Dean Lawrence Breitborde is confident that Knox College will find the best candidate to replace him as Dean of the College, despite the enormous shoes they must fill and the lengthy search process ahead.
The dean, who plans to step down on June 30 — having been coaxed to stay one more year by President Teresa Amott — felt “weird” being in his last year, but acknowledged that he does not have a lot of downtime between now and then.
“There’s a huge amount of stuff that has to happen between now and commencement,” Breitborde said. “It’s not the case that there’s all kinds of free time to think or reflect or do more crossword puzzles or whatever.”
Breitborde has stated that he has no plans to be a part of the search process, save for answering any questions or providing information about the job.
“You don’t hire your own successor,” he said. “It’s the college’s thing to do. There really shouldn’t be any influence by me at all.”
The process has been given to a search committee composed of representatives from throughout the Knox community. Chaired by Associate Professor of History Konrad Hamilton, the committee is composed of four professors (one from each discipline), Vice President of Finance Tom Axtell, one member of the Board of Trustees, and student representative senior Justin Steele.
Hamilton was quick to praise Breitborde’s accomplishments as Dean.
“He’s been a very important leader for the faculty,” he said, noting that Breitborde had been the only dean many faculty have ever known. “I’ve always felt that I could trust him and that if I had a problem I could go to him and he would do whatever he could to help me with that problem.”
Hamilton stated that the search committee would rely on advice from the consulting firm Issacson and Miller of Washington DC. Backed by both faculty and staff, it is the same firm that led Knox to hire Amott.
“It’s a process in which we’ve tried to involve as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s a process where we are trying to get as big a pool as possible and narrow that down so we can find the best possible candidate for this position.”
He added that the search would extend nationwide and internationally, with most candidates coming from places outside of Knox.
Breitborde believes that the new dean will have to immediately address the ongoing issue of faculty salaries and other material resources upon taking office.
“That’s at the bottom of almost every issue around here,” Breitborde said of the challenge. “It’s certainly what keeps the president up at night.”
Additionally, he’d like to see an increased number of students participate in a study abroad program at Knox.
“I think whoever comes in here is going to walk right into an ongoing project that has new leadership and new energy in the form of President Amott,” Breitborde said.
Hamilton commented that, in addition to the issues Knox faces, the new dean will have to face him or herself with a new type of student: the millennial.
“The millennial generation has very different learning styles, very different needs from generations in the past,” he said. “The new dean will have to be somebody who is sensitive to that, and someone who will be able to help the faculty to identify the new academic needs of this generation and help the faculty to develop the types of programs and types of approaches that work well with this generation.”
Although no official hiring timetable has been set, Hamilton has set benchmarks and would like to begin interviewing finalists for the position sometime by January 2013.
“It depends on how the pool builds,” he admitted. “As we get further down the process, and we start actually interviewing candidates face to face, then those target dates will firm up quite a bit.”
As for Breitborde, he plans to take a year off on sabbatical and hopes to get back to his archaeological field site in Western Africa. By the fall of 2014, he plans to be teaching full time in the anthropology and sociology department at Knox.
Although he has no regrets about his time in office, Breitborde did confess that, “I don’t really want to write memos anymore.”
“I’m not done,” he said. “I don’t feel burdened. I kind of smile because I’ve got this other thing coming up that’s going to be great.”