Search begins for new English head

jackie.stark

As a new semester begins NMU’s English department will start it’s search for a new department head.

Dr. James Schiffer, department head for eight years, left his position at Northern over the summer to serve as the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for State University of New York New Paltz University.

“It was a hard decision,” Schiffer said. “I loved being at Northern. I loved the English department. But this was a good opportunity for me, a chance to try something new.”

Schiffer’s last official day as department head was July 31. As a result of his departure, a full departmental vote was conducted and Professor Ray Ventre was voted in as the interim department head.

“I’m holding down the fort until we decide what we’re going to do,” he said.

Since Schiffer left during the summer, the department had to wait until the semester began to decide on a procedure for finding a replacement, Ventre said.

“Over the summer, it would have been inappropriate to decide what we were going to do without faculty input, since a lot of people were away,” he added.

A ballot, which will decide whether the department wants to conduct an internal or external search for a new head, was submitted Wednesday, Aug. 27, to all English faculty members.

The results of these ballots will be known next week, and will be communicated to the Terry Seethoff, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. If the dean and the department agree on which type of search to conduct, the department will begin looking for a replacement, Ventre said.

Since it is still just the beginning of the semester, the process will take some time, Seethoff said.

“We’re still in the very very preliminary stages,” he added.

An external search would take more time than an internal, Ventre said, adding that with an external search comes advertising, giving sufficient time for applicants to apply and ranking the applicants, which could take as long as one year.

An internal search, however, could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, Ventre said.

“An internal search is much more convenient. It could be over before the end of the semester,” he added.

Schiffer, who was hired as the head of the English department eight years ago, was found through an external search.

Professor Robert Whalen said there are also many benefits to conducting an external search for a new department head, including providing the widest possible pool of candidates for the position.

“An internal search alone would have a much narrower pool of candidates from which to choose, which isn’t to say that we don’t have some very fine and highly qualified internal candidates, Whalen said.”

“Indeed, we do. I just think the selection of a department head is a very important decision with respect to the future of the department, and that a rich pool of candidates from within and without will maximize our options, he added.”

Once the search is conducted, and qualified applicants are found, the department will submit one or more of the applicants to Seethoff, who will in turn discuss each applicant with Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Susan Koch.

If those recommendations are approved, Provost Vice President will then recommend a candidate to the President of the University.

Ventre said that though both types of searches have been conducted inside the university in the past year, it is still not an easy process.

“We have a lot of new faculty, and some of them are looking at this with nice, rosy-red glasses,” Ventre said. “The rest of us had to do this before, and it was a little painful,”

“Right now, my goal is to keep us going in a positive direction for everyone involved,” he added.