With College of Communications and Fine Arts Dean Salma Ghanem announcing her resignation from her position at Central Michigan University, university officials must now embark on the task of finding a suitable replacement.
For Provost Michael Gealt, the search to replace an academic administrator as respected as Ghanem will not be an easy task.
“It will be difficult to replace Salma because of her many soft skills that she brought with her, aside from the valuable academic skills she has,” Gealt said.
Earlier this week, Ghanem accepted a dean’s position in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago. She made her department aware of her departure in an email sent out mid-day Monday.
In the email, Ghanem expressed her love for the college she served for nearly five years. She also expressed how sad she was to move on.
Ghanem was previously a finalist for a vice provost’s position at Northern Illinois University. The CCFA dean said she was interested in the NIU job to be closer to her family – her daughter and grandchildren live in the Chicago area.
However, Ghanem said she was looking forward to potentially making an impact at a highly regarded private university, much in the way that she has here at CMU.
“I’m excited because (DePaul’s) mission is service oriented,” she said. “I’m also excited to be working closely with the rich communications community that exists in the area. A dean or a leader helps to create an environment for both of those missions to flourish. The question becomes then, ‘how do you come up with the kinds of ideas that can make that happen?’”
When asked what she will miss the most about CMU, she said it will be her daily interactions and the collective achievements of her colleagues and students in CCFA.
Ghanem added that the college and its departments, despite having major budgetary issues and program obstacles looming on the horizon, will be well equipped to surmount any of its issues without her leadership.
“CCFA will do fine, I’m not worried,” Ghanem said. “There are tough times ahead but they are a creative bunch. This year has been a great opportunity for us because when you’re facing a challenge, it forces creative people to think outside of the box.”
Gealt said university officials began having conversations about finding a replacement shortly after her resignation. In the interim, Gealt expects the associated dean, Shelly Hinck, to take over. While conversations have taken place between Hinck and Gealt, the two have not come to a final conclusion on who will serves as interim dean.
“It will most likely be the current associate dean because she knows the inner workings of the college,” he said. “Whether that be on the budget side or through her knowledge of the programs.”
Gealt also said the university will commence a national candidate search, which will include scouting for talent within CMU.
“In general, with a dean’s position, you want to be able to find the best person possible for the job,” he said. “That typically warrants a national search, because you’re looking for a particular set of skills, but internal candidates would be a part of that as well.”
Among those sets of skills, Gealt said he is looking for a candidate who has previously held a significant tenured academic or administrative position, someone with administrative and budgetary experience, but also candidates who have made major contributions to their former university in the realm of academics as a professor.
Ghanem said she had a few ideas and projects in the works that she hopes to see continued, many of which Gealt wants to see continued. One of those ideas is the convergence of the two major communications fields – print journalism and broadcast media – on a college-wide scale.
“Her ideas of where to take the department were consistent with my ideas,” he said. “There’s more of a challenge in the communications field right now because it’s constantly evolving. There are still users primarily using print media, but so many more have made the permanent shift to electronic media and web-ready devices.
“When we visit a newspaper’s website, we expect to see videos now along with the print material. It’s hard to imagine that will ever go away.”
While Gealt looks for a replacement, he has taken stock of what he had in a dean like Ghanem and the type of collegial relationship they shared – one not only built on respect and trust, but friendship.
“When I was hired, she was the chair of the committee that brought me here,” Gealt said. “She was honest and open, knew about the programs, but most of all people wanted to follow her. I remember spending afternoons in her office drinking Turkish coffee, talking not only about the university but larger issues as well.”