Rossi staying on as interim A&S dean through spring of 2013

The Rev. Phillip J. Rossi will remain interim dean until a replacement is found. Photo by Erin Caughey/

Marquette has delayed the search for a new dean of the College of Arts & Sciences again.

Last week, the university announced in an emailed news brief that the Rev. Philip J. Rossi will remain interim dean of the college through the 2012-13 academic year.

The college has been without a permanent dean since December 2007, following the retirement of Michael McKinney. In 2010, the university offered the position — and then rescinded that offer — to Jodi O’Brien, a professor of sociology at Seattle University.

Marquette said in a statement that the offer was rescinded not because of O’Brien’s sexual orientation — she is openly lesbian — but some of her publications dealt with homosexuality.

“Some of the concerns identified in the process should have had more careful scrutiny, and publications relating to Catholic mission and identity should have been more fully explored early in the process,” Marquette said in the statement.

Rossi said new University President the Rev. Scott Pilarz asked him to remain interim dean in early September, and after taking time for consideration, he accepted.

Provost John Pauly said Pilarz decided to conduct a full national search next fall after consulting with Pauly and College of Arts & Sciences faculty and chairs.

“We decided that we wanted to take the time to do this well,” Pauly said.

Most of the background work on this search — appointing a committee, meeting with faculty, staff and students in the college to gain their perspective on a new dean, and beginning to identify possible candidates — will happen in the spring. Pauly said they would do most of the screening and interviewing of candidates next fall.

Shannon Rohn, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, has not had a permanent dean her entire collegiate career. Now that the search has been pushed back, she won’t see that change by graduation time.

In spite of the instability, Rohn said the situation has not been detrimental to her education because Marquette has given them strong leadership through the provost, interim deans and other roles in the college.

“I think he (Pilarz) is really going to take his time looking for the right dean in light of what happened with Father Wild,” Rohn said, referring to the controversy after Wild rescinded the offer to O’Brien.

Rossi said that in these next two academic years as interim dean, he hopes to start progress on strategic planning in the college to attract new candidates and make improvements for students.

This “college visioning process,” as Rossi called it, includes four areas of development: support for research, programmatic initiatives, diversity and leadership development.

Rossi said the university cited an address by the Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, in creating this vision for the college. Nicolas said in this address that Jesuit schools need to doctor their approach to education. The theme of Friday’s inauguration — Reflect, Imagine, Transform — was inspired by this address. He said he wants to implement this plan before he leaves.

“It’s a challenge to Jesuit universities in the U.S. and worldwide to engage certain issues and to rethink the plan of the universities in a very different world,” Rossi said.