College still searching for dept. chairs

by Beacon Staff • February 6, 2008

Some of these searches have been ongoing for several years.,The hunt is still on to find new, permanent chairs for Emerson's journalism, organizational and political communication and performing arts departments. The Dean of Liberal Arts and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies positions also remain vacant.

Some of these searches have been ongoing for several years. The journalism department started looking for a new chair in fall of 2005 and submitted recommendations to the administration, said journalism professor and former department chair Jerry Lanson. The administration declared a "failed search," however, and the pursuit was abandoned.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Linda Moore, who is overseeing the process this year, said she couldn't discuss reasons why the search was deemed inconclusive two years ago because the information was confidential.

"We're trying to find the perfect fit, someone who feels right," Moore said. "It's not unusual to just not find the right person."

Lanson said the dean of the School of Communication stepped down in the spring of 2006, and the administration didn't want to resume looking for candidates for the journalism chair until a permanent dean was in place. When Janis Andersen became dean of the School of Communication last year, the search resumed.

Andersen wrote in an e-mail that candidates for the dean of liberal arts and director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies will be brought in around March. She said she met with a representative from the search firm Korn/Ferry International last Tuesday, which she said will help the college find the best candidates for the job.

The committee for the Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies search is still seeking applicants.

Both the OPC and performing arts departments began their searches last fall and have acquired at least a short list of potential nominees for their respective positions, Moore said. Melia Bensussen, interim chair for the Department of Performing Arts, wrote in an e-mail that she felt her department was in no way slowed down by the lack of a permanent chair. She added that there is no sense of urgency to find someone right away.

Mike Weiler, an OPC professor heading the committee for the search for a chair in his department, said his committee is in the middle of interviewing five qualified applicants this week.

"We're very pleased we were able to find these people," he said. "It's an excellent pool of candidates."

All of the departments are finding ways to include students in the hiring process. Bensussen said all candidates for performing arts are required to teach a class and meet students in the department. In the journalism department, students can sit in on interviews and ask their own questions.

Depending on the department, some candidates are asked to make a presentation to the search committee on what they see as the role of their respective department at Emerson and where the college should be in 2008. Lanson said they were looking for someone with "significant professional experience, who has done creative or research work that has earned them tenure, is good with students, has a commitment to diversity, leadership skills and an interest in the community."

None of the professors interviewed would disclose information about any of their department's candidates, claiming it would be inappropriate while the searches were still being conducted.

Some students with majors in these departments have concerns regarding the lack of a permanent chair.

"It's hard to have consistency when the chair changes every semester," said Chris Boutillier, a sophomore OPC major and President of Emerson Democrats. "I'm trying to study abroad, and the chair can approve what classes I should take. It's distracting to deal with."

Sophomore stage management major Eliza Mulcahy was more concerned with the progress being made within the individual programs. She said she was afraid departments were putting off major decisions without a permanent chair.

Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen said he didn't feel Emerson is suffering consequences despite the five vacancies.

"I don't think there is any immediate effect on the school right now without these permanent positions filled," Rosen said. "But we'll all be much happier when these searches are completely finished."