Ithaca College announced March 25 that Melanie Stein will be the next dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, effective July 1.
Stein is the dean of academic affairs and professor of mathematics at Trinity College, located in Hartford, Connecticut. She grew up in Ithaca and received both her master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Cornell University. Stein was among the four finalists that came to campus to meet with the community during February.
The H&S dean position has been vacant since Vincent Wang stepped down in July 2018. Michael Richardson has been serving as the interim dean of H&S. Richardson also previously served as the interim dean of H&S from 2015–16 following the departure of Leslie Lewis.
Stein said she wanted to return to the Finger Lakes region, where she grew up, and felt the opening at the college was the perfect opportunity to do that.
“I’m honored to have been chosen,” she said. “Right now seems like a very exciting time to work there because of the new president. Just watching from a distance, it looks like the college is going in an interesting direction, and it has a lot of momentum right now.”
Stein said one of her main goals for H&S is to give students and faculty in the school a greater sense of identity.
“This was an anxiety that was expressed to me a lot during the interview,” she said. “There was a sense that, ‘We do so many different things in this school that we don’t have a cohesive identity like the other schools do.’ I want to help the faculty and students to feel that they do have an identity: They are the liberal arts core of the college.”
In order to establish a greater sense of identity for the school, similar to the way in which the Roy H. Park School of Communications and the School of Music have identities on campus, she said she plans to collaborate with students and faculty.
La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the search process started in September 2018 and involved getting substantial feedback from various constituencies, including different departments in H&S, students and faculty.
“The feedback was strongly supportive of Melanie Stein,” Cornish said. “[The committee] felt she was a thoughtful leader, an engaged listener and that her previous experience as a dean was just what H&S needed right now.”
Junior Hunter Flamm was one of the students who attended Stein’s presentation in February. He said she was the only candidate he was able to meet but said he believes she will add a lot to the school.
“I was extremely impressed with her dedication to academic leadership and desire to improve the student experience at H&S,” he said. “Her background as a math professor will bring much–needed dynamism to the school, and I believe will ultimately improve H&S in the long run.”
Richardson said he had the opportunity to meet with Stein during the search process and felt that her experience would make her a solid fit for the role.
“I am very excited about Dr. Stein joining the School of H&S as dean,” he said. “She has a tremendous amount of administrative experience in a variety of areas that are of particular importance for the new dean: strategic planning, faculty and student research, budgeting, and student retention and success.”
Richardson said H&S is the largest school on campus, with approximately half of the college’s faculty, and offers approximately half of all the courses offered by the college. It is spread out across 11 different buildings on campus, has 23 departments and has approximately 50 majors and 50 minors. It also has graduate programs in education. He said the job is challenging, but he also expressed his confidence in Stein’s readiness for the job.
“In some ways, being dean of H&S is like being the provost of a small liberal arts college: One has to be able to perform a delicate balancing act of resources, staffing and space,” he said. “[Stein] is eminently prepared to take on this complex role and be an advocate for the School of Humanities and Sciences and for the liberal arts experience that is at the heart of an Ithaca College education.”