Oliver named interim dean once Whiteford retires


David Oliver has been named the interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences effective July 1 after Dean Michael Whiteford retires June 30.

Matt Wettengel

After taking nominations from faculty, Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Hoffman selected David Oliver, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as the interim dean for the college, effective July 1.

Oliver will hold this position after current Dean Michael Whiteford retires June 30 to move to Oregon to be with his family.

“I think having somebody with experience will allow the college to move forward, and that’s what we need to have to attract a good dean: Someone who can work with people well and have a vision [for the college] … and ability to deal with budgetary issues,” Hoffman said.

Oliver has been a faculty member since 1996, having served as the chairman of botany and associate dean for research for the College of LAS.

“I’ve been here working with Dean Whiteford for … close to seven years,” Oliver said. “In terms of experience, I’m probably the one that’s done the most diverse groups of things.”

The college’s budget will be the biggest challenge, Oliver said, emphasizing the question of how to manage to get students taught and keep research going with less and less money.

“[I plan to] spend quite a bit of time this summer getting the college’s budget in line with its resources,” Oliver said.

Though he was nominated by other faculty members, Oliver has no interest in the permanent dean position.

“My objective [in taking this job] is to minimize the impact of this transition,” Oliver said. “It’s easiest to get someone who knows how everything works around the college. My objective is to make sure that the college is in just as good of shape as when Dean Whiteford [leaves] it.”

The search for a permanent dean will continue, as Hoffman is in the process of selecting members for the search committee. Nominations for members of the committee are currently being submitted by faculty members, and two open forums have been held for faculty to provide input on the selection of a permanent dean.

From his attendance at the first of the two forums, the main thing that faculty want in the new dean is someone who appreciates the breadth of the college and its student programs, Oliver said.

Hoffman hopes to name the committee by Spring Break so that it can agree on and produce an ad for the position to get people to apply.

Ideally, early in the fall a set of candidates will be named and brought to Des Moines for interviews, Hoffman said. The group will then be narrowed down to three to five people who will be brought to campus for additional interviews.