Provost Marc Roy announced in an email to the faculty and staff on Tuesday, Feb. 16 that LaJerne Cornish will assume the role of associate dean of undergraduate studies next fall.
“I’m very excited. I’ve worked closely with LaJerne in her role as chair of the faculty for the last three years,” Roy said. “She is absolutely wonderful in the way she works with students and her colleagues and I am very excited to have the chance to continue working with her in this capacity.”
The Provost first announced the search for current Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Amanda Thom Woodson’s replacement in a Jan. 13 letter to faculty and staff. Woodson will meet her two-term limit this spring semester and Roy asked for nominations and self-nominations. According to Woodson, other members of the staff and faculty asked to be part of the interview process, including Woodson’s assistant, the Director of the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) Peejo Sehr, and Frona Brown, the college disabilities specialist. After going through the nomination and interview processes, Roy explained, “LaJerne was the best candidate.”
This sentiment continues across the college community.
“LaJerne has distinguished herself as a leader on our campus, and has spent her entire career (including her time in the Baltimore City Public School System before coming to Goucher) working tirelessly as an advocate for student learning,” said Dr. George Greco, associate professor and chair of the chemistry department. “She is an excellent choice for the position of associate dean for undergraduate studies, and I am looking forward to working with her in her new capacity.”
Vice President for Enrollment Management Michael O’Leary had a similar response: “Dr. LaJerne Cornish is a well regarded and highly respected Goucher alumna, professor, and leader of our college community. She has a long record of service to the college and to our students, and I know that she will continue to have the best interests of our bright and talented student population at the center of her work as associate dean for undergraduate studies. Professor Cornish’s continued service and commitment to Goucher College is valued, and much appreciated.”
Currently, Cornish is not only the chair of the education department but also the chair of the faculty, which she explains has been a “tremendous learning experience.” Cornish believes that her experience working with both faculty and students will aid her in her role as associate dean of undergraduate studies.
“I intend to be very responsive to the needs of my colleagues, but I feel fortunate that I have a relationship with colleagues across departments, across divisions within the undergraduate and graduate programs here at Goucher. I think I have a firm foundation upon which to begin this job,” Cornish said. “I get to bring all of knowledge, about teaching and learning, into this position. And that excites me as well.”
The associate dean of undergraduate studies deals primarily with first year students, advising, and academic issues in conjunction with ACE. But Cornish explained that her first year as chair will involve observation and assessment.
“Year one is purely observational,” Cornish said. “Amanda has done an amazing job for the last six years so I certainly want to learn more about what she’s done and then continue to do a need’s assessment about what’s working well, what needs to be polished, and what might we need to do differently.”
Woodson’s accomplishments as associate dean have not gone unnoticed.
“[Dean Woodson] has done a fantastic job, working closely with the staff in the Academic Center for Excellence and forming effective partnerships with staff members in student life,” Roy said in his email.
Woodson has held the associate dean of undergraduate studies position for six years, during which time she has worked to increase retention and communication between faculty, administrative policy, and students. Choosing to defer the sabbatical she is due, Woodson will be returning as a professor in the dance department this coming fall, adding to her current course load of Labanotation and the dance Edinburgh Scotland Intensive Course Abroad.
“Part of my struggle with my sabbatical decision has been because I’m outside the classroom … I haven’t been doing a lot of research,” said Woodson. The associate dean for undergraduate studies typically does not teach or continue research during his or her term, partly because the position is under contract for the entire year, not only the academic year. By deferring her sabbatical, Woodson will have the opportunity to return to the primarily research-based experience of a regular faculty member.
Cornish, however, plans to continue teaching in the education department.
“Teaching grounds me,” Cornish said. “Teaching in the classroom is my first love, my first joy.”
But Cornish will still have to restructure the education department to accommodate her new role. Current part time professor and former student of Cornish, Robin Black, will assume a full time teaching position in the department. In addition, she will provide Cornish with course relief. In terms of the student teaching internship, Professors Cornish, Black, Mary Adkins, and Anne Marie Longo, will assist in their supervision from Goucher’s end. From the interns’ hosting school, there will be a designated supervisor to assist with classroom observations.
Even though Cornish will have to cut down her role in the education department, students such as Sarah Murphy ‘15, a history major with a concentration in secondary education, who has worked closely with Cornish in the past, are still excited about her new position.
“I really can’t think of anyone that is better for the job. I think that she has an incredible dedication to students, their success, and their well being.”
Additional reporting by Christopher Riley, Associate Editor and Photo Editor.