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Adam Leibovich gives first ‘vision talk’ for DSAS, CGS dean position

As a candidate for the new dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and College of General Studies, Adam Leibovich said he hopes to advance Pitt’s “greatest asset” — its people. 

“We have amazing students, amazing staff and amazing faculty and they’re doing incredible things,” Leibovich said. “My goal is to try to enable people to do more and to accomplish more along the lines of their goals.”

Leibovich spoke in front of a crowd of roughly two dozen people in Posvar Hall Wednesday morning, as the first of four candidates for the dean position. Over 40 people also viewed Leibovich’s speech via Zoom. After giving his “vision talk,” Leibovich answered questions from the audience about increasing staff numbers, improving communication and boosting faculty retention. 

Each candidate for the dean position will visit Pitt to give a vision talk addressing the question, “Based on your current understanding, how can the Dietrich School and the College of General Studies advance the University’s mission around education, scholarship and engagement in the next 5 to 10 years?” 

The remaining three candidates’ names will not be revealed until 48 hours before their individual speeches “to aid in candidate confidentiality, since our candidates have important roles at their current institutions,” according to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Joe McCarthy. 

Leibovich currently serves as the associate dean for research and faculty development at the Dietrich School, the director of the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute and a professor of physics. Previously, he served in other administrative roles including associate dean of faculty recruitment and research development at the Dietrich school, chair of physics and astronomy and director of graduate studies of physics and astronomy. Leibovich has worked at Pitt since 2003, and in the Dean’s office since 2017. 

As an internal candidate, Leibovich said he feels Pitt is a strong institution, but he isn’t satisfied with the status quo. He also said his “institutional knowledge” makes him a strong candidate to deal with administrative turnover in the offices of the Chancellor and the Provost

In addition to this turnover, Leibovich said some of the upcoming Dean’s biggest challenges will include implementing the new budget model and the collective bargaining agreement — which is still in negotiations

Arthur Kosowsky, chair of the physics and astronomy department, asked Leibovich about his top priorities, given that the dean is “pulled in 18 different directions every single day.” Leibovich said his long-term priority is to create opportunities for faculty and staff to “do more,” but that implementing the new budget model and collective bargaining agreement will be important in getting towards that goal. 

“Everything flows with money, and so we need to make sure that we have the money to be able to do these initiatives and how much money we can afford to give to these projects,” Leibovich said. “The collective bargaining agreement… is going to require going through making sure that our policies and procedures are in line with the collective bargaining agreement, figuring out what new things we can and cannot do.”

Jae-Jae Spoon, chair of the political science department, asked Leibovich about his vision for improving faculty retention. Leibovich said he’d like to improve and expand upon the faculty onboarding process.

“As soon as they get the offer, we need to communicate, tell them what to expect, what to do, what they need, what they might — who to ask for things and all the way through, really all the way through their careers… to make them feel welcome, more inclusive environment and make Pitt the place they want to stay,” Leibovich said. 

Another of Leibovich’s proposed goals was to increase the number of Dietrich School staff and to support faculty in areas such as grant-writing. He said he hopes to do this through fundraising and the flexibility of the new budget model. 

Leibovich also emphasized the importance of clear communication and transparency throughout his speech and during the Q&A portion. He said he hopes to improve communication through weekly office hours.

“There’s certain communications which go through the chairs right now. Obviously, that has to continue because the chairs are the ones that are more in the trenches with their faculty,” Leibovich said. “But one example of things that I am planning to institute, if I am fortunate enough to be the next dean, is office hours to help with that communication.”

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