The University of Alaska Southeast has hired a new dean for its largest school, the School of Arts and Sciences, as it attempts to put nearly two years of controversy behind it.
Marsha Sousa, the new dean, will start later this month. She is currently the associate dean at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community and Technical College.
The position at UAS has been filled on an interim basis since late 2008 when former Dean Pat Brown was fired without explanation.
That led to a vote of no confidence by the Faculty Senate for James Everett, then serving as Interim Provost. Chancellor John Pugh survived a similar vote.
Following the vote, Everett stepped down as interim provost, though he remained acting dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Now, some top faculty leaders are saying they hope the hiring of a new, permanent dean for the school that offers about half of the credit hours at UAS will help put the controversy in the past.
"I think we're all trying to make great strides at a more positive interaction between the faculty and administration," said Sherry Tamone, President of the Faculty Senate.
While the faculty didn't vote no confidence in Pugh, it did pass a resolution asking for more of a role in running the school. Pugh vetoed that resolution.
Following the departure of Brown and amidst the 2009 turmoil, the attempt at filing his position failed when all the candidates under consideration withdrew.
Now, Tamone said, tensions have diminished, with better communication and regular retreats scheduled.
Pugh hired Rick Caulfield to be the new provost, the school's top academic officer, away from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sousa, the new dean was then hired, bringing a strong academic background with her.
Faculty Senate member Alex Simon said the school made a good move in hiring Sousa and letting her keep her tenure rights.
"My department advocated hiring a dean with tenure, so she'd have a degree of independence from the administration," he said.
It's also important for a dean to have the confidence of the provost, and the fact that Sousa and Caulfield have previously worked together will likely benefit the school, he said.
Simon also praised her strong academic background.
Sousa received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1982 from the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Colorado State University. She's been with the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 1989, both as a member of the faculty and administration.
She has taught classes in physiology, biology, allied health, and developmental math. In 2009, she won the Usibelli Award for Distinguished Teaching for UAF.
Her research specialty is in the reproductive cycles of mink, caribou, musk ox and reindeer.
Pugh said Sousa is "a great addition to the academic leadership team," in a press release announcing Sousa's hiring.
Sousa's goal is to "support faculty to help our students meet their educational goals," the release stated.
The new efforts at communication and new appointments may already be doing that, Tamone said.
"It's doing better," Tamone said. "It's doing a ton better."
Mark Speece, who also served on the Faculty Senate during the controversy last year declined comment, except to say "I don't feel comfortable discussing it because I don't want conflict with top admin."
Speece is an associate professor in the School of Management.
Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at email@example.com.