At the end of this June, Professor of English Karen Swann will replace Professor of History Carmen Whalen as the associate dean for institutional diversity. Whalen was the second person ever to hold the relatively new position, having succeeded Professor of Biology Wendy Raymond in 2010.
The associate dean for institutional diversity focuses on diversity within the faculty and staff of the College. In particular, they consult hiring committees within any given department on making sure to consider minority candidates, especially women, in fields that have historically had low percentages of female professors. It should be noted that no department is required to contact this dean, and that they serve as a resource to help, not as a superior to dictate. In addition, they work to make sure that the College remains a supportive place for faculty and staff of varied backgrounds.
Given the novelty of the position, Whalen was able to define the position largely as she pleased. One of her main concerns was faculty mentoring regarding tenure. She worked to make sure all faculty know the expectations for tenure and attempted to make sure that they all “had the tools to figure out how to achieve those standards.” The tenure process can often seem shrouded in mystery, and one of Whalen’s goals was to make the process seem as transparent as possible for all candidates.
In reflecting on her time as dean, Whalen was positive, saying that it went “very well, overall.” With regards to her personal life, she was glad that she got to interact more with the College’s staff than she ever had before. In addition, as a professor of history, she got to work more with her colleagues “across the road” in the departments of science and math. This gave her to opportunity to see the College from a different perspective, getting to see “just how different it is to be a faculty member teaching Div. III courses.”
As exciting as her time as dean was, Whalen is “looking forward to getting back into teaching and scholarship.”
“It all makes me realize how much I love being in the classroom,” Whalen said. She did, however, note that the opportunity to pursue both her role as a professor and an administrator in such a short period of time is one of the features that makes the College a great place to work.
Whalen believes that Swann is “a great fit for the role” as dean and looks forward to seeing how she chooses to define her role based on her own interests. Whalen’s tenure does not end until the end of June, so she still has time to add more accomplishments to her time as dean. Even once Swann officially takes over on July 1, they plan to work together in order to ensure as smooth of a transition as possible.
Looking forward, Swann also expects to focus her efforts on faculty hiring and retention, just as Whalen did, and notes that she has been “really impressed” by her predecessor’s “innovative” work. She would, however, “also be very eager to work with others to develop creative ways departments and programs … might work to maximize faculty resources without exhausting the faculty concerned.”