By Shanna O’Mara and Julia Corrigan
Upon the retirement of the current dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences (CLAES), the university will postpone the search for a new dean and appoint Dr. Jonathan Millen, current associate dean of CLAES, as interim dean.
The current dean of CLAES, Dr. Patricia Mosto, announced on June 15 that she will retire on June 30, 2016. Millen accepted a two-year appointment while the university holds off looking for a new dean because of the financial challenges.
“Given his long-standing history with the institution and having been able to observe his leadership style, I cannot think of a better leader for this college at this point in time,” said DonnaJean Fredeen, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
One of Millen’s unique qualities, according to Fredeen, is that he proves he truly cares and thinks about his answers when handling an issue.
“You have the sense that he’s really listening to you and thinking about how to respond to the problem, instead of it just being that knee-jerk response that people sometimes can give,” she said.
According to Dr. Pamela Brown, professor and chair of the Communication and Journalism Department, where Millen formally taught, Millen has a way of being very flexible with students but still upholding university rules. This aspect is a great attribute for the position of dean, she said.
“He’s very caring in regards to students but at the same time he cares about maintaining [the university’s] standards,” she said.
Millen has 10 years of administrative experience at Rider, including his current position as associate dean.
“I was chair of Communication and Journalism,” Millen said. “By chairing such a large department, it helped me to appreciate the complexities involved in educating students and working with faculty. And then working as associate dean, it gave me much more opportunity to interact across the college and really understand the different demands that different departments have.
“My current job is really to help other people do their jobs better. Here, I serve students and faculty, and I resolve problems when there are challenges. I’m the person who is asked to fix them. That’s what I do.”
Mosto feels Millen will be a perfect fit for the new role based on his experience and understanding of the different programs within the college.
“Deans of arts and sciences, compared with other deans, deal with so many different programs,” said Mosto. “As deans of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we have to speak the languages of the humanities; we need to speak the languages of the social sciences, and we need to speak the languages of the sciences. [Millen] is very good at moving across all the disciplines.”
With a background in mediation, Millen has experience resolving issues between parties.
“I spent my entire professional life engaged in [mediation], as a scholar and a practitioner,” Millen said. “I’m a big proponent of what I call civil discourse. What I mean by that mostly is that it’s less important that people agree with me than they understand me. My hope is that what I’m advocating for is based on sound principle and reason — what I think is in the best interest of the institution, its students and its faculty.”
Working as a professor for much of his career, Millen also has 25 years of experience in the classroom. In addition to communication, he has taught in Baccalaureate Honors Program and Law and Justice classes. Although he still teaches an American studies course, Millen admits to missing interacting with students on a daily basis.
“I try to teach as often as I can,” Millen said. “I have less and less contact in the classroom but more through other outlets. I meet all the freshmen at admission events. The part that I miss the most though is teaching.”
As dean, Millen plans to look ahead.
“My challenge as interim dean will be to lead the college forward, to outline the next objectives for us,” he said. “One of the big challenges on the horizon is accreditation. Part of my responsibility will be to make sure we are meeting those standards set by the Middle States organization.
“What I really want to continue to do is to emphasize the value of a liberal education. I want to ensure that the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences continues to thrive. By that, I mean we have great opportunities for great students. That will help us to attract additional great students. The better students we have, the more faculty will want to come work with us.”
Millen also hopes to get students more involved in the dean’s office by forming a Student Council composed of two or three nominated or volunteer students from each department.
“I want to invite students regularly to meet with the dean,” Millen said. “I want the dean’s office to be well aware of what is on the student’s minds. I want to demystify this office.”
Millen looks forward to his interim role as he takes on additional responsibilities at the university. As he moves forward with added weight on his shoulders, he looks back to thank those who helped him greatly along the way.
“[Dr. Mosto] has been a tremendous mentor,” Millen said. “She has been extremely supportive of me since I joined her team. The entire team in the dean’s office has been amazing to work with. Everyone always asks me if I like what I do, and my answer is always prefaced by, ‘I like who I do it with.’ I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by such a great team which makes the job all the more rewarding.”