The countdown is underway to select the new Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development. The final three candidates introduced themselves to both faculty and students in group meetings throughout last week. This position opened up last year when former Associate Dean for Diversity Lili Rodriguez left the college to become Vice Chancellor for Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence at the University of Denver. The position at Swarthmore was established in the fall of 2013, building upon the Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs position, which had existed for 10 years prior.
The position includes responsibilities pertaining to community development and inclusion for students, faculty, and staff, cultivating a more diverse and inclusive environment, and serving as an advocate and resource.
The process of narrowing down these candidates required a considerable amount of time and collaboration among students, faculty and staff. The selection committee was composed of students and faculty members, and was aided by consultant Isaacson Miller, who specializes in helping colleges to locate the best possible candidates for various leadership positions, met together and discussed the opinions and expectations to best fill the spot.
Dean of Students Liz Braun explained, “Back in the fall, Isaacson Miller spent a day on campus meeting with a broad range of campus constituencies to learn more about the Swarthmore community and what different groups were looking for in the next Associate Dean.”
The search process involved gradually narrowing down the initial candidate list through committee discussions and interviews with the candidates until arriving at the final three.
“I greatly appreciate the community’s involvement and feedback in the process and it will be factored into the committee’s final recommendation,” Braun noted.
Because the candidate pool has been tapered down, the search committee gave each candidate a chance to meet with the community and to interact with both faculty and students. Each candidate met with faculty and staff during the day and attended a second meeting held at night specifically for students.
In each of the meetings any person was able to attend to hear about the background of each candidate as well as have questions answered.
Kara Bledsoe ’16 noted that the meetings also allowed the candidates to get a sense of how the Swarthmore community works and how different groups around campus operate. The candidates had the opportunity to see what the position would entail and how they could tailor their aim to best work with the community as a whole.
Many students expressed their interest in the decision making process including Bledsoe, who recently joined the search committee and has played a large role in narrowing down the finalists.
“I agreed to be a part of the committee because I feel very strongly that students should take every opportunity to have their voices heard and exert all the influence at their disposal so that the college reflects to the best of its ability what the students want to see.” Beldsoe explained. “This was a chance for me to walk my walk.”
Different campus stakeholders have different specific interests for what aspects the next Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development should focus on most, but there is a general desire to bring the community closer together and to connect to the student body.
“What I’m looking for in the position is someone that can be connected to students and advocate for their needs, someone who is approachable, honest, and trustworthy, and someone who has experience dealing with a student population comparable to Swarthmore’s,” said Bledsoe.
After this multi-month process, the position will be filled soon and expectations will hopefully be met.