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September 29, 2016

Input provided on search for dean of new computing & information school

Faculty and students believe the new School of Computing and Information (SCI) will have a large impact across the University, says Nathan Urban, chair of the search committee to find SCI’s first dean — and they’re urging his committee to find a candidate who can make sure that impact is fully realized.

SCI will merge the School of Information Sciences (SIS) and the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Computer Science (CS). The first students are expected to start taking classes in fall 2017.

The search committee already has met to set strategies for writing the job description and advertisement for the new dean, as well as for vetting candidates and inviting finalists to campus for interviews.

The committee held a forum to collect suggestions for candidate qualities from CS and SIS faculty and another to hear from the entire University. There are no plans to hold further forums, says Urban, who is vice provost for special projects and faculty member and chair of the Department of Neurobiology in the School of Medicine.

But he adds: “I’d be happy to talk to other groups if they’re interested.”

Urban says there is a lot of enthusiasm for the new school and thus for the dean search. One of the strongest desires, he adds, is for the University to have a dean who can be a bridge between disparate faculty within the new school and across the University. The search committee also heard recommendations that the dean should be prepared to link his or her faculty to their counterparts in medicine, engineering, social sciences, the digital humanities and the law school.

The forums also included faculty and students pressing that the educational mission of SCI should be shaped by the fact that, increasingly, advanced computer knowledge is a requisite for the success of a variety of undergraduate and graduate student projects.

In particular, he says, faculty from outside CS and SIS were pushing for a new dean “who has an ability to talk across some of these interdisciplinary boundaries. Currently some of this expertise is somewhat siloed across the University.”

Both forums’ attendees, Urban says, also hoped Pitt officials who ultimately hire the new dean would have “the openness to considering candidates … who have had some experience not only in the academic world” but also in corporations or nonprofits, “to help faculty forge some of those connections outside the University.

“Overall there’s a lot of consistency with which people were thinking of this. There’s an opportunity for the University to expand and enhance our expertise in this domain.”

Urban concludes: “There’s a lot of desire [for] somebody who’s really got a vision about where this is going to go and can really have a strong impact on the University overall.”

He says the committee hopes to complete its formal position description, and the subsequent job advertisement, early in October, and then take nominations and applications for two months.

Committee members then will review completed applications and invite 12-16 people to campus for initial interviews early in 2017. Between three and six of those candidates will be asked back for meetings with everyone from the provost and chancellor to student and faculty groups.

A hiring decision is expected to follow several weeks later, Urban says.

The committee will continue to take suggestions for types or characteristics of possible candidates, and the names of candidates, through its online survey ( and via email (

Search committee members are Rosta Farzan, James Joshi and David Tipper, SIS faculty members; Bruce Childers, Adam Lee and Diane Litman, CS faculty members; Sandra Brandon, SIS director of administration; Ritwik Gupta, CS undergraduate student; Chun-Hua (Hyman) Tsai, SIS PhD student; Ivet Bahar, John K. Vries Chair of computational and systems biology in the School of Medicine; and Alfred Moyé, emeritus trustee.

—Marty Levine  

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 3

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