BY SHANNON O. WELLS
For Alex Labrinidis, a professor at the Computer Science Department, the question of what makes Pitt attractive for a potential chancellor candidate is the proverbial softball question.
“The number 1 is of course the city,” he says. “You know, I don’t need to say more. It’s one of the things that attracted me 20 years ago and I haven’t left.”
While Pittsburgh’s well-known transformation from steelmaking hub to mecca of “eds and meds” ticks all the boxes, he thinks there’s a lot of substance behind the hype.
“In reality (Pitt) is a very comprehensive university. We have a very strong medical school. We have very strong other areas,” he says. “There are a lot more opportunities that can arise here with such a wide range of research areas, educational programs and so on.”
Labrinidis was among several faculty members who shared their thoughts on Pitt’s search for Chancellor in a forum immediately after the Oct. 13 Senate Council meeting at Posvar Hall. The forum, one of a series launched October 3, was chaired by Eva Tansky Blum, Chair of the Selection Committee and former Chair of the Board of Trustees; Anantha Shekhar, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences; and Geovette Washington, Pitt’s legal counsel.
Blum, who chaired the committee that brought Patrick Gallagher to campus in 2014, explained how the committee again selected Pennsylvania-based Storbeck Search to find Gallagher’s replacement, scheduled for spring 2023.
“We thought this would be a really good game for us,” she said. “They understand us, they know our DNA, they know Pittsburgh, so we went with them again.”
Since the selection committee members were selected in mid-September, everything has been in full swing and the group members have been collecting contributions and sharing criteria with various groups across campus.
John Maier, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine, said Pitt’s welcoming appeal is evident in Gallagher’s plan to teach in the physics department and in former Chancellor Mark Nordenberg’s current position as chairman of the Pitt Institute for Policy.
“They’re retiring to the faculty and they’re still there,” he noted. “So I think a new chancellor who comes into that environment will benefit from about 30 years of institutional wisdom from senior leaders that’s been around before.”
Tom Songer, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, called the “strength of different disciplines that are part of this university” the “No. 1 Important Issue” Pitt has to offer, opening up opportunities to create more multidisciplinary research, teaching, and community engagement. “We can grow this into a much larger company than it is now. And we will have top notch people to work with.”
Other attractions to Pitt cited in the forum were:
The “fairly good” relationship between Pittsburgh and the university.
Ability to work “interdisciplinary” and collaborate with other colleagues in Pitt’s medical and science departments.
Opportunities for Pitt to partner and provide a source for “creative research” with federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Homeland Security and the intelligence community.
Pitt’s shared governance structure that provides faculty and staff members with a voice and direct lines of communication with each other and with the Chancellery.
Some of the challenges the next chancellor will likely have to contend with include:
Possible reductions in scholarship funds and the opportunity to support the Faculty of Health Sciences at traditional levels.
A projected reduction in the number of undergraduate applicants.
Search for teachers in specific areas, e.g. B. for qualified teachers for training at medical schools.
The ability for Pitt and other universities to “reinvent” themselves in an online world with the intervention of artificial intelligence and other novel technologies.
Skills and experience identified at the forum as important for the new chancellor include:
Passion and motivation driven communication skills that inspire others to share a vision or overall plan.
The ability to set up appropriate structures to connect the various educational silos that exist on campus. “Breaking down the silos (of knowledge and expertise) isn’t ideal, but instead you can connect the silos,” Labrinidis said. “I think it would be a very good skill to bring someone who can connect the different silos that exist without completely breaking them down.”
Agility to work with legislators and adapt to changes in fundraising sources and the overall fundraising landscape.
Long-term vision and foresight in creating scientific, technological, engineering development plans and projects.
Concluding the forum, Selection Committee Co-Chair Anantha Shekhar commended the participants, noting that Pitt’s standards of quality and nurturing of the community go a long way in attracting talented leadership candidates.
“Ultimately, you are all the biggest attraction for anyone who wants to be chancellor,” he said. “I mean that’s why they want to come here, not just to get the title. So I think the quality of the faculty, the staff, the students, the educational programs here (are) ultimately what they will come for.
“So we appreciate all of your participation and look forward to you helping us find the best person.”
Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him below [email protected].
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