Search Begins for Dean of the College at Pomona

The search process for Pomona College’s new Dean of the College began when the search committee had its first meeting Sept. 20. The committee, composed of faculty members, trustees and a student, is looking for a replacement for Cecilia Conrad, Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs, who is currently acting President during President Oxtoby’s sabbatical.

This is one of Conrad’s four tasks to address during President Oxtoby’s sabbatical. She is also to secure interim leadership for the Advancement Services Office, create an “action plan” in response to last year’s staff survey and ready the campus master plan for submission to the City of Claremont, which is a document detailing what the college expects will happen on campus over the course of the next ten years.

Pomona’s search process for a new Dean of the College is being directed by Shelly Weiss Storbeck of Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates, a recruitment firm for school executives. Last Thursday, Storbeck met with the Executive Committee of Pomona, the faculty and the search committee.

Pomona President David Oxtoby, who will chair the search committee when he returns from his sabbatical in January, wrote in an e-mail to TSL that he hopes that the new dean will be “a good listener, a strong consensus builder, and thoughtful and visionary about issues in higher education.”

Although the search process is confidential, Quinn Lester PO ’13, Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Commissioner of Academic Affairs and the only student on the search committee, said that he will be open to the ideas and comments of other students.

“We are interested in getting student input, and in a couple weeks the search consultant will have the opportunity to talk to ASPC, and perhaps other students as well,” Lester said.

Lester also said that he is open to any questions, concerns or suggestions the student body may have regarding the search.

“As I am the student representative, I want to represent as wide an array of concerns about student academics as I can,” Lester said.

Conrad, who is serving as the interim chair of the search committee, will be working with the committee members to help define the position of Dean of the College and help them decide what kind of experience would be helpful for the new dean. 

“It really helps if you have had teaching experience, and you’ve been in the classroom and you understand what the challenges are for faculty,” Conrad said.

She also said that her replacement would preferably have had experience working at a liberal arts college. 

“One of the challenges is that if you haven’t spent a lot of time at a liberal arts college, it may be difficult to fully appreciate the balancing act of research and teaching and service that goes on here that really doesn’t happen at other places,” she said. “It’s a national search. [However,] internal candidates are strongly encouraged.”

Currently, Conrad is working on getting the word out that the position is open. When Oxtoby returns, she would like to have a number of candidates ready to do interviews, so they can start to narrow the field, she said. 

“[The committee is] looking for someone who has a certain level of achievement as a faculty member, which means that they have a record of strong teaching and a record of research that would make them tenurable at Pomona,” Conrad said. “That’s probably one of the first sets of screens. Then, secondarily, there is interest in individuals who have had some kind of liberal arts college experience. It’s not necessarily essential, but I think there’s a certain wish for people who have had that experience.”

Conrad has been the Dean of the College for three years, and has been a Pomona faculty member since 1995. She is currently serving as the acting president of Pomona, and she will leave the college in January to begin her new job as Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program in Chicago.

“What makes Pomona special … compared to other liberal arts colleges is that we’re able to look at what best practices are at other places and try to bring them to Pomona, and we can do that simultaneously in multiple areas,” she said.

Conrad said that deciding to leave Pomona was a difficult decision, but after consulting with her friends, family and Oxtoby, she decided that the job with the MacArthur Foundation was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I have always kind of fantasized about this job,” she said.

“Of course I was disappointed that she was leaving, but the opportunity at the MacArthur Foundation was a very special one,” Oxtoby wrote in an e-mail.

Conrad said that leaving Pomona is bittersweet.

“When you’re leaving something that you are deeply committed to, you have to appreciate that once you leave things may not go the direction you would have wanted,” she said.

She added, however, that she is excited for the opportunities that her new job will provide for her. 

“I’m looking forward to having as part of my job reading across disciplines, going to plays and movies and concerts, and that’s one of the things that’s kind of incredible about this job,” Conrad said. “Part of my job is trying to stay abreast of what’s going on in lots and lots of fields.”

Still, she said, “Pomona will always be home.”

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