Timothy Kaufman-Osborn to Step Down as Dean of Faculty and Provost

Sam Grainger-Shuba

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June 30, 2014 will mark Dean of the Faculty and Provost Timothy Kaufman-Osborn’s last day in his current administrative position. Kaufman-Osborn will be taking a year-long sabbatical and plans to return to the college in some capacity in the fall of 2015.

Kaufman-Osborn, known within the Whitman community as TKO, cited personal reasons for leaving the position of dean of the faculty and provost.

“I realized that there are important matters that have been put on the back burner because of the demands of this position,” said Kaufman-Osborn. “I have found it necessary to abandon my scholarly pursuits. I have found few opportunities for the sort of quiet reflection I so much value. And, perhaps most important, too many cherished relationships have been neglected. And so I think it is now time to move on.” 

The person who holds the dean of the faculty and provost position is in charge of all academic programs, which includes the faculty, the curriculum and academic support services. The dean also handled the academic program budget, grants and faculty development, institutional governance, as well as accreditation and assessment for Whitman. Kaufman-Osborn has served at this post for five years, as a well as a one-year interim period, when the previous dean vacated the post.

“I have served in this position longer than I initially anticipated, and I have no regrets about doing so,” he said. “It has been a great honor to serve in this capacity, and it has given me an opportunity to secure a more comprehensive understanding of the college than otherwise would have been possible.”

In a letter to Whitman faculty and staff addressed Nov. 12, President George Bridges announced Kaufman-Osborn’s decision and detailed the steps the college would take to replace him, as well as include the positive changes brought about by his leadership.

“I have decided to appoint an interim provost and dean to begin serving on July 1, 2014. Too little time remains this academic year to conduct a proper search given the demands of the [Now is the Time] campaign, recruiting new students, building the budget and work on other campus issues,” he wrote in the letter.

Bridges added that candidates for the interim provost and dean of the faculty position will be recruited from current Whitman faculty members holding the rank of professor or associate professor. The interim appointee will be announced before the end of the semester.

“I expect to fill the interim position no later than Dec. 1 and will announce the appointee as soon as we agree to terms,” wrote Bridges in the letter.

Chair of the Faculty and Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History David Schmitz hopes that the process of finding a replacement for Kaufman-Osborn will be streamlined by employing someone internally and that it will have little effect on students.

“I don’t think the students will notice it that much. I don’t think anything radical is going to change,” said Schmitz. “As far as faculty, I think the faculty is always concerned about who will be the provost and dean, but it’ll be somebody internal so there will be some continuity there.”

Kaufman-Osborn intends to spend his sabbatical in Boulder, Colo. conducting research and other scholarly pursuits, while also spending time with his first grandchild, who is due in early Jan. 2014. He expects to return to Walla Walla in the fall of 2015. His wife, Sharon Kaufman-Osborn, plans to resume her position as counselor at the Welty Counseling Center, and he plans to resume work at Whitman in some capacity, he said.

Before his appointment, Kaufman-Osborn served as professor and chair of Whitman’s politics department. In his letter to faculty and staff, Bridges credited him for building the department since his arrival to Whitman.

“When Tim arrived at Whitman in the early 1980s, the then department of political science had but three faculty members. Over the course of his career as professor and department chair, Tim recruited and hired faculty members who would ultimately comprise what is now our department of politics,” he wrote in the letter.

Kaufman-Osborn is unsure of what specific role he will take on at Whitman when he returns, however.

“Exactly how I will be serving the college upon my return remains unknown to everyone, including me,” said Kaufman-Osborn. “At this point, I want to leave as many possibilities for the future open, and so I am resisting the temptation to resolve that question before it is time to do so.”

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