LAS dean candidate Benstock stresses unity

Jennifer Nacin

Unity among departments can strengthen the college in a time of fierce budget cuts, said a candidate for the dean position of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The third dean candidate, Shari Benstock, visited campus Wednesday and spoke at an open forum about her views on liberal arts and sciences.

Benstock, professor of English and women’s studies at the University of Miami, said the liberal arts and sciences allow for self-interrogation and allow citizens to become more unified and aware.

“Liberal arts and sciences fosters talents of all kinds,” Benstock said. “Education changes our lives and makes among us a more perfect union.”

Faculty said they were concerned about the cooperation and unity among the diverse departments within the college and the fear of downsizing due to budget cuts.

Benstock suggested departments compose “wish lists” conveying what they want to accomplish.

She said faculty and staff should take this chance to express how they feel about the college at the moment so changes can be made during the search for a new dean.

Cooperation in the college has already generated a lot of success, she said.

Faculty and staff said they feel the search is going smoothly.

“I think we’ve brought in excellent candidates and that we are moving ahead very efficiently,” said Carolyn Cutrona, director for the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research and professor of psychology. “I think that’s good for existing Iowa State faculty because it makes us feel good about ourselves.”

Faculty and staff are carefully weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each dean candidate.

“I am particularly concerned about people who treat the humanities fairly. I’m interested in issues of internationalization of the college,” said Robert Baum, associate professor of religious studies.

“Candidates have had varying answers; none have committed themselves to the programs that I feel that we need to make a stronger commitment to, but I’m still listening,” he said.

Faculty from other colleges are interested in the dean search and selection as well.

“I want someone who believes that getting their degree in a major for the secondary education program is important,” said Jeannette Olson, program coordinator for education administration. “I’ve attended every open forum, and I ask the same questions, and I’m going to make my decision after I’ve heard all four people.”

Benstock’s specific goals and plans for the future of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were not discussed.

Benstock has served the University of Miami since 1986 as a professor of English and later became the chairwoman of the department.

She was the founding director of the Women’s Studies Program at the institution in 1986 and served as associate dean for academic affairs in Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences from 2000-2003.