Candidates for Dean Position Come to Campus

Julia Herbst

The Dean of Students Search Committee welcomed to campus this week the top three candidates applying to succeed current Dean of Students Linda Gates, who has decided to retire after over 20 years at Oberlin.

The Search Committee in charge of the selection process consists of three students, three College and Conservatory administrators and three faculty members. The search process began in November 2010, shortly following Dean Gates’s announcement that she would retire at the end of the academic year.

Over the course of the past week, each of the applicants spent a full day on campus participating in various events including presenting to students at an open forum, meeting with faculty groups and attending an informal “Cookies with Candidates” reception.

At the student open forum, candidates were asked to make a short presentation addressing key questions posed by the Search Committee and Student Senate and then answer questions in a discussion facilitated by students in the Oberlin College Dialogue Center. These questions ranged greatly, touching on topics such as the dean’s role in encouraging minority voices to be heard, how to best facilitate dialogue between the administration and the student body and the rights of students to protest.

Students who attended these forums were encouraged to fill out anonymous forms rating the applicants.

The first candidate to visit was Dr. Mary Oling-Sisay, the current vice president for student affairs and dean of students at St. Norbert College. She holds numerous degrees, including an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in Public Communications from Fordham University, and a B.A. in Literature and Linguistics from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Oling-Sisay is also fluent in 10 African languages and has taught subjects ranging from women and gender studies to educational leadership and international relations.

Dr. Sylvia Spears, the acting dean of Dartmouth College, was the second candidate to visit Oberlin. Dr. Spears has also served as the tribal administrator for the Narragansett Indian Tribe and worked as a faculty member at University of Rhode Island. She holds a B.A. in Speech Communications, an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies with specialization in college student personnel and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Rhode Island. In her presentation to students, she highlighted the importance of facilitating productive dialogue in order to build community.

The final candidate was Dr. Eric Estes, associate dean of academic diversity and director of the Multicultural Resource Center at Oberlin. Dr. Estes has worked at Oberlin since 2004 and is the current Acting Chair of the Department of French and Italian. He holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in History along with a C.A.S. in women’s studies from Syracuse University, as well as a B.A. in History from Trinity College. He was a 1995-6 Fulbright scholar. In his presentation, he highlighted how his personal and professional journey had allowed him to explore the idea of community and emphasized the importance in creating organic connections between groups while embracing complexities over binaries.

Although the final selection will be made by President Krislov, he will take into consideration the recommendation of the search committee, which hopes to deliver its choice to him before spring break.