STEM deans

Wood and Hartje share interim responsibilities

Julia Battishill, News Editor

This time last year, Dr. Sandra Hartje and Dr. Derek Wood were happily teaching at Seattle Pacific University while serving as associate deans of STEM and social sciences. They would never have expected that, one year later, they would be not only sitting in the dean’s office but sharing it.

For the 2019-2020 school year, Hartje and Wood will both be serving as SPU’s interim co-deans of STEM and social sciences. SPU has not had co-deans of any department since a very brief period in 1994-1995, and it was a set of unique circumstances that brought Hartje and Wood to be the first in 25 years.

In January of this year, near the start of winter quarter, former SPU provost Jeff Van Duzer was asked to resign by President Dan Martin. He quickly started helping the president’s office’s plan for the coming year’s transition.

One vital steps was the selection of the previous dean of STEM and social sciences, Bruce Congdon, as interim provost — leaving his dean position empty for the coming year.

Hartje and Wood, who both worked closely with Congdon as associate deans at the time, were each asked in early spring of 2019 to consider the interim dean of STEM and social sciences position for the 2019-2020 academic year.

A woman sitting in a chair smiling
Angel Abad
Dr. Sandra Hartje, co-dean of SPU STEM and Social Sciences. For the duration of the 2019-2020 school year, the STEM and Social Sciences deanship at SPU will be shared by Dr. Hartje and Dr. Wood.

“We both said we were interested and willing to be deans for the interim period,” remembered Hartje. “And we said that we would like [it] to be a shared position.”

It is very rare at SPU to split a deanship between two individuals, but Hartje and Wood have known each other for years and knew that they work well together. They report that their skills complement each other.

“She approaches things more slowly, I approach things more quickly, and between the two of us we approach things at — I think — the right speed. That collaboration is really valuable,” explained Wood.

A man sitting at a desk speaking and motioning with his hands
Blake Dahlin
Dr. Derek Wood, current co-dean of STEM & Social Sciences. Dr. Wood will be sharing the deanship with Dr. Hartje for the 2019-2020 school year.

They also share another passion outside of leading their department: they both love teaching, and they were hesitant to give up that aspect of their work at SPU.

If they split the dean role, both could continue teaching classes. They were sold on the idea, and the provost — who makes the final decision on dean selection — agreed.

Now, Hartje and Wood have begun their year of interim co-deanship, and they both report that things are going exceedingly well.

According to Wood, the ability to teach was the primary motivation for choosing to have both deans take the position.

“We both love to teach, and so, if you do this job  — and, as I think we’re both finding out, even if you do this job part-time — it is hard to find any additional time,” Wood said. “So we thought, if we could do it together, we would be able to do some teaching.”

Hartje is currently teaching courses in interior design, the department which she has overseen since the early 1990s, and Wood is not teaching this quarter but will resume teaching molecular biology in the winter and clinical microbiology in spring.

Both Hartje and Wood were very clear that this arrangement has been working, and will continue to work, for one reason: “cooperation.”

Specifically, in the area of faculty advancement, Wood and Hartje developed a plan of action to divide the role and its responsibilities.

Hartje explained that Wood is overseeing the faculty of science subjects such as biology and chemistry, while Hartje leads the departments of family and consumer sciences, sociology, integrated studies and math.

Working together has been essential to success as they learn the ropes of their new job, according to both co-deans. Transitioning from being associate deans with very specific roles, to full deans who must oversee the whole program and all its faculty was ambitious.

However, both were willing to take on this new role.

“I sort of like a challenge,” remarked Wood.

The interim co-deans have been developing plans and goals for this year, mainly focusing on the success and support of students.

Using BioCORE leadership — a program in which students have peer mentors to support them through challenging science classes — as an example, they plan to support such programs this year and generally remain focused on what their students need.

“What that means is making sure that students have all the right tools and help that they need to be successful,” said Wood. “Building community. That’s sort of my excitement this year.”