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Students still concerned about aerospace school dean search

Dr. Thomas M. DiLorenzo1 / 2
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UND's initiative to hire a director of unmanned systems research is "on hold," according to Provost Thomas DiLorenzo.

This was one of many issues addressed when about 20 students gathered earlier this week to ask questions and voice concerns to DiLorenzo as he moves forward with putting together a search committee who will help hire the next dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Bruce Smith, the school's dean of about 15 years, will retire June 30, 2016, and many faculty worried they wouldn't have a say in the process of picking his replacement. This culminated in a well-attended meeting in early March, which DiLorenzo said would be followed by subsequent meetings.

One of those meetings was held Monday.

Student Aviation Advisory Council President Christian Smith and Vice President Kyle Koukol spoke at length, crediting Smith for the school's existence and continued success.

Koukol said the school runs very well and alleged DiLorenzo once spoke in a class and said his philosophy was, "if it's not broken, break it."

DiLorenzo didn't directly dispute the claim but said he wanted to find a candidate who agreed with UND's mission and vision as a whole, as Smith did.

"I don't think we want someone to come in who has a completely different vision of this place," DiLorenzo said. "This is a good school, it's well thought out ... things work well, so we want to find someone who we feel agrees with that and can help us move to the next level."

Meeting attendees stressed the importance of including people from all parts of the aerospace school on the dean search committee.

DiLorenzo said he would consider all feedback and planned to include at least one student and aerospace faculty or department chairpersons.

While an internal job opening was posted looking for a UAS director in April, DiLorenzo told students that position is no longer being filled and he will instead work with the existing aerospace school's UAS Center Director Al Palmer.

"He's really going to serve as the mover and shaker for the whole campus to get us moving in unmanned systems these days," DiLorenzo said.

DiLorenzo said he hoped to assemble the search committee, which would most likely consist of about 10 people, this month. A consulting firm will also be hired to assist in the nationwide search for Smith's replacement, though DiLorenzo assured meeting attendees the firm would merely facilitate the search and have no say in who was hired.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.