Candidate for VP Academic Affairs Arrives on Campus

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Joan Neff, one of four remaining candidates for the vice president of Academic Affairs position arrived on campus Tuesday.
Neff is currently an associate provost, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice and coordintor of Criminal Justice Studies at University of Richmond. She is also the current chair of the Sociology and Anthropology departments and associate dean of arts and sciences.
During her time at DePauw, Neff had the opportunity to speak to the faculty for ten minutes, and was then interviewed in an open forum. Afterwards, the faculty filled out a survey online expressing their thoughts about the candidate.
“What we’re trying to see is how well [the candidates] do in front of a group of 200 complicated people,” President Brian Casey said.
Neff used her time in front of the faculty to express why she wants to come to DePauw.
“I’ve developed the idea that I think I can make a contribution even further than what I have already made to the University of Richmond,” Neff said.
Neff pointed to the fact that universities tend to seek candidates externally when they have openings in administrative positions, in an attempt to bring new thoughts and ideas to campus. While Neff has had opportunities to go elsewhere, she has previously turned them down. However, she is excited about the possibility of working at DePauw.
“I don’t want to go to a different place just for the sake of going there, and I don’t want to go to a place that isn’t firmly committed to the liberal arts,” Neff said.
Neff said that she firmly believes in the value of the type of education DePauw offers.
“In liberal arts education, we are really talking about educating broadly and educating a whole person,” Neff said. “That kind of benefit for students and for young people is something that I think will carry us, as a society, forward.”
Neff does not believe in changing a university for the sake of change as she understands the rituals that are so deeply embedded in a university’s history.
“Change is never easy, particularly in organizations like higher education which value and prize tradition,” Neff said. “We become so steeped in those traditions.”
Neff also pointed to the fact that there has been an increasing demand for proof of the value of higher education, which has been taken for granted in the past. She believes that she can be strong leader in the field.
She characterized her management and leadership style as “very inclusive and collaborative.”
“True leadership doesn’t mean saying to people ‘follow me’– it means saying ‘let’s go,'” Neff said.
Casey said that the university is seeking an individual that has a “vision for the liberal arts in the 21st Century, a lot of experience and energy.”
Casey also noted that the position is perhaps one of the hardest jobs on campus because it requires that VPAA oversees the 20 academic departments, 11 interdisciplinary programs, the three academic learning centers and institutes, in addition to taking care of the hiring, tenure and promotion of faculty.
Wayne Glausser, professor of English, said in an email that they hope to announce a new VPAA sometime after spring break.
“We’re looking at a small, elite pool of candidates, and many other schools are interested in these same people,” Glausser said in the email. “We’ll have to compete to hire one of them.”
Neff, if hired, hopes to continue and expand DePauw’s efforts in engaging students in faculty research and internship opportunities.
According to Neff, “It’s just a matter of making people realize what a gem there is here.”