One of the reasons I’ve been so obsessed with the ways that small private colleges hire business-faculty members is that we are undertaking a search for a new dean for our school of business, and the issues that we’ve faced when hiring business professors here are probably going to loom even larger in this search.
The five deans on our campus are actually similar to division chairs, as we don’t really have departments or department chairs, and our largest school has about 25 faculty members. Only the deans of education and business are 12-month appointments; the others have 10-month positions. They are the primary facilitators of program development among their colleagues, and they are the first line of faculty evaluation, including coordinating decisions on promotion and tenure.
They have some (though limited) budgetary authority, and they chair searches in their schools. All five of them work closely with me on virtually all matters of concern to their schools. I’ve been a dean of a larger college of arts and sciences (around 70 faculty members), and that job had more in common with my current one than it did with what our deans do here.
That doesn’t mean that the dean’s job is not crucial to the conduct and well-being of the institution, or that it’s underappreciated on the campus. Our deans are vital players in almost every aspect of institutional operation. They are in touch with what’s going on in their schools and are key to curriculum revisions, program management, hiring, and other functions that help to determine our future.
They are my most trusted advisers and have more than once kept me out of trouble. They are effective and important advocates for the faculty, and I rely on them to tell me the truth about what’s going on in their areas.
So hiring a business dean is a most important event for the university. We don’t generally hire outside deans but promote faculty members from within, and their tenures of service have varied quite a bit over the years. I understand that we have had somewhat mixed results with external deans—before my time—and so we are taking a significant chance by going outside with this search.
Still, it’s a real opportunity for the right person, and one that I hope strong candidates will consider. Our business students have a good record of professional success, and we certainly have the resources, financial and academic, to enhance the program further. There are some interesting local projects that could lead to significant learning for our students, many of whom are from small towns, not unlike here in Storm Lake, Iowa, and who seek to return to a similar place, suggesting that leadership and business development here can translate directly into opportunities back home.
I am excited to see what happens as the search unfolds. I haven’t hired a dean before, and the opportunity to do so is a chance to make a major contribution to the future of the program.