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McCormack steps down as dean for academic affairs after historically short tenure

February 28, 2020

Elizabeth McCormack, the dean for academic affairs and senior vice president of the College, will be stepping down from her position at the end of the academic year, President Clayton Rose announced in an email to campus Tuesday.

McCormack, a professor of physics, has served in the administrative position since July 2017.

McCormath’s three-year tenure will be the shortest of any dean for academic affairs since the position was created in 1991. Her three predecessors served nine, seven and eight years, respectively.

“In my time as a senior vice president and dean of academic affairs, I’ve advocated strongly for the faculty and for fostering a vibrant intellectual life at the College,” McCormack wrote in an email to the Orient. “I have immensely enjoyed my work with the faculty, the amazing staff in the Office for Academic Affairs, numerous students serving on faculty committees, a truly dedicated senior staff, President Rose and members of the Board of Trustees.”

Rose praised McCormack’s work as dean but did not provide a reason for her departure.

“Before stepping down in June, Dean McCormack will have had a significant impact on many issues crucial to the future of the College, and we owe her our thanks for all that she has done,” wrote Rose in a separate statement to the Orient.

McCormack will be on sabbatical for the 2020-21 academic year before returning to her normal teaching and research duties.

Rose also announced in Tuesday’s email that Jennifer Scanlon, William R. Kenan professor of humanities in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and the director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program, will replace McCormack as dean for academic affairs, effective July 1, 2020.

Rose acknowledged in his email that the decision to appoint a faculty member directly to the position without convening a search committee was “atypical,” but said that Scanlon’s experience and support from the faculty warranted an exception to the normal procedure.

Rose consulted 31 members of the faculty before making the appointment, including members of the Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs (GFA); the Committee on Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure (CAPT); the Curriculum Implementation Committee (CIC) and the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP), the associate deans for academic affairs and the 2016 search committee for the dean for academic affairs.

“There is broad and enthusiastic support for Professor Scanlon as our dean among the faculty I consulted,” wrote Rose. “They acknowledged that the process undertaken was atypical, but appropriate under these circumstances, and that it provides a pathway to ensuring continued progress on several critical issues and projects at the College.”

Scanlon, who joined the faculty in 2002, served as the interim dean for academic affairs between 2015 and 2017 and has also served as the associate dean for academic affairs. In 2016, she was a finalist in the selection process that ultimately chose McCormack.

“I would [like] to continue a lot of the work that I did and my own particular passions around inclusive excellence and so I look forward to taking that up again and bringing some new ideas,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon spent the 2018-19 academic year as an American Council on Education Fellow at Wellesley College.

“During that year, I did a lot of reading and thinking and planning around issues related to faculty development, shared government and inclusive excellence, and so I do have ideas from that work that I want to share with the faculty,” said Scanlon.

“Bringing my best self to that office absolutely includes all of that awareness of issues of equity, issues of intersectionality, ways of thinking about the academy,” she added.

While her new position will focus primarily on managing the faculty experience at the College, Scanlon hopes to maintain relationships with students.

“The way I think about administrative work in the academy is really that there is no group of people that I’d rather serve in administrative work than college students and the faculty who teach and inspire them,” said Scanlon. “When I was in the dean’s office, I really enjoyed the relationship that I developed with Bowdoin Student Government, and I will still maintain relationships with students.”


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