Search continues for COE dean

UAA’s College of Education is renewing its search for a new dean. The COE’s former dean, Mary Snyder resigned from her position at UAA when she was offered a position at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs that began in July of 2011.

Patricia Chesbro, a former teacher, principal and superintendent at the Mat-Su Borough School District, took over as interim dean for the COE in July 2011 while the COE dean search committee began looking for an official replacement. The initial search progressed as far as the COE flying the final three candidates to UAA to meet with various campus organizations and even offering one candidate the position. The candidate ultimately declined the offer, and the remaining two applicants took positions at other universities before the COE could offer them the position, according to UAA’s interim provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs Elisha “Bear” Baker IV.

“If you have three really good candidates, and you start negotiating with one and, for example, the candidate’s spouse doesn’t want to move to Alaska…when he finally declined the offer the other one had already taken another job,” said Baker. “It’s happened to me at least a dozen times in the past four years.”

Chesbro resigned from the position of interim dean to enter her second retirement, and Ed McLain, an associate professor at UAA and former teacher, vice-principal, superintendent and deputy commissioner of education and early development for the state of Alaska, has taken up the position in her stead as of July 2012.

The search for a dean is a long one, conducted first through a search firm; the firm makes calls to individuals that match search criteria and attempt to interest them in the position. Universities do not have access to the same list.

“The reason we use a search firm for executive level jobs is that the search firm will recruit people rather than relying on the ads as the only, if we have to depend on people seeing an ad, our chances of finding a good person are smaller,” said Baker. “Most of the folks in search firms have developed a relationship with up and coming faculty and administrative leaders over the years, so they have a list of people they can call and discuss the position with.”

From there, a series of interviews is conducted from the pool of interested and qualified applicants via phone and Skype. If applicants make it past this round, COE search committee members will sometimes fly to meet with applicants in person for interviews, and eventually the top two or three are flown to UAA to see the university and meet with the wider UAA community.

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Aside from academic qualifications, the search committee has other preferences they would like to see in the next COE dean.

“Colleges of Education are having problems across the board because I don’t think there are enough folks eligible for these positions,” said Hilary Seitz, the associate dean of the COE and a COE search committee member. “Faculty in the college really want someone who has worked with kids, who’s been a teacher, who’s been an educator. But, in addition to that, the dean has other administrative responsibilities that go beyond what a typical teacher does.”

There is no clear-cut timeline for when a new COE dean will be employed, but both Seitz and Baker are hopeful that candidates will be brought to UAA at some point in the fall semester.

“We’re on a fast timeline hopefully; it takes a long time to fill these positions because of the different rounds and things.” said Seitz. “Ideally, we’ll find someone by December and have them transition in by the end of the year. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but that’s what I’m hoping for.”