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Committees search for new H&S Dean, Dean of Research


Stanford has recently initiated several search committees to fill high-profile positions such as the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences (H&S) and Vice Provost and Dean of Research at Stanford.

Ann Arvin, the current Dean of Research, will step down and return to research and teaching in fall of 2018. Separately, Richard Saller, the current H&S Dean, informed the University that he will step down on Sept. 1, 2018. Saller, who has served as H&S Dean since 2007, will go back to being a full-time professor at Stanford.

H&S Dean Richard Saller (LINDA A. CICERO/Stanford News)

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve Stanford University and the faculty, students and staff of the School of Humanities and Sciences,” Saller told Stanford News. “My goal as dean for the last 10 years has been to make the resources and facilities available for our faculty and students to excel in their research, teaching and learning – in general, for them to thrive and share their knowledge with the larger world. Knowing that I was able to play this role and be a part of Stanford’s history gives me great satisfaction.”

According to a statement by University spokesperson EJ Miranda, the provost is responsible for selecting the committees that search for new deans. Faculty members and students – both graduate and undergraduate – typically serve on the committees. The faculty are often nominated by the Faculty Senate. To select students, Miranda explained, committee chairs request nominations from student groups.

Though search committees are not required have any student members, there are two on the H&S Dean Search Committee: one undergraduate student from the psychology department, Angela Smith ’18, and one Ph.D. student from modern thought and literature, Jonathan Leal.

“We make an effort to form a committee with a diverse membership that includes relevant expertise depending on the role,” Miranda said.

At the beginning of the search process, committee members talk with Stanford community members to determine what criteria are important to faculty, students and staff. The committee conducts individual interviews and requests dean nominations and general comments via email as well.

“Based on their input, the committee forms an opinion about the needs of the School within the University to help define the profile they are looking for in a candidate,” Miranda said.

The search committee for the H&S Dean began last fall. Provost Persis Drell and Aron Rodrigue, the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and History, co-chair the committee. Other committee members are Professor James Fearon from the political science department, Eleny Ionel from mathematics, Professor Beth Levin from linguistics, Todd Martinez from chemistry and Matthew Snipp from sociology, as well as professor and Dean of the Law School Elizabeth Magill. Trustee Emeritus Wendy Munger is also serving on the committee, as is Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Stephanie Kalfayan.

“We are doing outreach to constituent groups (including both a town hall for both undergrad and grad students held in December, and an online survey distributed to the same groups), collecting feedback, and working hard in the search,” undergraduate Smith wrote in an email to The Daily.

The job of the search committee is to evaluate both internal and external candidates and offer suggestions about who should be the dean. However, the committee will not make the final decision on who will be offered the position. That is up to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Drell.

Since the Dean of Research is a University-wide position, the process to fill that role differs somewhat from the process used to find the H&S Dean, Miranda told The Daily.

“The search is slightly different because the role does not oversee educational programs, but rather compliance and oversight of research policies as well as oversight of the work of the independent labs, centers and institutes,” he wrote.

The process of search committees is not always clear to the rest of the Stanford community. In an email to Stanford students and postdoctorates, co-chairs Drell and Rodrigue explained that the committee does not frequently share its findings until the process is complete.

“We will not communicate broadly about the progress of the search,” Drell and Rodrigue wrote. “In fact, to protect confidentiality, we may not be in touch again until later in the process.”

Still, Drell and Rodrigue expressed hope that the Stanford community would provide input.

“We welcome suggestions, not only about individual candidates, but about your concerns and hopes for the school going forward and about the sorts of traits you think are generally important for the next Dean,” they continued.

The deadline for submitting feedback was Dec. 4.


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Sophie Stuber is a senior from Aspen, Colorado, studying International Relations, French and Creative Writing. Sophie has written for the Daily since freshman year . This year, she spends a significant portion of her time working on her thesis, which is about designing an international legal framework to aid people forcibly displaced due to climate change. Aside from academics, Sophie loves reading, writing short stories, listening to NPR, and adventuring outside. Any of her friends will tell you that she loves to talk about the mountains, skiing, Atlantic articles, and Rebecca Solnit essays.