Associate Dean of Faculty position removed; Steinfeld leaves on sabbatical early

Olivia Wieseler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Buena Vista University is in the process of restructuring its academic programs for the 2019-2020 academic year.  Members of the BVU community have found that this process comes with immense change.  One major change is the removal of the associate dean of faculty position from the Academic Affairs office at the end of June 2019. 

The position has been a part of the BVU administration for as long as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Brian Lenzmeier can remember—at least 20 years. The position was created to help the provost by being the office faculty reported to.  However, Lenzmeier says this position was created at a time when faculty numbers were almost half of what they are now.  He says the removal of the position is in the interest of the students. 

[When thinking] about how do we keep costs down for students, we have to look at being as efficient as we can be,” Lenzmeier explains. “When you have to make decisions about where we are going to spend our money, I’d much rather be spending that money on faculty who are working with students than on an administrator who supports [me].” 

Dr. Peter Steinfeld has held this position for the past nine years.  Lenzmeier says the removal of the position has nothing to do with Steinfeld. 

“I really respect him. He’s been a wonderful colleague.  He’s helped me as I’ve transitioned into this office,” says Lenzmeier.  “He’s done a good job over the years.”  

Steinfeld declined to comment on the elimination of his position. According to Lenzmeier, Steinfeld had dropped his tenure to take on the position nine years ago, but he has a full year of sabbatical saved up.  Even though his position is officially dissolved until June, Steinfeld left the week of Apr. 15 to begin his sabbatical, according to his assistant Cookie Baker. 

Steinfeld’s current responsibilities will be spread among the full-time deans of each of the four academic schools. Lenzmeier says it makes more sense for decisions formerly made by the associate dean of faculty to be more specialized in the academic disciplines.  

It is a better model in that [the deans] are better equipped to supervise faculty in their areas,” Lenzmeier says.  

Lisa Best, dean of the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business and special counsel to the provost & vice president for academic affairs, says she and the other deans will be gaining more responsibilities in the fall. 

“We’re working very hard to figure out how to effectively integrate [the new roles].” Best adds that the deans want to make sure that, “our students are going to receive the best possible education.” 

The full-time deans will be taking on new tasks like the staffing of first- and fourth-year university seminars, handling academic actions, and overseeing the online and site programs 

While this change in roles will be difficult, Best explains that this kind of turnover is not uncommon in businesses, especially when a new strategic plan is involved.  Administration makes decisions regarding the strategic plan with students’ wants and needs in mind, and sometimes that requires a lot of change. 

“I’ve been through four or five strategic plans in my own professional experience, and it is something we teach here in the school of business. Growth and innovation requires strategic planning, which is a natural part of the process in any business,” explains Best. 

Lenzmeier also acknowledges the change but says that it is not much different from the turnover in other private institutions.  

When I was at a meeting in Chicago for accreditation, our situation is actually a lot more stable than most small private schools,” says Lenzmeier. “We’ve been doing everything we can, light of lower enrollments, to keep all of the resources we can available to students so that they can pursue their degree.” 

When it comes down to it, Lenzmeier and Best agree that most administrative decisions are made with the students’ best interests in mind. 

“At the end of the day, we all care most about the students,” says Best.