Letter to the editor: Honors College dean search should look at current job holder

I just wanted to offer two follow-up comments regarding the story, “National search kicks off for Honors College dean,” that appeared in the Nov. 20 edition of the University Times.  Let me first offer the disclaimer that I am a faculty member in the Katz School of Business who has worked with Audrey Murrell for many years.

First, I am a bit perplexed by the story’s emphasis on how the Honors College dean’s search is somehow noteworthy because it is a “national search” for a position that was previously filled internally. Ever since Ann Cudd was appointed as provost back in 2018, she has made an open commitment to requiring formal searches for all open administrative, staff and faculty positions. Notably, formal (i.e. “national”) searches were conducted for the presidencies of Pitt–Bradford/Pitt–Titusville and Pitt–Greensburg, the University’s senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences and the dean of the School of Medicine — among many others. Ann has made this commitment as part of her emphasis on ensuring an attention to diversity and inclusion in hiring.  

As such, the formal process in the Honors College dean’s search is completely consistent with what we have seen from the provost’s office ever since Ann took over.

Second, I am also puzzled about the commentary reported from the Nov. 17 open forum seeking input on the Honors College dean position, as none of the seven individuals quoted in the article mentioned the work currently being done in the Honors College by Acting Dean Murrell.  While I can imagine that it was only possible to include a few comments from the forum, it is jarring to see all of these comments about a hypothetical future dean, without any consideration of the merits of keeping the person who is currently engaged in the job.

While I again admit a strong bias in favor of my long-time mentor and colleague in Pitt Business, I can attest that Audrey Murrell has brought a great deal of energy and pragmatism to her new role in the Honors College. Just last Thursday, Audrey led a webinar on local food systems to an audience of 60 that included a large research project by a current Honors College student who is developing a data-driven approach to measuring food security in local neighborhoods. 

On the leadership front, Audrey is currently serving in a leadership role in the University’s Middle States re-accreditation and is working with Lina Dostilio and Kathy Humphrey to foster faculty research as part of the Year of Engagement. Despite all of these new responsibilities, she remains active in research and teaching in areas related to ethics, leadership, diversity and corporate social responsibility.

In closing then, I hope that the search committee takes a serious look at the person currently doing the job when they look for a leader with the vision to create a unique Honors College that would be seen as one of the best in the country. 


Ray Jones

Pitt Business professor