USC has announced the beginning of an international search for a new dean for the Roski School of Fine Arts to replace Dean Ruth Weisberg who will be stepping down at the end of the school year to rejoin the faculty.
Weisberg began teaching at USC in 1970 and was named dean in 1995.
“It’s never a simple decision to make a significant change in one’s life. When I step down, I will have been dean for 15 years. That’s very unusual. Most deans serve for five or 10 years,” Weisberg said.
Provost C.L. Max Nikias approached Robert Cutietta, dean of the Thornton School of Music, to chair the search committee for the new dean. Cutietta is joined by Executive Vice Provost Barry Glassner — who will serve as vice chair — and nine other professors.
Cutietta’s appointment as chair of the search committee was appropriate, since he has been working closely alongside Weisberg from day one — ever since his interview for the deanship at Thornton eight years ago.
“The deans are very important at USC,” Cutietta said. “They make major decisions that impact the future of the school. Our goal is to really find a great person. And from a selfish point, I want somebody I can work with as well I worked with Ruth.”
While Weisberg said she is not endorsing any particular candidate, she hopes her successor will exhibit strong leadership capabilities.
“I think that deanships at USC require a certain kind of personality. The system at USC is very entrepreneurial and you need to have a real type-A personality, because we do a lot of fundraising and we have to be confident,” she said.
Indeed, it was Weisberg who was dean when the school received a $23 million donation from Gayle and Edward Roski, which renamed the school the Gayle Garner Roski School of Fine Arts. Cutietta considers Weisberg’s greatest accomplishment to be the naming of the school.
“Any time a dean gets a school named … It only happens once in the life of the school. And the school is 100 years old,” he said.
The donation from the Roskis, Weisberg said, allowed the school to bulk up its faculty considerably.
Less tangible, but equally admirable, Cutietta said, is how Weisberg was able to adapt when the introduction of the computer revolutionized art in the mid-1990s. No longer was art defined only by paintbrushes and acrylics; now it had to contend with the computer as a palette in its own right.
As the machine became another tool to generate art, Weisberg was able to prevent the school from going astray, Cutietta said.
“I think we’ve done something unusual that I’m rather proud of, which is that we’re very cutting edge. We do provide our students with the latest and very sophisticated technology.”
At the same time, the school hasn’t given up on the traditional skills and continue to offer hands-on drawing, painting and ceramics classes, Weisberg said.
Both Weisberg and Cutietta agreed that the new dean should also have high visibility in both the LA and national art scenes, as Weisberg does.
As dean, Weisberg continued to make and exhibit her art. Recently she was commissioned to do something completely new to her — construct a stained glass window for Judson Studios.
“It’s always good to be learning something new,” she said.
Though she enjoyed her time as dean, Weisberg said she is looking forward to returning to teaching.
“It’s been extremely rewarding to be dean,” Weisberg said. “I have wonderful colleagues, and we’ve made enormous progress in the last 15 years. I think it will be good to have fresh leadership; that’s always healthy.”
In fall 2008, Weisberg taught a course jointly offered by USC and Hebrew Union College for graduate students called Building Community: Jewish Cultural Resources, which focused on Jewish artwork. Once her deanship ends, she will resume
teaching studio art, a subject she said she loves, but was unable from teaching as a dean because of its intense time commitment.
Brianne Ryan, a sophomore majoring in fine arts with an emphasis in drawing, said, “I’m really sad that we’re losing her as a dean, but I’m excited that she’s going to be teaching. I really admire her work, and it would be wonderful to have her as a teacher.”
An announcement of the opening has already been posted on the website of Isaacson, Miller, the executive search firm assisting the search committee with advertising, maintaining high profile candidates’ confidentiality and finding qualified applicants.
The search will be conducted on an international scale and Cutietta and his team will be involved every step of the way, eventually narrowing the applicant pool down to four or five candidates.
Glassner said it is commonplace for top-tier universities to employ a search firm for a new dean. Isaacson, Miller also helped with the selection of Catherine Quinlan, the Dean of Libraries, in 2007.
“The whole goal is to hire the best dean throughout the world,” Glassner said.
Once the committee has whittled down its choices, the remaining candidates will come to campus to interact with students and faculty.
Glassner said Nikias will be advised by Gayle Roski, after whom the school is named, and President Steven B. Sample will make the final selection. Cutietta expects the choice to be finalized in March. The new dean will take over July 1.