Maria Donoghue Velleca was announced as the new College of Arts and Sciences dean on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in an email from President John Simon and Provost Pat Farrell. A search committee, consisting of department chairs to associate professors to administrative directors, were part of selecting Velleca as the new dean. (Courtesy of Lehigh University website)

Lehigh administration explains search process for new CAS dean

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Lehigh announced Maria Donoghue Velleca as the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on Feb. 21. The process of searching for and interviewing candidates could take anywhere from six months to a year, Provost Pat Farrell said.

A major part in finding candidates, like Velleca, is hiring a search firm — commonly known as headhunters. Of these head-hunting firms, 15-20 are considered, and then Farrell is responsible for selecting the firm he feels is best.

“That company helped us identify candidates we might not have ordinarily found,” said Jack Lule, the department chair of journalism and communication and a member of the search committee.

A search committee is then formed, which consists of 20 members. These members range from department chairs to associate professors to administrative directors. Farrell said the search consultants and members of the search committee are the ones actually doing the work by knocking on doors and calling people.

Because some of the best candidates are ones who aren’t looking for a job, the search committee helps get in contact with these candidates.

In addition to faculty and staff members, Sherry Buss, the administrative director for interdisciplinary programs and a member of the search committee, said there is also one undergraduate and graduate student on the search committee.

Once the committee gets into contact with who they need to, “the search committee will do first-round interviews with around 10-12 really promising candidates,” Farrell said.

The list of these candidates is narrowed down to three to four finalists, who are then invited to campus to meet with the faculty and give presentations that lead to an open discussion.

Though Farrell and President John Simon had the responsibility of choosing the candidate, Farrell said he still wanted to receive as much input as possible on the decision. He met with the search committee throughout the process to gauge what they’ve seen and heard and the committee’s opinions about candidates. He also gave out a survey to faculty members who met the candidate.

Farrell said leadership and vision were important factors in deciding on the right person to fill the role. He said he was looking for “someone who is able to do the day-to-day management” and someone who knows “how to manage the budget, what we decide we fund, and what do we decide we won’t.”

Management is a crucial aspect of the dean role, and Farrell said even making decisions for a task as mundane as a budget situation sends a message of what is important to Lehigh.

Buss said the committee was looking for “the individual who will best serve the college and the university as a whole.”

“Distinguished personality skills as well as being a remarkable listener are must-haves for a CAS dean,” Farrell said.

Velleca was chosen after Farrell and the search committee took these factors into account and considered all of the candidates.

“She’s such a good fit for Lehigh,” Lule said.

The Brown and White reached out to Cameron Wesson, the CAS interim dean until Velleca starts next semester, and he did not respond for comment after repeated requests.

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