The search continues for the new dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy after an initial shortlist of three candidates did not yield a taker.
The faculty search committee, which began the dean search last Fall, presented three names to President Richard Brodhead and Provost Peter Lange in February. The president and provost extended an initial offer to one of these candidates, who eventually withdrew to accept a position elsewhere, Lange said. A new search committee is renewing the process this summer. Current Sanford Dean Bruce Kuniholm will stay on in his position through the coming year until a successor is found.
“We pursued a candidate, and he took a while to decide, and he chose not to accept the position,” Lange said. “Obviously, we’d like to get the person we go after. Often that happens but not always.”
Lange and members of the search committee declined to confirm the identities of the candidates, but Lange did confirm that the man who received an offer had not gone through the same process of lecturing and meeting with Sanford faculty as the other candidates. Instead, he met privately with the committee and an executive committee of Sanford faculty.
“That candidate was in a position in which revealing his name at the stage... would have affected his ability to do the job he was in,” Lange said. “We would not have made that candidate a final offer without [him] meeting with the faculty as a whole, but that’s the candidate who withdrew to take another position.”
Although a new dean was not secured, the search process functioned well and provided University leaders with a significant amount of input from many sources, said search committee chair Helen Ladd, Edgar T. Thompson distinguished professor of public policy. The lack of a new dean does not reflect how the process was conducted but on the high ambitions of the search and the specific difficulties of dean selection, she noted.
“You’re looking for someone who has done spectacular things wherever they happen to be, and if they’ve done spectacular things, chances are they’re reasonably satisfied where they are or someone else is out there searching, and they think they’re a spectacular person, too,” said search committee member Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy and economics.
In August 2011, Kuniholm announced his intention to step down as dean at the end of the academic year, and a faculty search committee subsequently convened. That committee, led by Ladd, collected information on candidates throughout Fall 2011. They invited a large group of candidates for private interviews with the committee, Ladd said, before narrowing the field to five candidates, who they invited to visit Sanford faculty and deliver a lecture in January.
The committee presented its three final choices to Brodhead and Lange in February. The president and provost received extensive written information about the candidates and asked the committee members for individual feedback, Ladd said. The committee returned in March for further discussion of the candidates.
After Lange and Brodhead each met individually with the final candidates, they extended an initial offer to one of them, who went on to accept a position at another university .
Ladd said a search of this kind requires sensitivity because if a leader at another university is considering a position at Duke and his or her name becomes public, that could jeopardize the candidate’s ability to lead in their current role.
Although they declined to identify any candidates, those involved in the search process affirmed that the final choices included candidates of diverse backgrounds. Ladd confirmed that one or more of the final five candidates was black.
“We urge and press upon every search committee to seek a diverse pool of candidates, and I seek to assure that they do so,” Lange said.
The dean search is further complicated by the caliber of potential candidates. They must balance commitments at their current universities and the implications for their families of moving to a new part of the country, Ladd said. The final process is more of a negotiation than a job offer.
“The recruiting goes both ways,” Vigdor said. “The committee has to do more than have candidates convince them that they are right for Duke. The committee has to convince the candidates that Duke is right for them.”
The search committee met with Lange last week to continue the process, said Elizabeth Frankenberg, professor of public policy and sociology. Lange and Brodhead asked Frankenberg to take over the committee as chair for the next leg of the search.
“They understand that the chair has a big job, and they didn’t want to impose that on me for another year,” Ladd said. “I’m very comfortable with that. I don’t feel like this is a repudiation of me in any way, shape or form.”
Four committee members, including Ladd and Vigdor, chose not to continue as members of the search committee. Two new members have joined, bringing the total to 13, Frankenberg said.
The new search has the benefit of building on the work done by the committee last year, Frankenberg added.
“By starting earlier and taking advantage of the fact that a lot of the legwork has been done, that should improve the chances of strong recruitment,” she said. “We have much more fortuitous timing this time around.”
The committee will also pay special attention to Washington, D.C. for prospective candidates finishing up policy roles in President Barack Obama’s administration. Government policymakers may consider Duke as a good opportunity to pursue after three or four years working in the capital, Lange said.
Applied policy experience, combined with solid academic credentials would enhance what a candidate could bring to Sanford, Vigdor said.
“We try to be a little less ivory-tower focused and more real-world focused, and hiring a dean that has gone back and forth between ivory tower and real world would be attractive,” he said.