College of Liberal Arts searching for new dean

Gracie Awalt

Randy Diehl started his career at UT-Austin as an assistant professor in 1975. During his 44-year tenure at UT, which will end with his retirement after next spring, Diehl rose through the University to become dean for the College of Liberal Arts and led the creation of the first-ever centralized location for his college, Patton Hall. 

This summer, COLA started searching for a new dean and has created a search committee consisting of faculty, students and administration. Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost, will be accepting the top recommendations from the search committee and will make the final decision on the next dean.

She said she expects the next dean to listen closely to both graduate and undergraduate students and collaborate strategically with faculty, alumni and donors.  

“We need someone who can do an excellent job in preparing students not only for their education but for their lives they’re going to live beyond UT-Austin,” McInnis said. “A dean has to wear so many different hats on any day, and part of what we will be looking for is somebody who understands and seems to have the knowledge and skills for a complex job.”

McInnis said all deans throughout the University have to set a different vision for their college because each discipline has different priorities. She said holding the position as dean is hard to do for more than 12 years and that the longest position was held for 28 years.

“(Diehl) is constantly focused not only on how to move COLA forward but how to move UT-Austin forward,” McInnis said. “(Among) his faculty and on campus, I know how beloved he is and how many people will miss him.”

Along with leading the creation of Patton Hall, he also led the Graduation Rate Task Force to improve the four-year graduation rate from 51 percent in 2011 to 66 percent today.

“My advice for the next dean is to build trust with the people you work with because they have to be able to know that you’re being straight with them,” Diehl said. “If you’re behaving ethically, then you don’t really have anything to hide. It’s all about persuasion, listening and compromise in an academic institution.”

Psychology junior Michaela Lavelle, the only undergraduate student on the dean search committee, is the president of the Liberal Arts Council and said she serves as a student voice in the selection process. She said she hopes the next dean prioritizes student education during new faculty appointments in COLA.  

“Professors are a pretty protected class on the UT campus, especially if they have tenure,” Lavelle said. “There’s not a lot that student input can change. We need someone who is aware that (COLA) not only needs researchers and fundraisers but someone to advocate for students, mentor and teach students because we are the ones paying tuition.”

Lavelle said she hopes the next dean is as receptive and understanding as Diehl during his time as dean of COLA.

“He takes time to learn about his students, which is really cool for someone who is in such a high position,” Lavelle said. “He doesn’t have to take that time, but it’s a choice that he’s making to really look out for his students. I hope that is something we can continue.”