The second of four finalists for the position of dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences came to Ithaca College on Dec. 3 to do interviews, meet with faculty and engage with students.
The candidate was Teresa Longo, associate professor of Hispanic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and former dean for curriculum review at the College of William & Mary. She interviewed to replace Leslie Lewis, who left the college in June to accept the position of provost and vice president of academic affairs at Goucher College in Baltimore.
The campus community was invited to an open presentation and discussion with Longo in Textor 102 from 12:05 to 1 p.m. during her campus visit. Approximately 65 faculty members and students attended the event.
Longo began her presentation by clarifying her previous positions and her hands-on approach to those positions. She said she enjoys holding town hall meetings and finding ways to compromise on tough issues.
Longo also spoke of a poetry class she is teaching, emphasizing her and her students’ connection to the work of a poet who said “any progressive, social change needs to be imagined first.”
“I’m very, very much interested in what can happen through the art of imagining,” Longo said. “I think science can be imaginative. I think the arts can be imaginative. I think the humanities can be imaginative. And with that as a starting point, we can learn to work creatively. That’s the kind of person, scholar, teacher and administrator that I am.”
Before starting the Q&A portion of the presentation, Longo spoke about her appreciation for what she said she perceives to be the student-focused environment of the college.
“I’m learning more and more how your version of student-focused is unique and important — that it has to do with learning and doing,” Longo said. “I like the fact that you are at what could be seen as a pivotal moment right now. I can imagine a lot of possibilities that come next.”
In the the Q&A session, Longo said she would increase admissions through targeted off-campus events, would engage external constituents, such as alumni, by cultivating an environment that would be attractive to them, and thought the use of technology in the classroom is best when it supports the teaching already taking place.
Longo said though she had worked on designing curriculum for all areas of the College of William & Mary, her experience in the humanities is more extensive than her experience in the sciences. She said this is an area she would have to learn more about as H&S dean at the college, and she will be doing much consulting if given the position. She also said she would have to do some consulting in regard to budget-related issues.
One of the things Longo emphasized is the need for people to have confidence in the humanities and the importance of agreeing to disagree.
“I think if you have a good moderator in the room, too, that person … tries to pull together the threads and rename the disagreement. But it’s OK to disagree. That’s something that we really have to believe in,” Longo said. “I think that everyone agrees in moving collectively upward, but sometimes good things can come if you meet in both directions.”
A handful of faculty members declined to comment on their impression of Longo in an effort to remain impartial until hearing from all of the candidates.
Michael Trotti, professor in and chair of the Department of History, was one of those who said he would prefer not talk about the event for this reason.
“All I’ll say is there were some promising signs,” Trotti said.
John McGlennon, professor in and chair of the Department of Government at the College of William & Mary, said he has worked with Longo in a limited administrative capacity, and she made a positive impression on him.
“I found her always to be very open and transparent and cooperative and easy to work with,” McGlennon said.
The remaining candidates will visit the college Dec. 8 and Dec. 10. Diane Gayeski, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and chair of the H&S dean search committee, said she encourages students and staff to submit their feedback online and that the search committee is hoping to choose a finalist by the end of next week.