After ten years of dividing her time between heading both the Career Development Center (CDC) and Health and Wellness Center, Denise Ward, the Associate Dean for Student Services, has left her role as the director of CDC. Her transition has relaunched the search for a new director and led to the appointment of former Assistant Director of the CDC, John Mountain, to Acting Director.
Ward said that her decision to leave the CDC and move to being the Director of Health and Wellness full-time was partially prompted by Macalester’s prioritizing of career development in the Strategic Plan released last year. She was also motivated by her desire to help give both departments the “clear-focused lens of the unique pieces of work that they each do.”
“There’s some funding associated with the implementation of [the Strategic Plan]. Whether it was for the director here in Health and Wellness or a director in the Career Development Center, those little windows of opportunity don’t come up very often,” Ward said. “To propose a full-time director in the Career Development Center which could then be linked to the strategic priorities and the funds available seemed to be a little bit of a no-brainer.”
Despite being a “no-brainer,” the search for a new director ended without a candidate last summer. Ward said the difficulty of the search was due to a combination of searching late in the hiring cycle and the absences of a Vice President of Student Affairs after former Vice President Laurie Hamre retired at the end of last year.
The appointment of the new Vice President for Student Affairs, Donna Lee, and the use of a search firm, has rebooted the search for a director.
Lee, who said that Macalester’s new focus on enhancing career development was one of the things that attracted her to the college, believes that searching for a director through a search firm will help the college “cast the net out as wide as possible” and attract the most qualified candidates.
“[The firm will] come to campus and meet with different groups on campus to get a sense of what the community is looking for, because it really needs to be what we are looking for,” Lee said.“They’ll help then make sure that the job description really then does articulate what this vision is and that it’s something that’s compelling, that’s going to attract really good candidates.”
Lee hopes that the selection of a director becomes a collaborative process.
“The candidates would meet with individuals, with groups, with faculty, with staff, with students, with mixed groups, so that we get to see them in a variety of different contexts and they get to talk with several different kinds of group and gather all that input from people,” Lee said.
Lee also plans to engage the campus community by forming a committee focused on the search for a director. The committee will include two student representatives.
While Lee, the committee, and the search firm focus on finding a new leader for the CDC, Mountain says he will be focused on maintaining and increasing the CDC’s engagement with the campus.
“I think one of the key rationales behind having the Acting Director role, [is to] still have the CDC have a voice on campus versus us feeling like we’re in transition. Which we are, but at least there’s somebody now who can still be there if there are questions on campus,” Mountain said.
Ward agreed that with the CDC’s work and the Strategic Plan’s call for greater engagement, there was a need for work to continue despite the search for a full-time director.
“There’s a lot of good work happening with faculty and our alumni departments,” Ward said. “I think it’s a lot of plates to keep spinning, that’s kind of the metaphor, so you move quickly to keep all those plates spinning and have it all work together.”
“We’re working hard and we’re moving forward. It’s not like we’re just limping along until the director gets here. We’re engaged, we’re working and we’ve got plans and initiatives moving forward,” said Mountain.