Deans, provost collaborate as they await new colleague

Editor’s Note: Stavitsky has since removed his name from consideration because he accepted another offer. Open sessions with Stavitsky are canceled.

College of Communication dean candidates begin arriving on campus next week for open sessions. When they do, they will find a university that has a busy community of existing deans.

They’re teaching courses, working on projects in their colleges, building relationships outside of the university and serving together as members of a group that is responsible for advising Butler University’s provost on how to allocate a near-$40 million academic budget.

“We look for opportunities to work together and help each other solve problems,” COB Dean Chuck Williams said. “It’s something that you can do at an institution the size of Butler.”

Most Tuesday afternoons, they can be found conferring together on the Provost Advisory Council, which consists of the deans from each of Butler’s six academic colleges, the provost and two associate provosts.

Preparing for a new dean

The deans might be gearing up to welcome a new colleague next year, but they said they’ve all adjusted well to transitions in their group.

“The group changes, but that doesn’t mean that the whole group isn’t moving forward,” COPHS Dean Mary Andritz said. “It’s just different, not necessarily bad.”

Since the arrival of provost and vice president for academic affairs Jamie Comstock, deans in JCFA and LAS have been replaced and CCOM was formed—all of which have required dean searches.

In the interim, members of the colleges stepped in to fill the void, and Comstock said the interim members all have taken their role on the PAC seriously.

“As we were going through these transitions, we didn’t have strangers,” Comstock said. “We had people who we knew and trusted, who knew and trusted us.”

LAS Dean Jay Howard said now that his college has finished the leadership transition, he wants to stick around and slow down the turnover of Butler’s leadership.

“What the college needs right now is stability,” Howard said.

Working dynamic

Since the PAC started working together, Comstock said the group has never taken a vote, which she said speaks to its collaborative nature.

“That does not mean that we compromise, that we go along to get along,” Comstock said. “That means that we have the tough conversations that are required. We’re a very progressive group.”

Comstock said the members of the PAC work well together because of how much time they spend as a group.

“Whenever you invest four hours a week with a group of people, and you’re dealing with issues that are really at the heart and essence of a Butler University education, you get to know people really well,” Comstock said.

The deans said they all work well together and help new members of the PAC adjust to their working environment.

“I deeply admire every one of my colleagues,” COE Dean Ena Shelley said.

Andritz said part of the PAC’s summer retreat was spent helping JCFA Dean Ronald Caltabiano adjust to the university. Caltabiano couldn’t be reached for comment.

“I think everybody feels a sense of trying to help the new members get acclimated as quickly as possible,” Andritz said.

Howard said the relationship between all the deans is very collaborative and cooperative.

All of the deans said being able to get along with their colleagues makes their jobs much easier. It creates a support group where they can express any obstacles which they may need help getting over.

“The provost has done a great job creating camaraderie,” CCOM Interim Dean William Neher said.

Collaborative allocation

The entire academic division budget goes through the PAC, as well as incremental requests, which are additions to the operating budget, and one-time capital requests.

Comstock said resource allocation decisions are made collaboratively.

“It’s not Jamie’s list,” Comstock said. “It’s our list. We all support the decision that the group has made. If we have six requests and can only fund two of them, I can make that decision by myself. But I’ll make a better decision if we talk it out.”

When she first stepped into her role as a dean at Butler, Andritz said she was worried about possibly needing to compete with other deans for limited resources. But she hasn’t found that to be the case.
“We’re not a group of people that’s only looking at representing our own college,” Andritz said. “I’ve been so pleased that when there’s decisions about how to use limited resources, that there really is a discussion.”

When requests come to the PAC, the group gives people a chance to advocate for a request, then decides the priority of each request and sends the top five to the budget committee.

Comstock said priorities change each year and that the group considers how time sensitive a request is and whether there is another source of funds for it.

“One year, JCFA gets a roof, and the next year it’s LAS and COE,” Comstock said. “This year, it’s growing the space for students with disabilities.”

On top of the academic division budget, the PAC discusses academic strategic initiatives for the university, as well as the core curriculum, advising practices and faculty replacement, tenure and promotion.

It’s a diverse mix of work, Comstock said.

Group adjustments

Comstock said the nature of the group’s work has changed since members started working together when she was hired.

“We were trying to make sure that nothing got lost in the transition,” she said. “Now we’ve gotten to the point where we’re able to work more on strategic initiatives as opposed to house cleaning.”

Andritz said the group members also share valuable information that helps each of them understand the university’s challenges.

“It often excitingly leads to opportunities for us to collaborate on issues that are on the table,” Andritz said.

Under previous Butler provosts, the group was called the Council of Deans.

Andritz attributed the PAC’s name change to the fact that the two associate provosts—Laura Behling and Mary Ramsbottom Macmanus— also are members of the group.

“We didn’t want them to feel like second-class citizens,” Andritz said.

A dean’s life

The deans don’t just work on the PAC and perform administrative leadership duties. They’re also responsible for teaching courses, unlike at other institutions.

“Some people may think that a dean is far removed from what is happening in teaching and learning,” Shelley said. “I do teach on a regular basis, which is not typical in other institutions.”

There is no such thing as a “typical” day for a dean.

Howard said that part of the challenge is having to give up control of his entire calendar to devote to meetings, whether they are one-on-one or committee meetings.

“It’s easy to lose track, so it’s important to stay organized,” he said. “It’s easy for things to fall through the cracks.”

For Shelley, her days begin early with attending meetings, answering emails and focusing on staff, faculty and students in her college.

She points out that a dean must be flexible and willing to do everything as needed.

“I am a servant to students, faculty, the university and my profession,” Shelley said.

CCom dean search

The search has already begun, and the new CCOM dean will start June 1, 2012.

Howard is chair of the search committee that eventually will make a recommendation for hire to the provost and president.

“It makes sense to have a dean chair the search committee because we know the job, the challenges, the opportunities,” Williams said.

Neher cannot be involved in the dean search but said he does know that the new dean will be very strong.

Along with getting a new dean, CCOM will also be replacing other faculty as some members retire.

“There will be a one-third turnover with retirements and filling some positions that aren’t filled yet, which will be good for the new dean,” Neher said.

Members of the search committee will welcome the three finalists starting next week. They will hold open sessions for the Butler community to ask questions, voice concerns and get to know them.

The candidates are Alan Stavitsky, Glenda Balas and Gary Edgerton.

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