Change is a healthy part of life. In the life of an individual, it’s important to shake up the routine and see what new adventures life has in store. In the life of an organization, it’s essential to bring in new perspectives, new ideas, and from time to time, new leadership.
For me and for the iSchool, the time is right for change.
As I approached the end of my second term as dean, I faced the difficult decision of whether to continue on or step aside. Knowing that I had great confidence in our provost, Jerry Baldasty, to choose an outstanding new dean, I decided to embrace change and the possibilities it can bring. For the first time in my professional life, I don’t know what I’ll do next, and I have to tell you it’s exhilarating.
Likewise, a change in leadership offers the iSchool a rush of new energy. As the face of the school, the dean sets the tone and expresses its values through words and actions. It’s healthy and vital for the school to have that leadership refreshed at some regular points in time. The appointment of a new dean doesn’t necessarily mean that our values change, but it means the impetus behind those values gets renewed and reinvigorated.
It was extremely important to me that I leave the deanship in capable hands, and I’m happy to say my expectations have been exceeded. I can sense the excitement among faculty and staff around my successor, Dr. Anind Dey, whose credentials suggest he’s just the right leader to take the school to even greater heights. Dr. Dey comes to us from Carnegie Mellon University, where he directed one of the world’s leading research units in human-computer interaction – an area of particular excellence within the iSchool as well. As a multidisciplinary unit, CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute is a great proving ground for the type of leadership Dr. Dey will need to provide for an Information School that embraces a broad range of disciplines. As director there, he has shown a deep appreciation for what can happen when you have a community that encompasses a range of fields and subfields. Meanwhile, his warm and approachable personality and the clear way in which he communicates his vision are perfectly suited for the iSchool.
Dr. Dey also brings with him a thorough understanding of trends in the information and technology field. He has the background to identify the emerging opportunities that will present themselves and the vision to take the school forward. Yet, while his scholarship has focused on human-computer interaction, I know from my conversations with him that his interests extend to the broader information field. He strikes me as the type of person who will take particular care to enhance his understanding of areas with which he is less familiar. I’ve always felt that members of the iSchool community really understand the importance of what we are doing, and that they find joy in improving the quality of people’s lives. Dr. Dey has exactly the same kind of drive.
When he arrives, Dr. Dey will find a perfect platform for a new leader. We’ve completed a stage of growth that transformed the school from a small player on the UW campus to a medium-sized school with the influence and reach of a large one. The iSchool now has four thriving academic programs that recruit the highest-quality students and graduate the very best information professionals. It has an extremely active, high-impact research enterprise, and a level of staff support that allows our faculty and students to thrive. Our faculty now number 60 strong, forming the core of a vibrant intellectual community. With the capacity the school now has, it excites me to see what a new leader with an ambitious vision can achieve.
I would like to close by thanking every member of the iSchool community. I’ve been privileged to serve in the leadership of this school for 19 years, including nearly 12 as your dean, and I am grateful for your support through the years. I feel graced by a sense of achievement that is shared by the entire iSchool community – all of those who have been committed to the school and worked toward building its outstanding reputation in the world.
I remain committed to that work because I love the iSchool. That’s one thing that will never change.