Steven Fluharty, who currently serves as senior vice provost for research at Penn, will succeed Rebecca Bushnell as the next dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, the University announced Thursday afternoon.
Fluharty’s appointment marks the end of a more than four-month search process to find a successor to Bushnell, who has held her post since 2005.
Fluharty will begin his term as SAS dean on July 1.
In addition to receiving all three of his academic degrees at Penn, Fluharty has held a variety of faculty and administrative positions during his time at the University.
He currently holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Animal Biology in the School of Veterinary Medicine, along with secondary appointments in psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences and in pharmacology and neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine.
“It’s a very pleasant mixture of feeling thrilled, honored and really touched in their confidence in my capabilities,” Fluharty said of learning about his selection. “I’ve long felt that the School of Arts and Sciences is the heart and soul of any great university like Penn. That viewpoint is really embedded in my DNA.”
Fluharty has been on Penn’s faculty for the past 27 years, and is “intimately familiar” with SAS, Provost Vincent Price said, citing things like his time spent directing the Biological Basis of Behavior program.
Among other things, Fluharty pointed to a commitment to interdisciplinary learning and an expansion of online learning opportunities as priorities for once his term begins.
In the face of declining federal funding for research, he also highlighted the importance of finding new sources for research support — including fundraising and partnering with professional organizations.
Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Director Harriet Joseph said she was “delighted” to hear of Fluharty’s appointment.
“Steve’s been instrumental in doing research at Penn for a long time,” she said. “Hopefully he’ll continue to promote research opportunities for students.”
Co-Director of the BBB program Marc Schmidt, a biology professor, added that “having somebody coming in with that strong science background who understands the research landscape at the University and also understands how difficult it has been to get funding … will be great.”
According to Annenberg School for Communication Dean Michael Delli Carpini, who chaired the consultative committee that conducted the search for a new SAS dean, Fluharty was among a “short list” of candidates who were recommended to Price and President Amy Gutmann near the end of last semester.
Although Delli Carpini declined to say how many made that final list, he acknowledged that there were candidates from within and outside the University.
Moving forward, Gutmann said that Fluharty will soon begin on a “listening tour,” taking time to meet with members of the SAS community so that he is ready to hit the ground running in July.
“He was clearly the person best prepared to lead the School of Arts and Sciences, building on the terrific record of Rebecca Bushnell,” Gutmann said. “What he brings to the position is everything you could hope for in the next dean.”
Bushnell said she is looking forward to working with Fluharty to ensure a smooth transition.
With Fluharty’s departure from the Provost’s Office, Price added that the University will soon begin looking for a new vice provost for research.
Although he has enjoyed his time in his current position, Fluharty said he applied for the deanship because he “viewed it as an opportunity to take the skills and knowledge I have from my career at Penn and apply them to be what I consider to be one of the most important academic leadership roles on campus.”
In addition to faculty, many students were also pleased to learn of Fluharty’s appointment.
“I’m really happy they picked someone from the science side,” said College junior Julio Albarracin, the Undergraduate Assembly’s student life committee director. “I think we need those opportunities for research and I think we’re definitely going to see more opportunities for undergraduates.”
Campus News Editor-elect Huizhong Wu contributed reporting.
This article has been updated to reflect that Julio Albarracin is the Undergraduate Assembly’s student life committee director, not its vice president for internal affairs.