In the world of academia, it typically takes years to become an assistant dean. Often they are senior members of the faculty who have served on key committees.
But Lourdes Alvarez, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, wanted an assistant dean with a decidedly different career trajectory. So she created a one-year rotating assistant dean position. Non-tenured junior faculty members have been encouraged to apply.
Alvarez said the assistant dean position is a non-renewable position meant to bring new perspectives to the office and to serve as a mechanism for leadership development and mentoring across the college.
In 2012-13 Todd Jokl, associate professor and chairperson of the art and design department, was the assistant dean. Jamie Lynn Slenker, lecturer and coordinator of the interior design and pre-architecture programs, took over the position for the 2013-14 academic year.
Both Slenker and Jokl said they are grateful to step into such a high-profile role and, in particular, that Alvarez seeks their ideas and feedback. “I am proud to be in such a position, but more importantly, I am impressed by the dean's investment in my career at UNH, particularly for a newer, non-tenure-track faculty member like myself,” she said. “It shows me there are ways to grow within the University.”
Alvarez said Slenker will work on a number of projects and initiatives this year. One goal, said Slenker, is to build upon the prestigious grants and fellowships initiative, providing students with more information and getting more students to compete for fellowships such as Boren awards and Fulbright scholarships.
“Jamie’s strong communication skills, people skills, problem solving skills, upbeat personality and panache will be tremendous assets to the dean’s office,” Alvarez said. She said she is particularly happy that Slenker “is a digital native” who will likely use technology in innovative ways.
Slenker, who received an M.F.A. from Savannah College of Art and Design and practiced professionally in the architectural field for five years in Virginia and Colorado, teaches courses in the interior design and pre-architecture programs. “I feel it is an imperative, particularly in my discipline, to offer real-world opportunities for learning, working with local architects and existing buildings in our community,” she said. “I like that UNH's emphasis on experiential education plays directly into my personal teaching pedagogy.”
Jokl, who finished his stint last May, said he relished the opportunities the assistant dean position provided him, particular as a department chair. “It’s an opportunity for younger faculty to get a taste of administrative life and to get a wider perspective,” he said. “I have a much better understanding of the challenges of developing programs across all colleges in the University.”
Alvarez praised Jokl for his work on the development of UNH’s new common course and a proposal to bring Fulbright foreign language teaching assistants to the college.
Slenker likes what the position says about UNH. “It is very forward-thinking,” she said. “I see it as a great opportunity to inject various, cross-disciplinary viewpoints into the dean's office and to provide an innovative approach to initiatives in the College of Arts and Sciences. Fresh ideas are vitally important in keeping our University relevant as we grow.”
This story, by Writer/Editor Jackie Hennessey, originally appeared in UNH Today on October 14, 2013.