The University Record, September 23, 1998
By Jane R. Elgass
Outreach to and open discussions with faculty, undergraduate students and staff likely will be among the hallmarks of Patricia Gurin's tenure as interim dean of LS&A. And her leadership style, which she defines as "lateral and shared," was evident as she delineated outreach initiatives at the Sept. 14 LS&A faculty meeting.
"My goal is to help the College think about the future of the College, to prepare for a new dean and to help that dean set his or her agenda as quickly and as aggressively as possible.
"I want as lateral and shared an approach to administration as possible because that is how I feel comfortable," Gurin said. "I want a thorough and ongoing partnership with department chairs and program directors. I come to this job with the perspective of a department chair. In my view, the departments and programs are the College."
Faculty will be invited to participate in discussion groups this fall that will be designed to find out "how rank-and-file faculty feel about the College, whether they feel they have a voice in the College, how they see our collective future," Gurin said.
David Schoem, recently appointed assistant vice president for academic and student affairs, will help Gurin and three faculty from each division organize the discussions. Topics will include:
The extent to which faculty feel a part of LS&A beyond department, discipline or sub-discipline boundaries.
Next steps in improving undergraduate education.
Faculty interest in and support for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary teaching and research within and outside LS&A.
Putting a new twist on faculty office hours, Gurin has scheduled two open hours every Monday for faculty to come and talk with her without an advance appointment. She also will meet with faculty in the evening if the two hours on Monday don't offer enough time.
LS&A Student Government is joining with the Dean's Office to sponsor biweekly discussions with undergraduate students, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of undergraduate education. Gurin will attend the meetings, joined by staff from the Undergraduate Office, Office of Student Academic Affairs, Academic Advising Office and the undergraduate centers.
"I want the Dean's Office to be as much a place for undergraduate consideration of the future as it is for faculty consideration," Gurin said.
In addition, Gurin will ask LS&A key administrators for their help in arranging discussions with support staff about the future of the College.
"These three interrelated explorations," Gurin said, "will define the spirit of transition for my year as interim dean."
Gurin has held one retreat with Executive Committee members and program staff focusing on the challenges facing higher education. Additional mini-retreats will be held during the year, focusing on long-term issues and including input from the faculty, student and staff discussions.
Gurin also will "launch an assessment of LS&A's scholarly and research infrastructure to prepare a proposal for investment funding from the Provost's Office."
Noting that those in the LS&A central administration need to work cooperatively with the "dispersed leadership of the College with a continuous recognition of our shared interests and of the importance of shared responsibility," Gurin called on the faculty to help her "revitalize" the monthly meetings.
Provost Nancy Cantor will discuss her vision of the University's academic mission at the October meeting. Gurin plans to organize other meetings "around themes that matter to us as teachers, scholars and members of this community."
In her closing remarks at last week's LSA faculty meeting, Interim Dean Patricia Gurin reminded her audience about the lawsuit challenging the College's admissions criteria.
"Everyone will be concerned about the outcome of the case and its implications for the future of the University at large and the College in particular," she said. "We need to continue to have civil and thoughtful discussions about diversity and how to achieve it.
"We also must be mindful of the stresses that this case puts on students, especially on students of color whose very presence at the University is being questioned by the nature of the case against our admissions policies. Every one of them is here because they are outstanding students whom the University expected to succeed--and they are."
"It is my duty and my privilege," Gurin stated, "to assure that the College is a community that supports all of its members as it engages in civil, democratic discourse about a critically important educational and societal concern."