Melanie Stein was selected to be the dean of the Ithaca College School of Humanities and Sciences in March. Stein started in her position July 1 after serving as the dean of academic affairs at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
Assistant News Editor Ashley Stalnecker sat down with Stein to discuss her plans for the School of Humanities and Sciences and her hope to bring stability to a school that has seen frequent leadership turnover in recent years.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ashley Stalnecker: I know you’re an Ithaca native. So, what is it like to be in Ithaca as a dean for the college’s School of Humanities and Sciences?
Melanie Stein: It’s pretty exciting to be back, to come back, because this is my home. … But then Ithaca College and the community with the college are brand new to me. So its this amazing combination of this comfort of being home but then exploring this brand new thing.
AS: You’re also coming at a time in which IC is going through a lot of changes. So what changes do you have planned, particularly for the School of Humanities and Sciences?
MS: Part of what drew me here is the changes that are going on. So, the new administration that’s come in and sort of the direction that they’re taking the school, the focus on sort of inclusivity and building community, the centrality of the student experience … Every Ithaca College student ends up taking courses in H&S, so it really is sort of the core of the institution. … So things that I will be working on in H&S are promoting and increasing and developing experiential learning opportunities for students … Since I’m brand new, and it’s my very first year, a big part of my job this first year is to really get to know deeply the culture of IC and of H&S and build trust within the community and work with them to move the strategic plan forward, as opposed to coming in with a bunch of preformed initiatives that I would impose on the community.
AS: You mentioned wanting to give H&S students and faculty a greater sense of identity. So how do you plan to do this?
MS: We’re working with all of the departments to make sure that they all feel that they’re part of one organization, and they’re all part of H&S. One of the challenges is that H&S is so big that it’s spread out all across IC in a bunch of different buildings. so we’re working on ways to develop signs that will help students really feel “Oh yeas. Now I’m in H&S,” similar to the way when they’re in the Park School Building.
AS: H&S has seen quite a few deans in recent years. So how do you plan to develop roots and familiarize yourself with both the students and the faculty here?
MS: … My goal is that by the end of the year, I will have met all the faculty in the school. Students are harder because there’s more of them. … I met students in orientation. I’m going to keep going to student events and meeting students…
AS: What key tenants or ideals at the college do you hope to uphold while you’re here?
MS: So, the core purpose of the institution is to educate students to lead successful and engaged lives so that you guys can go out and improve the world. And, of course, that’s something that I have been dedicated to my entire career and will continue to be here. IC in particular … what I’m most impressed by and struck by as I enter the community is just the sense of community … and that’s something that I really value also and will certainly continue to work on strengthening and building within my school for faculty, staff and students.