Dean of School of Arts and Sciences leaving to return to faculty

After 8 years, Rebecca Bushnell is stepping down as SAS Dean, her replacement unknown

· September 21, 2012, 2:35 am

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The School of Arts and Sciences is looking for new leadership.

SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell will end her tenure at the close of the academic year, returning to the faculty after holding the position for eight years.

Penn President Amy Gutmann has created a consultative committee to advise her, Provost Vincent Price and the Board of Trustees in appointing a new dean to succeed Bushnell by June 30, 2013.

The 12-person committee is chaired by Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication Michael Delli Carpini, who has worked with Bushnell throughout her time at the helm of SAS.

The search process itself will take place in multiple stages throughout the school year, though Delli Carpini declined to comment specifically on the committee’s current activities.

“The whole process only works if it’s highly confidential,” he said.

However, Delli Carpini explained, the committee will begin by engaging in the “initial stages of information-gathering, identifying potential candidates and winnowing them down to a set of candidates that we are comfortable recommending.”

Ultimately, he added, Gutmann and the Board of Trustees will select Bushnell’s successor.

With eight faculty representatives, two student representatives and one alumni representative, the committee is specifically designed to represent an array of interests within the Penn community. In an email message to the College of Arts and Sciences, Delli Carpini requested input from students, inviting them to submit nominations and names of possible candidates to the committee by Sept. 30.

According to Delli Carpini, everyone involved in the process is taking “the interests of the various constituencies to heart as we go about our work … and feels the heavy responsibility [that this] is.”

Though searches for a new dean of the “heart of the University” are always significant, Delli Carpini said this particular search is “doubly important” because the committee is seeking candidates “to follow someone who’s done as well as Rebecca.… The standards are very high.”

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dennis DeTurck agreed that “the next SAS dean is going to have some big shoes to fill.”

Throughout her tenure, he added, Bushnell has shepherded the school “really effectively, through an interesting economic period,” enterprising physical renovations and hiring standout faculty members.

DeTurck also lauded Bushnell for her work leading Penn’s Making History campaign for SAS.

“We had a really ambitious goal, and it’s looking like we just might get there, despite the fact that we’ve had an economic downturn in the middle of it all,” he said.

Bushnell had initially planned to step down from the administration in December 2011, but decided to extend her term through this year to finish the campaign.

An English professor, Bushnell will “go claim [her] office back in Fisher-Bennett Hall” when she leaves her administrative position in June, she said.

Though she has continued to teach throughout the majority of her tenure as dean, Bushnell said next year she looks forward to resuming her identity at Penn as a full-time teacher and instructor.

“I never wanted to think I’d abandoned my identity and role as a faculty member” despite her title as dean, Bushnell added.

Bushnell will also be continuing to work on a book about tragedy and time, and is “looking forward to getting it done” once she steps down as dean.

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