s the strength of the place,” Brietborde said. “You have to be able to talk to both and maintain your integrity.”

The search will begin full force in the coming months by choosing a search firm early spring and begin to narrow the pool next fall.

John Williams

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