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Interims make transitions easier

Posted on 03.08.2017
Graphic by Zoë Berg, Photos by Zoë Berg and Erik Cliburn

Graphic by Zoë Berg, Photos by Zoë Berg and Erik Cliburn

There are several interim positions currently in place at the University of Indianapolis, the highest of which is held by Interim Provost and Executive Vice President David Wantz. By establishing an interim position, an organization (UIndy, in this case) is able to set up a temporary leadership role in order to fill a position for a limited time while looking for someone to fill the position permanently.

According to Wantz, the duty of someone taking on an interim position is to prepare an organization for its next permanent leader.

“An interim’s job is to respect the structures and momentum that the organization has,”  Wantz said. “…. The interim’s job is to clean up decisions around the edges so that the first thing the new person [filling the permanent position] does isn’t to have to make personnel decisions or big budget decisions. You want the next leader to be able to enjoy a honeymoon and to get to know things, and then to start leading.”

Wantz worked for six months in an interim position as the director of public safety under Greg Ballard during his time as mayor of Indianapolis, and also worked for five months in the same position for Mayor Joe Hogsett. Wantz said that although his title was the same under both mayors, the job was quite different under each mayor, because Ballard was leaving office during Wantz’s interim time and Hogsett was coming into office during the second interim period.

Flexibility, eagerness and optimism are all attributes that Wantz cites as essential to taking on the challenges of an interim position.

“In my case, in all three of the positions I have been in, I have [had] to remain calm, optimistic and encouraging,” Wantz said. “I often said that I’m the ‘encourager-in-chief.’”

Wantz said he enjoys being able to take on different roles within an organization in order to challenge himself.

“I have been here [UIndy] for 35 years, but I have had five or six different careers while I have been here,” he said. “It’s intellectually challenging because I have gotten to where I start seeing patterns really quickly and assess what’s going on in order to move forward.”

Interim Dean of the School of Education Colleen Mulholland recently began her interim position in January and said she has been learning what it means to act as a dean for the School of Education. Before being selected as the interim dean, Mulholland was the assistant dean of the School of Education, so she had direct contact with the dean, but had more of a focus on students rather than faculty.

“Being an interim is a nice way to see if this is something that I want to do in the future,” Mulholland said. “And to see really what the role [of this position] entails.”

According to Mulholland,  a challenge that comes with the territory of being an interim dean is being able to keep in touch with everyone and to ensure that the department is running smoothly and efficiently.

“A challenge is being available to everyone who needs you,” Mulholland said. “I really want to make sure that I am responsive in a way that keeps everything moving for people. I don’t want to be the barrier.”

Interim Dean for the School of Nursing Norma Hall began transitioning into this role in the fall of 2016 and assumed the role in mid-December.

The School of  Nursing focuses a lot on the community, according to Hall, so she has had a larger role interacting with the community and the School of Nursing’s academic and clinical partners. Hall said much of what she does as the interim dean focuses on forward thinking and planning.

“I’m already thinking about what needs to occur this semester to make [the] next academic year successful,” she said. “So some of the things I do is I collaborate with other departments to work on that.”

Hall is working with admissions, focusing on incoming students, working with clinical partners to check on students’ preparedness and setting up more educational partnerships. While acting as the interim dean, Hall still holds the title of graduate program director. She said she still has oversight and works with that but has had some graduate faculty members step up to help her.

There is currently a search to fill the dean position full time and, according to Hall, those involved in the search are in the process of interviewing applicants for the job. However, she does not know much about the applicants because she also is applying for the job.

“I think the interim role can be challenging, especially when you are also interviewing for it as well,” Hall said. “Basically for me, personally, because I am interviewing for the job, the actions that I have taken in my interim role have been kind of a 90-day job interview, because people look at you to see what you are going to do and how you are going to perform.”

The Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences is in the process of filling two interim positions: dean and associate dean. Jennifer Drake, current dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences, is leaving UIndy in June to take a position as provost and vice president at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., so the search is on to look for someone to fill her position as an interim. Then a new search will begin to find a permanent replacement for the position. Associate Dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences William Dynes, who was meant to serve as Drake’s interim, left the university due to unforeseen circumstances. According to Drake, it is unclear how long he will be gone, but they do plan to find someone to fill the associate dean role as an interim until his return.

Drake said she sat down with Wantz to discuss detailed job descriptions for both positions and let him know the initiatives and programs that are in the works so he and University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel can select the best person for each job.

“You try to match skillsets and experience with the position that needs to be filled,” Drake said. “And we do have lots of experienced folks, lots of people who will bring different strengths to the table. So I’m very comfortable that we’ll find two very, very strong people to come into those roles.”

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