Schmittmann named LAS dean

Katelynn Mccollough

Dr. Beate Schmittmann, professor and chairwoman of the department of physics at Virginia Tech University, has been named the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State.

Schmittmann will take on her role as dean on April 2, 2012. She will be replacing current interim-dean, David Oliver, who has held the position since former dean, Michael Whiteford, retired from the position this past June.

“She has the experience of being a successful chair of a physics department … that gives her the administrative experience to move to the next level,” said executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman. “She understands the priorities of a land-grant, science and technology campus like Iowa State. She also understands the balance among teaching, research, and outreach expected at a land-grant university.”

A press release posted on the LAS webpage states that in the time Schmittmann has been chair for the department of physics at Virginia Tech, “annual research awards for physics faculty members grew from $1.99 million (2006) to $4.77 million (2011). The number of undergraduate majors grew from 112 to just over 200 and graduate student numbers rose from 55 to 75 during the same time period.”

Schmittmann visited campus on Nov. 3 during the dean search and spoke at an open forum for students, faculty and staff. She discussed her ideas on leadership, diversity and her future goals for Iowa State’s College of LAS.

Schmittmann compared her thoughts on running several departments within a college to when she played with Legos as a child. “There are a lot of pieces to work with, and you’re really trying to figure out how to put them together … that the whole is better than the parts.”

At the open forum, Schmittmann also discussed how “a passion for public higher education” was a key reason for her applying to the position. She also spoke of her goal to make Iowa State “a national and international model for 21st century liberal arts education.”

Before the selection of the new dean was made, interim-Dean Oliver said that the new dean “will need to carefully husband the resources in the college to optimize the educational experience of the ISU students while at the same time guaranteeing that LAS researchers are providing the discoveries and insights that will drive technological and philosophical advances for society.”

The selection process began last spring with the acceptance of applications and nominations. The search committee reviewed all applications and made reference calls to select eight candidates that they would meet in person over a two-day period. From there, the committee narrowed the search to five finalists who had the opportunity to visit campus and speak at an open forum. The search committee then presented provost Hoffman with an evaluation of each finalist, and she then proceeded to make the selection.

“On the basis of that information and my own interactions with her, I offered the position to Beate Schmittmann. She asked to visit campus one more time. She was here over the weekend and the beginning of the week. She signed the offer before leaving on Tuesday afternoon,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman does not believe that the transition will have any major impact on students, saying only that, “It will be different to have a woman dean. There has not been one since I was dean from 1993 to 1997.”

Schmittmann received her Ph.D. in physics in 1984 from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and a diploma in physics from RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

In 1991, after working for several years at the Institute for Theoretical Physics III at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany, Schmittmann began a career in the physics department at Virginia Tech.

Schmittmann was named chairwoman of the department of physics at Virginia Tech in 2006. Her main field of research has been on theoretical condensed matter physics.