On Tuesday, Feb. 6, more than 30 faculty listened as Renée Baernstein, one of the final four candidates in the College of Arts and Science (CAS) dean search, held her second open forum about why she should be the next dean of the division. She currently serves as the senior associate dean of CAS and has held leadership positions in the division since 2015.
In her speech, Baernstein outlined the challenges facing CAS, which include running a deficit in the division and political challenges to higher ed.
“Part of the reason I want to be dean is to have an opportunity to give back to that institution (Miami University) and to help others coming up behind me to have as much of that same sense of belonging and good treatment that I’ve had,” Baernstein said.
The first part of her plan involves creating new curricular initiatives, especially ones that lead to a job and can draw on current strengths in the college. New curricular initiatives include applied values and ethics across multiple departments, getting the word out about Miami’s strong health and wellness program and promoting environmental sustainability initiatives.
“I think that our purpose as a college is to forward and advance the understanding of the world around us,” Baernstein said. “We expand that knowledge, and we disseminate it.”
The second part of her plan involves getting students to realize the careers possible with their field of study in CAS. She thinks the university serves students poorly in preparing them for their first job out of college but does well with long-term careers.
“One of our biggest publicity problems … is people don’t understand ‘What am I going to do with that degree?’” Baernstein said. “That is true of our science fields as much as our humanities field.”
The third part of her plan is to improve university communication. She says the university is not effective at explaining what it does, saying it needs a general slogan to wrap everything together for CAS. Better communication also involves improving internal communication, which she plans to fix by taking a listening tour of faculty meetings across departments.
Baernstein is the only candidate currently working for the university — the other three are external. She said being a part of the internal faculty will help her get things done much faster than her outside opponents.
Paul Urayama, professor and chair of the physics department, attended the event and said he believes it’s important for people to be informed and involved in big decisions, such as the dean search.
“I really liked her closing remarks of how we’re all in this together,” Urayama said. “We need to think about the university as each of us being part of it.”
Melissa Gregory, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Toledo, is the next candidate to have an open forum. Her forum will take place on Monday, Feb. 12, 4-5 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 13, 9-10 a.m. in Kreger Hall, room 319.