Director search advances

The second search for the next executive director of the Graduate School of Political Management is collecting high-profile candidates from the professional and academic realms with the hopes of interviewing contenders as early as October.

After the heavily-criticized initial search was scrapped in February, the committee redoubled efforts to include stakeholder groups, hired an outside firm to assist in the process and altered the job description to attract a more diverse pool of candidates.

Forrest Maltzman, chair of the search committee, said candidates so far have expressed interest in strengthening the school of professional politics, which was the first of its kind in the nation, and having a platform to talk about the American political system.

“People are quite enthusiastic about throwing their hat in the ring,” Maltzman said. “A fancy problem is that we are going to have a lot of very good candidates and that’s a problem, from my perspective, that we actually want.”

Outside search firm Isaacson, Miller, which specializes in finding leaders for civic institutions, is assisting in the process by recruiting candidates based on the position’s public posting.

After holding its first meeting in early June, the committee reached out to stakeholders – including part- and full-time faculty, students and alumni – over the summer.

“We’re trying to make sure that we appropriately get everybody’s opinion into the search, their vision for this position,” Maltzman said.

In a change from the first search, the committee now includes faculty members from GSPM, the College of Professional Studies and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, as well as representatives for alumni and the Council on American Politics, the graduate program’s funding and advisory arm.

The leadership of the school has undergone several shifts since the launch of the first search. After acting executive director Chuck Cushman abruptly resigned in April, Dennis Johnson, who was on leave as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in China at the time, assumed the position temporarily.

Last week, Kathleen Burke, dean of the overarching College of Professional Studies, announced that she would step down from her post at the end of the semester and assume a new role as senior advisor for nontraditional and distance learning under one of the University’s three vice provosts.

“When I came into my position as dean, I reviewed a stack of folders several inches high related to problems in the GSPM,” Burke said in an e-mail. The former dean canceled an interview with The Hatchet, saying she was “advised” not to discuss her post.

Since moving from the Columbian College to the College of Professional Studies five years ago, the graduate program has suffered from a budget deficit, declining enrollments and students complaints, Burke said.

Maltzman, who was formerly the chair of the political science department and entered a new role as senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning this fall, aims to hold the first round of brief “airport interviews” by the end of October or early November.

These interviews will likely follow a format “where the search committee would meet with a number of candidates for an hour and then we would go ahead and invite some candidates back to campus and have a broader process,” he said.

In line with the goals of the University’s recently-formed Council on Diversity and Inclusion, the second search committee “made a special effort to get women and minorities in the pool,” Maltzman said. All six of the final candidates interviewed during the last search were white males.

Though there is no cutoff date for applications, the committee strives to name a new director by January.

“We’re blessed by having a very good interim director, so we have some flexibility there,” Maltzman said. “But we’d like to find somebody.”

With many eyes in the political and academic world watching the search, the next executive director is under pressure to uphold the reputation of the school.

“This is a school that people feel very passionately about and that is a very healthy thing, but it does mean a more cumbersome process. And that’s the fun,” Maltzman said.

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