by J. Terry Todd, Associate Professor of American Religious Studies
What qualities would you like to see in the next dean of the Theological School?
“A visionary,” “someone who’s caring,” “a spiritual leader,” “someone who understands and promotes diversity in all its forms,” “somebody who gets budgets,” “committed to promoting an educated clergy,” “holy boldness,” “gotta have a sense of humor…” These are just some of the terms I heard in December during listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff as we prepared to launch our search for the next Dean of the Theological School.
As chair of the search committee appointed by Dr. Virginia Samuel Cetuk, who continues to lead the Theological School as Dean for the Interim, it’s my privilege to work with a dynamic group of colleagues who care so deeply about the future of the Theological School and of Drew University – Traci West, Professor of Ethics and African American Studies, Kenneth Ngwa, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Tanya Bennett, Director of University Religious Life and Associate Professor in the Practice of Christian Ministry, Elias Ortega-Aponte, Assistant Professor of Afro-Latina/o Religions and Cultural Studies, and Danna Nolan Fewell, Professor of Hebrew Bible, who agreed to join the Committee even during her sabbatical! Members also include Sara Waldron, University Vice-President of Campus Life and Student Affairs, and John Schol, University Trustee and Bishop of the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church. Rounding out the Committee are two student representatives, June Hee Yoon, a PhD candidate in the Graduate Divison of Religion, and third-year Master of Divinity candidate, Fred Sullivan.
Working closely with us is Dr. Tobie van der Vorm of AGB Search, a Washington, D.C.-based recruiting firm specializing in academic searches. Back in December, as we began the process of making this transition to new leadership, Tobie joined us over the course of two days, listening to the hopes and expectations of various Theological School constituencies. Those visits included conversations with many of you reading this, and I want to express my deepest gratitude for your time and thoughts.
The Committee has prepared a position profile that includes a list of leadership qualities, including many that I first heard in the December listening session. The profile reads, in part:
The successful candidate will possess a demonstrated track record of success in administration and will be active in the life of the Church, preferably the United Methodist Church or another denomination of the Wesleyan tradition. Ideally, the candidate also will possess an advanced degree (PhD, ThD, or DMin). In addition, the dean will demonstrate the commitment and ability to: position the School effectively within 21st century theological education; promote the imaginative training of congregational ministers, community leaders, scholars, teachers, public intellectuals, and life-long learners; engage both internal and external constituents in funding and program support; encourage excellence in teaching, learning, and faculty research; empower faculty, staff and students to sustain a welcoming, responsive community; and appreciate the unique advantages of leading a theological school within a university setting. The successful candidate will also bring the interpersonal skills to lead collaboratively with integrity, creativity, humility, and humor.
As a Committee, we’re well aware that our success depends on the involvement of members and friends of the Drew Theological School community. You can play a role in our search for the Theological School’s next dean. First, keep us in your prayers as we discern what next steps the Spirit is calling us to take in the life of this community. Second, ifyou know a dynamic and visionary leader who is ready for his or her next challenge – or if you know of others who might help us identify potential candidates – please forward their name(s) to Dr. Tobie van der Vorm at email@example.com. You can also reach Tobie by phone at 202/255-3225. By nominating strong candidates, you can be involved immediately and critically in the search process.
Working in a way that dovetails with the University’s Presidential Search, we will generate the candidate pool through nominations received from you, leaders in the Church, national education leaders, foundation officials, faculty and colleagues of other theological schools, through notices posted in appropriate publications, and through the work of our consultant. By mid-February we’ll begin to narrow the candidate pool, moving toward a time in early April when finalists will come to campus to meet the community. We hope our new Dean will move into the suite of administrative offices in Seminary Hall by July 1st.
Please make time to participate and share your impressions with the search committee. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. J. Terry Todd is Associate Professor of American Religious Studies, and chairs the committee searching for the next Theological School Dean.