Roxanne Goldberg: Students: play an active role in the dean search

It is no secret that GW students are vocal. They make phone calls to support political candidates, proudly advocate for their peers during Student Association elections and protest in front of the White House.

But when it comes down to choosing the leader of the University’s largest college, the student body has been uncharacteristically silent.

After Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peg Barratt announced in May that she would step down from her position – a month after faculty reported in a survey that they thought she lacked leadership skills and a vision for the college – the University created a committee of nine faculty and two students to lead the search for her successor.

More than 5,000 undergraduates will be directly affected by the decisions made by the new hire. That’s why it’s so critical that students in the college communicate to the administration what qualities they want to see in their leader.

While the dean search might not be as exciting as working on a campaign or putting up signs for advocacy groups in the Marvin Center, the new dean will, in many ways, either make or break the success and progress of the Columbian College going forward.

In the past couple of years, liberal arts degrees have come under fire, and colleges and universities have had to prove that they still play an important role in our society. I’m a student in the Columbian College. My new dean must be more than an academic.

While it is crucial to have a scholar, we need a person who can also find novel ways to make a liberal arts degree applicable to the modern workforce and give students the practical skills they will need to get jobs after they graduate.

This new dean will also be joining the community at a time of transition and change.

In the next decade, GW is planning to implement some major changes with its strategic plan. GW is hoping to increase research across the University and also bolster the number of new faculty hires. But the University can’t hope to attract the highest caliber of professors and students unless we have a dean who can lead by example.

The dean must be engaging. He or she must be a larger-than-life figure – someone with a personality, like former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, whose leadership skills allowed him to revolutionize the campus during his 19-year tenure. Whether you liked him or not, he was a presence on campus. Everyone knew him. There’s no reason why the new dean of the Columbian College should be different.

Now, more than ever, it is important that students engage in this process. There’s too much at stake for the student body at large to sit by as the administration appoints a dean to lead us into the next decade.

While the dean search committee is still young, students must speak up. We want a leader who will appeal to both student and faculty concerns.

Under the right leadership, there is so much that can be gained.

Roxanne Goldberg is a sophomore majoring in art history.

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