The Search for a Dean of SoLA

By Maria Thomas, Senior Writer

(Interview with DeVaughn Harris conducted by Katie Henegan)

Since December, a committee made up of various faculty members and one student representative have been searching for a new dean for the School of Liberal Arts.

The committee is chaired by Donald Gibson, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business. Additionally, it has five professors from the school of liberal arts, one professor from the school of science and one professor from the school of education and health. There is also a VP representative, Barbara Fabe, an administrative representative, William Walters, a student representative, Devaughn Harris, and Provost Schreiner. 

The search has been a detailed and timely process, with the initial candidate pool topping 100 applicants from various institutions across the country. To start, the committee came up with a position description and posted ads to encourage a wide range of candidates with diverse backgrounds in education. 

The large pool of responses is then sorted by the committee, who collectively determines a group of seven to ten candidates. Then, virtual interviews are conducted with each of the individuals, until the committee can narrow it down to three finalists. 

In the case of the running for dean of liberal arts, the three final candidates who have been selected are Cheryl Wilson, Ph.D., Dr. Cory Blad, Ph.D., and Dr. Paulette Meikle, Ph.D.

Blad has served as the interim dean of the school of liberal arts for the 2022-2023 school year, since Keith Brower, Ph.D., stepped down from the position last year. In addition to this job, Blad is a professor of sociology at the college. 

Wilson is a professor of English, and currently serves as the dean of humanities and social sciences at Stevenson University, located outside Baltimore. The university is similar in size to Manhattan College, with total enrollment around 3,000 students and 800 graduate students.

Since 2016, Meikle has been the associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at University of Arkansas. Additionally, she is a professor of sociology, and received her Doctorate from Mississippi State University. 

Once the committee selected these three candidates, each was invited to campus for a day of interviews, a tour of the school, and a dinner with the president. Students across all disciplines were encouraged to attend open sessions, in which they could ask the candidates questions and get a sense of each individual’s goals and priorities. Then, all students who were in attendance were emailed surveys to complete, with opportunities to provide commentary on their opinions of each applicant. 

In the end, it is the president who determines which candidate will be selected as dean, but all student and faculty feedback is taken into consideration, according to Provost Schreiner and Dean Gibson. 

“It’s a pretty rigorous process, and it has lots of community input because these positions, as you know, are really important across campus. It’s a leadership position that leads the school and actually helps lead the whole college, if you will, to the future,” said Schreiner.

Dean Gibson, who was appointed chair of the search committee, spoke to the importance of student involvement in ultimately selecting a candidate. 

“I think having an undergraduate student on the committee was very important — DeVaughn was very active in each of the interviews. And I think it also reminds the candidates that it’s the students that are really our focus, and it also exemplifies that at Manhattan College, we really emphasize the importance of students and that they are vital to the way we teach and the way we want to run our schools,” Gibson said.

At the start of the search, senior philosophy major DeVaughn Harris was asked by the chair of his department, Sarah Scott Ph.D., to be a part of the committee. Harris jumped at the opportunity to participate in such a vital and influential process. 

“I feel like it’s important for a student representative to be a part of this kind of search because students bring a perspective that is necessary to the table,” Harris said. “Sure, faculty members and administrators were students at one point, so I imagine that they can offer some insight, but nobody knows what it’s like to be a SoLA student better than the actual students. I’m honored to have been chosen as that voice for my peers.” 

Once the president makes a decision, more background checks will be done. Although the process of finding a new dean is a scrupulous one, it is expected that the position will be finalized by the end of the semester.