By SUSAN JONES
Four finalists to replace Kathleen Blee as dean of the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and College of General Studies made visits to the Oakland campus over the past two weeks and met with faculty, staff and students.
Blee, who has been dean since 2017, announced last summer that she will step down this year and return to the faculty as a professor of sociology.
The search committee for a new dean is chaired by Joseph McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies, and includes professors, students and staff from the Dietrich School.
Dietrich is the largest school at Pitt with 12,921 students in fall 2022, 1,127 faculty and 432 staff members. The school has more than 40 departments and programs. In addition, almost all undergraduates participate in Dietrich School classes to complete their general education requirements.
The candidates were tasked with asking the question: “How can the Dietrich School and the College of General Studies advance the University’s mission around education, scholarship and engagement in the next five to 10 years.”
No date has been announced for when a new dean will be named, although the committee said early on that it hoped to have a new leader in place by this summer. Below read more about the finalists for the dean’s position. Find recordings of the four presentations on a Sharepoint site (Pitt sign-on required).
Adam Leibovich, associate dean for research and faculty development in Pitt’s Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, since 2017
Leibovich received his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology and his bachelor’s from Cornell University. From 1997-2000 he was a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University and from 2000-02 a postdoctoral research fellow at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In 2003, he joined the faculty of Pitt’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. He became the department chair in 2015, and associate dean in 2017. He also is director of the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute.
Leibovich said his vision is to “unleash the potential of faculty, staff and students by improving student opportunities and experiences, enabling more research and creating a more inclusive environment.”
He noted that the Dietrich School is at the core of Pitt’s mission, bringing in the most undergraduate students. He also said the College of General Studies’ mission is more important now than ever as it appeals to non-traditional students.
As an internal candidate, he knows that there are challenges for the school. “We are coming out of the pandemic, and things have to change and have changed dramatically over the past few years, so thinking forward and moving forward is going to be important for the new dean.”
Challenges specific to Pitt include turnover in upper administration, including the chancellor and provost; implementation of the new budget model; and development of a faculty collective bargaining unit.
He said because of his institutional knowledge at Pitt, he is in a good position to step into a leadership role, with all the turmoil at higher ranks. He wants to continue hiring great faculty and staff to get the school back to full strength and be able to retain and nurture them.
His key goals are to find new funding opportunities under the new budget model; create interdisciplinary working groups; continue to expand CGS online courses and aggressively fundraise.
Juli Wade, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Connecticut, since 2019
Wade received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and her bachelor’s from Cornell University. In 1995, Wade joined the psychology faculty at Michigan State University and as a member of the interdepartmental Ph.D. program in neuroscience. She later added appointments in the Department of Zoology and the Ph.D. program in Ecology, Evolution and Behavioral Biology. At Michigan State, she also was chair of the psychology department from 2010-17 before becoming assistant provost for faculty development and then associate provost for faculty and academic staff development, before moving to Connecticut.
Wade said any vision for the school would have to be “our vision” and would come from a strategic planning process.
Between her work at Michigan State and Connecticut, Wade said she spent a year at the University of Pennsylvania to learn “how things functioned on an urban campus with
real commitment to undergrad education and outstanding medical center. They have about as pure an RCM (responsibility center management, which is what Pitt is now using) budget model as one can have, and I wanted to get experience working with them.”
Her work at UConn was in a school similar to the Dietrich School, with 25 departments, 800 full-time faculty, 200 staff and more than 50 undergraduate majors. She also led development of a strategic plan that is evaluated each year. The plans goals included diversity and inclusion, innovative scholarship; teaching, learning and student success; and community engagement.
At Pitt, she said any strategic plan for Dietrich would have to stem from the Plan for Pitt and capitalize on what Pitt can do differently and better than other institutions. She would prioritize areas with potential to make connections among schools and institutions across campus and Pittsburgh; external funding opportunities; connections to state priorities.
Karin Ruhlandt, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Syracuse University, from 2015-22
Ruhlandt received three degrees in chemistry, including a Ph.D. equivalent, at Philipps-Universität-Marburg in Marburg, Germany. She has spent most of her career since 1993 in the chemistry faculty at Syracuse University, chairing the department from 2009-14. She was named interim dean of arts and sciences in 2014 and permanent dean in 2015. She stepped down last year to return to the chemistry faculty.
Ruhlandt said her leadership approach is in the form of an upside down triangle, where she is at the bottom point “and all of you are on the top, and my job is to support you. It is as simple as that. This is not about me. This is about the greater college community, and what I can do
to make things better for everybody — the students, the faculty and the staff.”
Ruhlandt focused some of her talk to how diversity, equity, inclusion and access are not just a part of the school’s work — they are the guiding influence of all the work, including a holistic student experience and research and scholarship.
Work in these areas influences innovative curriculum and experiential learning, recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty and staff, interdisciplinary entreneurship and more.
The goal is to “equip students to think critically, communicate clearly, analyze and solve complex problems, appreciate others, understand the physical world, be prepared to continue learning and to meet the challenges of the future,” she said.
She’d like to see an increase in research expenditures and media mentions, faculty awards, prominence, world-wide ranking, along with polices and practices for staff that prioritize transparency, ownership of a shared mission, sense of belonging and enable good work-life balance.
Jennifer Malat, associate vice president for development at Virginia Commonwealth University, since July 2022.
Malat has a Ph.D. and masters in sociology from the University of Michigan. She started her academic career in 2000 at the University of Cincinnati as a faculty member in sociology. She was inaugural director of the Cincinnati Project, which connects researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences with organizations that serve marginalized people to conduct research with a direct community benefit. She was associate dean and divisional dean of social sciences at Cincinnati from 2016-2020, before moving to VCU as dean of the College of Humanities & Sciences from 2020-22.
Malat said that VCU is going through many of the same upheavals as Pitt with changes in leadership.
She said she made the choice to go into development, “because I could see that I could contribute there in helping them think about how to meet the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals in the next comprehensive campaign, and I could develop my skills in development in case I have an opportunity to return to the academic side of the house. So that is where I am.”
Her role in the development office, she said, “would serve me if I were to be your next dean — a better understanding of how people who have to look over the whole university as a whole system think about that.”
The Dietrich School is central to the University, Malat said, and is positioned to lead Pitt into the future. But the school needs to be better about communicating its accomplishment and “why, a liberal arts education is valuable. Why all of these different disciplines together make sense, and what they bring both to students and to the world.”
The basics of the dean’s office’s role is to listen to faculty and staff, find resources, advocate and connect people. She said throughout higher ed there are many challenges with and for staff, and she looks forward to hearing staff concerns at Pitt and where things are now.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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