In an email sent to Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) affiliates on Monday, Dean Beverly Wendland announced that John Toscano will serve as the interim dean of KSAS starting July 1. Toscano, who is currently a chemistry professor and the vice dean for natural sciences, will hold this position until Wendland’s official successor is appointed.
In January, the University formed a 21-person search committee to find the next KSAS dean after Wendland accepted an offer from the Washington University in St. Louis to serve as provost. The committee is using a search firm, Isaacson Miller, to find a suitable pool of candidates.
Junior Jaanvi Mahesh, who is the undergraduate representative on the search committee, noted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has added challenges but is not hampering the work of the committee.
“Our first meeting was in the last week of March... [The search] is expected to last until September,” she said. “All of our meetings happen over Zoom so our major timeline has not experienced too many changes.”
Mahesh added that the committee has stressed input from every member but acknowledged the difficulty in representing the entire undergraduate student body. She explained that although she doesn’t know what every undergraduate wants in a dean, she is trying to form her opinions of candidates by comparing them to previous deans.
“I'm in the process of looking at how deans interact with undergraduate students because I feel like sometimes there isn’t too much interaction,” she said. “Right now, I am now looking at how Dean Wendland has interacted with us. Based on that, I could continue thinking about how to best represent undergraduate students.”
According to Mahesh, Wendland has been involved with the search process and helped to give the committee guidelines for what qualities candidates should have and sharing her own experience as the dean of KSAS.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Toscano expressed that he is saddened by Wendland’s departure from Hopkins and admired all the work she has done.
“I’ve been in the dean’s office for four, five years now and have learned a lot more about the school than I knew as a department chair,” he said. “It’s been very interesting. I’m really happy and looking forward to the challenges ahead in serving as the interim dean.”
Toscano’s top priority as interim dean will be to ensure that students have the necessary resources to succeed during the COVID-19 outbreak. He praised students, faculty and staff for their ability to adapt to the changes made to the end of the school year, including remote learning and moving away from campus.
“Moving forward, our priority is, and always will be, our students and ensuring not only that they are getting a great education, but that they are also safe. We are very much hoping that we’ll be back to ‘normal operations’ by the fall. That’s not absolutely clear yet,” he said. “We’re going to continue gathering information. No decisions have been made yet but those discussions are ongoing.”
Wendland appointed Toscano to the vice dean for natural sciences and research. Prior to Wendland’s deanship, both Wendland and Toscano served as department chairs in the Departments of Biology and Chemistry, respectively.
Wendland praised Toscano and expressed her confidence in him as he begins his role as the interim dean in July.
“I’ve known him from a leadership position for quite some time,“ she said. “I have been interim dean myself so I know what he will be facing and I have every confidence that he’s going to do a great job.”
Wendland said that she hopes her permanent successor will be someone who appreciates the vast undergraduate academic divisions and programs at the KSAS.
“You need to have somebody who is an intrinsically curious and interested person because you’re never going to find the expertise in all the different things that our school does,” Wendland said. “Another thing is you need somebody who has some leadership experience because there is a lot of stuff to manage.”
She also noted the importance of the Dean’s ability to work with donors in maintaining and developing various programs in the KSAS and the University. This can be difficult, she explained, because donors oftentimes have particular things they are interested in, but a good dean is able to combine donor interest with the school’s needs.
“First of all, our donors that we currently have are people who already believe in the school and the University. They are people who, if you equip them with information about what is going on, can be great advocates out in the world for the University,” she said.
Both Toscano and Wendland expressed regrets about the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and cancellation of many University events, most notably commencement. Wendland noted that this commencement would be her last at the University.
“I feel really terrible for the graduating seniors not to have the commencement and the time with their classmates for closure,” Toscano said. “We are working to make that experience the best as possible.”