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Arts and Sciences dean candidate affirms commitment to Ohio State if hired

Carolyn Thomas speaks about her administrative experience at an open forum for the position of dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Credit: Sam Raudins | Social Media Editor

Carolyn Thomas, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education at the University of California, Davis, was selected as a finalist for the position of dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State in a public forum Monday.

Thomas spoke about her qualifications from her experiences in administration, why she felt she would make an effective dean and answered questions from students, faculty and staff during the forum.

Given Ohio State’s problem of retaining deans in the past, Thomas was asked about her commitment to the university.

“I don’t plan to run away,” she said.

Thomas, who is also a professor of American studies, identified three areas that have helped build her portfolio in administration: her time as a professor within a department, her experience as director of the UC Humanities Institute and her campuswide role as vice provost.

“I think the fact that I’m so steeped in students first will be something that I would carry into this job, which would help me see, whatever the situation is, also from a student perspective,” Thomas said.

Thomas said she has developed influence among her colleagues and is not afraid to make hard decisions in her current role, but her administrative style focuses on getting to know the faculty and staff for whom she advocates.

“I don’t need to be liked by everyone,” she said. “I want this job because of who [the College of Arts and Sciences is].”

In terms of the role that the College of Arts and Sciences plays in the university as a whole, Thomas said that the college should be the go-to problem-solvers, be more than the sum of its parts and act as a critical income stream for Ohio State. Thomas said she respects the idea that a public research university should have a commitment to research that has value for the public.

Thomas, a first-generation college student herself, said she values access, diversity and inclusion for students in the college.  

“Every day now when I go to work, what I’m doing is trying to make sure that the big public university that I work at is really helping every student have a great learning environment and helping students get involved in research,” she said.

Alan C. Michaels, dean at the Moritz College of Law, chaired the search advisory committee that determined the five finalists for the position. He said that the committee consisted of faculty and staff from the College of Arts and Sciences as well as undergraduate and graduate student representatives.

“Working with an outside search team, a pool of candidates — a large and exciting pool — was developed. From that, it was narrowed down to a list of finalists who are coming for campus visits,” Michaels said.

The college will continue holding open forums through Feb. 21, during which each candidate will answer questions and meet the people they would be representing. The other candidates’ forums will take place this Tuesday and Thursday, Feb. 19 and 21.

“We have five great finalists coming, all of whom seem like they could potentially be strong leaders for the college,” Michaels said.

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