September 20, 2010

KSAS: New structure at the top

In an effort to streamline operations, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences has reconfigured her office, moving to a structure that will better serve departments and permit more “interdisciplinary synergies” between departments and across divisions.

“Department chairs need to be able to take concerns and questions about all levels of their program—from undergraduates to postdocs and faculty—to a vice dean who can work on all of these elements as a united package,” said Katherine S. Newman, who assumed the deanship of the Krieger School on Sept. 1. “The new configuration is a way of tailoring our services, so to speak, to most efficiently address the present and future needs of the departments, divisions and individuals. At the same time, it allows us the latitude to look across the construct at the special needs of our students and faculty that are not department bound.”

At the heart of the office’s new internal architecture is the appointment of five vice deans, whose individual and intersecting responsibilities form an umbrella of coverage over the entire Krieger School.

Gregory Ball, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and formerly dean of research and graduate education, has been named vice dean for science and research infrastructure.

Kellee Tsai, a professor in the Department of Political Science and former director of the East Asian Studies Program, will serve as vice dean for humanities, social sciences and graduate programs. (The East Asian Studies Program will now be headed on an interim basis by Rebecca Brown, a visiting associate professor in Political Science.)

Steven David, a professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, holds the role of vice dean for undergraduate education.

Ben Vinson III, a professor in the Department of History who was also director of the Center for Africana Studies, will hold the post of vice dean for centers and interdepartmental programs. (Africana Studies will now be headed by Franklin Knight, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History.)

Judith Babbitts, formerly of the Boston-based International Honors Program, has joined the Krieger School as vice dean for graduate professional programs. In that role, she oversees strategic planning for Advanced Academic Programs, the school’s rapidly growing graduate program for part-time students.

According to Newman, the five new vice deans—and Ball and Tsai, in particular—will serve as critical liaisons with the chairs of the departments in their divisions.

Ball agrees that the change will make things more efficient overall.

“The advantage of this new structure is that the department chairs will now have ‘one-stop shopping’ when it comes to their dealings with the Dean’s Office,” Ball said. “In the previous structure, appointments went through the dean of faculty, but issues related to research support and faculty start-up went through the dean for research. Now, for example, as vice dean for science, I can work with the science chairs in a comprehensive fashion to help them attain excellence in all aspects of their mission, including teaching and research.”

Currently, Ball and Tsai are working with Newman to convene divisional councils of chairs (in the sciences for Ball, the humanities and social sciences for Tsai), a step that Newman calls “pivotal” to the two-academic-year strategic planning process that began this month and which involves all departments and programs. The process, she says, will lay the groundwork for the future development of the Krieger School’s programs, faculty and students, and ensure that Johns Hopkins is poised to remain one of the nation’s leading academic institutions.

“The strategic planning process involves all of the new vice deans and every single department and interdepartmental program in the Krieger School, and it challenges us to think critically about the future of our defined academic disciplines, as well as the new synergies that we may realize at their intersections,” Newman said. “Our goal is to at once nurture the traditional disciplines while realizing that they are not static and must move into the future. Exciting things are happening at the interstices between disciplines, and sometimes we will find we need to create new programs to accommodate them, or to find cross-fertilization in other fashions. It’s a very exciting time, that’s for sure.”

Newman says that the new structure commits the same amount of faculty FTE (full-time equivalent) to the KSAS “deanery” as there was in the past. The new configuration, she says, preserves the essential role of the vice deans as teachers and researchers, since all of them remain an active presence in the classroom.