GSPIA dean search committee gets input from faculty, staff and students


The next Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) dean has the opportunity to bring notice more broadly to the school while making sure international students — and all students — are heard, said faculty, staff and students speaking at an open forum Dec. 4. It was part of the search to replace Dean John T. S. Keeler, who will step down on June 30, 2020.

The search committee — chaired by Vice Provost for Global Affairs and GSPIA faculty member Ariel Armony — will be writing a position profile this month based partly on forum input, with the aid of two staff from the search firm Isaacson Miller: Sean Farrell and Marc St. Hilaire.

“We consider this not just a national search but an international search,” Armony said.

“I think there is a commitment here to get a really strong, exceptional dean,” Farrell added.

The committee will be recruiting candidates to interview in January and February 2020, with the goal of bringing up to four finalists to campus for public events by April. Provost Ann Cudd has the final say on the dean selection, slated for this summer.

“What are we looking for this next dean to accomplish?” Farrell asked the 40 forum attendees.

Sabina Dietrick, GSPIA associate dean, suggested the new dean would need to balance the job of serving the school’s internal and external needs. “We have a lot of presence in a lot of places, and I’m sure we’d like to have more,” Dietrick said. “It’s good for the school. It’s good for the image ... (and) generally the fundraising is a huge piece” of a dean’s job at other schools. “Everyone wants to get an endowment and be a named school.”

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, GSPIA faculty member, said that successful deans find a “nice niche” for the school to distinguish it among other prominent public policy schools. If “you can identify what the school is about,” that produces stronger enrollments and alumni for the school, she said. “From talking to my students,” Gamper-Rabindran added, there is “the need for GSPIA to focus on what skills people leave GSPIA with.” She also suggested the school must take better advantage of its alumni in prominent positions in city and state government.

“Deans have done really well,” she said, when “they are extremely engaged in the city (and) they have a lot of engagement in the community. ... I think the endowment will come when you ... will build the school’s quality.”

GSPIA staff member Natasha Williams had a similar suggestion for the new dean’s internal focus, saying he or she should be a “more hands-on dean, going out in the community, allowing staff and faculty to be a part of it ... (and) engaging with our community centers in Homewood and the Hill District” as well as creating more professional development opportunities for staff.

Staff member Dayna Jenkins agreed: “I think it’s important that the dean attend some of the events on campus, not only with students” but faculty-planned events as well. Students don’t often feel as if their opinions are heard, she believed: “We are a smaller school, so it’s important that we stay connected.” She also requested the new dean develop a good relationship with the school’s board of visitors, which helps the students gain valuable perspectives about career opportunities.

The new dean needs to be cognizant that the school may be challenged in coming years by decreasing college enrollments due to changing demographics, Williams also noted.

One master of public administration student hoped for “a dean that can deliver on the promise of the academic resources that are already here,” since some students have been unable to take required courses across her program’s standard two years, she said.

Other GSPIA faculty pressed for a dean who:

  • will negotiate with the provost for appropriate funding;

  • has a proven record of increasing the diversity of faculty;

  • can communicate well with students and keeps regular drop-in office hours for students to air their concerns; and

  • can foster more interdisciplinary research

Students and faculty members also said the new dean should have a good international perspective to aid international students. “I would love for a new dean to maintain that focus for the next five years,” said faculty member Müge Finkel, who is on the search committee. “They become the face of the school abroad. I think it’s important in this day and age to live up to the name of our school, to do it right.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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