Bowdoin has decided that the best person to fill the shoes of Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley is one of its own.
President Barry Mills announced Monday that current Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster will take on the position when Bradley leaves at the end of the academic year. According to Assistant to the President Scott Meiklejohn, the search committee made its decision last Friday.
"The committee felt he was the strongest candidate in the pool, and if we could land him, that was really the best choice," he said. "It's not just about continuity. There was a sense that he was the best person for the job."
Meiklejohn noted that although over 60 candidates applied, Foster was the only one who had a complete on-campus interview.
The position description that was circulated called for "an energetic, experienced and highly principled individual" who would be responsible for supervising "a wide variety of offices and programs to enhance and support students' intellectual and personal growth."
"In the end, the committee felt like it really needed to give Tim the first crack at the interview and that would tell us whether or not we needed to bring someone else to campus," Meiklejohn said.
"We looked at some really great people, but Tim just blew us all away," said committee member Taneisha Wilson '07. She said Foster's vision and knowledge of the College was exceptional.
Foster was also being considered for dean of student affairs at Swarthmore College, where he was named one of the five finalists for the position. Foster, who has been at Bowdoin for 10 years as both the dean of first-year students and the associate dean of student affairs before taking on his current role, said he felt as though he was ready for a change.
"Along the way I've always had different projects that kept me where I felt like I was learning and making a contribution," Foster said. "I felt coming into this year that it was time for something new."
Foster, however, expressed his pleasure in staying at Bowdoin, which he said he has a stronger affection for than his alma mater, Dartmouth College, where he majored in geography. Foster earned his master's degree in geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"This place just gets in you," said Foster. "If you want to be a dean of student affairs, I don't think there's a better place in the country. I'm very thankful."
Bradley decided last month to leave Bowdoin to work at the Aga Khan Development Network, an organization dedicated to providing students high-quality educational experiences in some of the world's poorest nations.
He said Foster has headed up several projects that have become accepted as "established patterns" on campus, such as the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center, the orientation program, and the goal of increasing diversity at Bowdoin. Foster was also instrumental in the creation of the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching and improving health and wellness services on campus.
"He's been a key leader in this division. He has the experience, intelligence, and administrative gifts to solve complicated problems in a thoughtful way," Bradley said of Foster. "We've got a superbly talented administrative leader in Tim."
Bradley also noted that Foster's continued presence will help to balance out other major personnel changes on campus, such as the appointments of new deans for admissions and academic affairs.
"You need continuity in this place and I think [Foster's appointment] will be helpful. You want there to be some institutional memory?these are very stable communities," Bradley said. "It's very important for students to have a sense of predictability and stability."
Even though Foster may provide the College with a sense of consistency, he is not expected to keep the department static.
"In general, I don't think anyone with those kinds of serious responsibilities is given a mandate to keep things the same," Meiklejohn said. "That's usually a formula for slipping backward and stagnation."
Wilson agreed with Meiklejohn.
"Bowdoin is definitely in a good place right now," she said, "but [Foster] has his own vision and it will be interesting to see where he's going to take it."
Foster said he plans on creating a sense of continuity but with new points of emphasis.
"I'd like to see the work we do here become a model for other colleges, beyond just the college house system," he said. "We have a lot of good stories to tell."
He said he would also like to see an increase in skill-based teaching such as leadership development, a greater role in preparing students to "live healthy lives at Bowdoin and beyond," and help build a stronger community by encouraging healthy relationships. Foster also said he wants to continue his work in increasing campus diversity in the broadest sense.
"Your experience is defined by those around you," Foster said. "We should create a space where healthy friction can occur. We have to create some space and programs for this to happen."
With the change in positions, Foster will also be responsible for overseeing adjustments within the department, including determining who will fill his current position.
"One of the key things will be getting my team in place. We'll configure ourselves differently," he said, noting that he does not foresee hiring from outside but will instead reconfigure the current staff. "We have the opportunity now with the transition to think about how we want to organize ourselves for the next 10 years. I'd like to see us take more of a work-team approach."
Meiklejohn said that Foster is "clearly ready to be the number-one person."
"It's not about a hard left turn," said Meiklejohn. "It's about building on a strong foundation and making things better. He's pushing the place forward in a variety of ways."
Anne Riley contributed to this report.