Author: Drew Jaffe
All three associate deans of the college — Geology Professor Scott Bogue, Art History and Visual Arts (AHVA) Professor Amy Lyford and English Professor John Swift — will step down from their positions to become full-time faculty this summer. Their replacements for the upcoming academic year will be appointed by Interim Dean of the College Kerry Thompson.
The reasons for the administrators’ departures are unrelated. Bogue — who is associate dean for research and also oversees the science departments — is finishing up his fourth year in the position; he initially planned to hold it for only three. He said he is eager to return to his research and teaching full time.
“This position is a great one if you are interested in moving from a regular faculty-type position into college or university administration, and I had no ambitions in that direction,” Bogue said.
Bogue became dean after need arose for a faculty member from the sciences to fill the position, and he said he agreed to step up.
Bogue said that his responsibilities as dean — including running the summer research program — limited time for his own research, requiring him to put projects on hold. Staffing constraints within the department have required Bogue to teach two classes this year rather than one — the normal amount for associate deans.
Despite the demands of the job, Bogue said he has enjoyed his experience as dean and developed a better understanding of how the administration works.
“You learn that people running the college are working very hard and their intentions are good,” Bogue said. “And they have to make hard decisions and deal with finite resources and make those trade-offs all the time.”
Swift — associate dean for core curriculum and student issues who also oversees the social sciences departments — agreed that the job makes for unique and interesting work, providing the opportunity to partake in both long- and short-term administrative projects. Swift directs the first-year Cultural Studies Program and chairs the student progress committee, which hears petitions for exceptions to college policies.
Swift agreed to a five-year term as associate dean in 2011 and is nearing the completion of his fifth year on the job. This is his second stint as an associate dean, having been associate dean of faculty — a now-defunct position — 1988–97.
After he leaves the position, Swift will take a sabbatical to focus on his scholarship: particularly, a series of papers about the American Southwest he has put off publishing due to the demands of his deanship.
Lyford has been associate dean for two and a half years and will also be returning to teaching and her scholarly work next year. As associate dean for curriculum and academic support, she chairs the Academic Planning Committee, which reviews curriculum proposals from academic departments and programs and oversees academic support units like the Center for Academic Excellence and Center for Community Based Learning. She also oversees the arts and humanities departments.
Additionally, Lyford works with the dean of the college to review faculty promotions, appointments and scholarship funding. She said she has particularly enjoyed her work in securing funds for academic initiatives, including acting as co-principal investigator for one grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and principal investigator for another.
According to Lyford, the first Mellon Grant — for which she is a co-principal investigator — is providing funding for student summer research and three post-doctoral fellows in philosophy, American studies and Comparative Studies and Literature. The second grant, worth around $800,000, will help enhance arts-related curricula and programming and fund the construction of OxyArts, a gallery and exhibition space to be located where liquor store Oxcy Mart was previously located. Lyford hopes to stay involved in these initiatives after she steps down from her position as dean.
Although Lyford said there are aspects of the job she will miss, including the frequent collaboration with other administrators, she believes that it will be beneficial for other faculty members to take up the role so they can get a better understanding of how the college runs.
“I’ve tried to do things on behalf of the college to advance our curriculum, to make things run better, to create procedures and processes in the dean’s office,” Lyford said. “But I actually think it’s great to have more people moving through the dean’s office who are faculty so that they feel like they understand how the machine works from multiple perspectives.”
Thompson is in charge of appointing the replacements for the associate deans, although he is open to input from other offices and organizations on campus, including the Faculty Council.
He has asked Chemistry Professor Eileen Spain to become associate dean for the science departments, but is still trying to find replacements for the other two positions. He said he is looking for faculty members who are organized, hard working and interested in furthering Occidental’s mission.
Thompson said the replacement associate deans will not necessarily be hired with long contracts. The associate deans will likely serve through the hiring of a new dean of the college and a year after in order to ease the transition. The new dean will then be able to potentially build their own staff.
There was also discussion among Thompson and other faculty members on the possibility of reorganizing the dean’s office. According to Thompson, the associate deans are frequently engaged in administrative duties that can hinder their ability to focus on long-term strategic planning. The academic departments from which the professors come do not necessarily indicate what they will oversee as associate deans. Adding a fourth dean to the office is one solution they discussed; no concrete plans to reorganize the office have been made, according to Thompson.
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