Search for Dean moves to next step

By Matthew Stone

The next step in the national search for a new Dean of Multicultural Life will begin next week as a newly formed search committee meets for the first time. The college is seeking to fill the position of current Dean Joi Lewis, who will leave Macalester at the end of the semester. She announced her resignation last month.

The Dean of Multicultural Life is the head of the Department of Multicultural Life, which runs the Leadtad-Suzuki Center and provides support for multicultural programming on campus among other tasks. Lewis cited what she sees as a lack of institutional support for the department as a reason for her resignation.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Hamre, who will make the final decision on the new hire, applications for the position are already arriving at a “pretty good rate.” Human Resources and Student Affairs staff members have spent many of the past several weeks recruiting candidates for the deanship after the college advertised the position in national higher education publications and through other means.

“I am hopeful that with all that extra work we’ll generate a good pool of candidates,” Hamre said.

A new dean is expected to begin work at Macalester during the summer to be in place before students return for Fall classes.

The search committee expects to begin reviewing resumes on Apr. 19 and to bring three or four finalists to campus for visits and interviews between Apr. 24 and May 5.

“I absolutely want to have this done while the students are still here before the end of the semester because I think student input is crucial,” said Jane Rhodes, Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, who will serve on the search committee.

A group of nine faculty, staff and students will review the resumes. Of the nine search committee members, no college employees who would serve on the same staff as a new Dean of Multicultural Life are represented. Hamre said she worked with President Brian Rosenberg and Provost Diane Michelfelder to select the committee’s faculty and staff representatives.

“We looked at faculty who we thought would be representative and who would have a vested interest in this position,” Hamre said. “With staff, I tried to look at having people who knew a great deal about what the dean could and should be doing once they get here and who would work closely with them.”

The committee’s three faculty members are Leola Johnson, chair of Humanities and Media and Cultural Studies, American Studies professor Karin Aguilar San Juan, and Rhodes.

Aaron Colhapp, International Student Program Coordinator, Dameun Strange, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, and Karin Trail-Johnson, Associate Dean of the new Institute for Global Citizenship, will serve on the committee as staff representatives.

“The Dean of Multicultural Life will work very closely with the staff in the Institute so I wanted there to be an opportunity to forge a relationship through the interview process,” Hamre said of including Trail-Johnson on the committee.

The names of the three students who will serve on the committee will be known by early next week. Leaders of cultural organizations were scheduled to decide yesterday on two of the student representatives from a pool of applicants. Executive officers from Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) are scheduled to meet today to review applications and determine who the remaining student member will be.

MCSG Vice President Jess Hasken ’07 is managing the application process for the committee’s MCSG-chosen representative. Many students have indicated interest in serving, she said.

As many perceive a growing divide between domestic multicultural and international communities on campus, the new Dean of Multicultural Life may find him/herself in a challenging position. Some also note that the incoming dean may face insufficient resources for multicultural initiatives.

“It’s pretty daunting in a lot of respects because a new dean has to walk into an environment where there’s a lot of needs and a lot of demands on their time,” Rhodes said. “I think a demand on that dean is to continue to lobby for increased resources for the Department of Multicultural Life.”

As for what the search committee will look for in applicants, the expectations are numerous. For Rhodes, the candidate eventually hired should be able to advocate for the department as well as build relationships across campus, especially with faculty and administrators.

“I think there is a strong sense that we want the new dean to follow in Joi Lewis’ footsteps,” Rhodes said.

Alex Flores ’08, who has applied to be a student representative on the committee, agreed with many of Rhodes’ expectations.

“I expect the new dean to be a fierce advocate, an educator, an experienced and well-grounded individual,” he said. “Most of all I want the dean to be hardened to institutional processes.”

Since Lewis announced her resignation last month, questions on campus have lingered over whether the department receives sufficient support. The department’s budget for the current academic year is $36,000, compared to a $100,000 budget for its equivalent at Carleton College, which has a similarly sized student body.

“I think that the [Department of Multicultural Life] really does not have anything close to the kinds of resources that it needs to really do the kinds of things that we expect of it at Macalester,” Rhodes said.

Those involved with the search say that they are optimistic that they will find a qualified and desirable candidate. However, should the search not be successful, some options are available, Hamre said. Among those, the school could make an interim hire to serve for only one year and the search committee can return to the drawing board.