Two dean searches underway

Truman State University is in the process of searching for two new deans: one for the School of Business and one for the School of Arts and Letters. 

Jim O’Donnell resigned from his position as the dean of the School of Arts and Letters over the summer, so Jeanne Harding has been serving as the interim dean until the search is complete and a replacement is hired for the position. Harding previously served as the interim dean for the School of Health Sciences and Education. For the School of Business, Debra Kerby is the current dean, but she has plans to retire July 1, 2020. Both search processes began last June.

The application dates for the searches closed at the beginning of September, so the search committees, each consisting of faculty, staff and students, will soon begin reviewing applications. 

Lucy Lee, the School of Arts and Letters dean search committee chair, said that as of Sept. 5 no work had been done by the committee because the application deadline had not passed. Lee said the committee will be using the position characteristics outlined in the job description to evaluate the candidates.  

Each committee has a similar process for assessing candidates that narrows down the application pool before conducting interviews via video chat. From there the candidates are invited to campus. Janet Gooch, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said she anticipates 30 or more applicants for each position. While the search isn’t strictly internal, anyone that is already Truman faculty or staff could have applied.

Gooch said the two searches are fairly standard and on a similar schedule. 

“We are searching while [Kerby] is still here, which is good,” Gooch said. “We hope to fill the position on her departure, so she’ll stay until July then have someone new to start when she leaves, which is about the optimal situation.” 

Gooch said the University is using the search firm RPA Inc. to help conduct the search because it is particularly helpful in finding candidates for higher-level administration positions. Truman has used this firm before in its search for the dean for the School of Health Sciences and Education and in the search for the current vice president for advancement. The firm allows people to see the position listing on a national level. 

Gooch said deans play an integral role as the leader for a school. Deans coordinate and review department chairs and faculty within their schools, ensure the curriculum is up to date and meet collectively with the provost to determine how the schools can work together to ensure quality education across the University. 

Harding said she thinks the employment description the University is using for the dean position is comprehensive. In addition to providing descriptions of the University, the position, the School of Arts and Letters, qualifications and the City of Kirksville, the position description said Truman is looking for a leader who can bring a sense of humor, passion, global perspective, communication and collaboration to lead the school.

“We really feel that the current structure is pretty effective as far as how departments are organized and how are schools are organized,” Gooch said. “We currently have five schools, which, you know, for a University our size is pretty standard.”

Gooch said she encourages everyone in the Truman community to get involved with the search process. When the candidates are invited to campus there will be open forums in which students, faculty and staff can ask questions and provide input.