Searches narrow for cultural house deans

The searches for new directors of two of Yale’s cultural houses are in their final stages of interviewing candidates, and the search committees hope to make a final decision by the beginning of the summer.

Search committees to replace Kirk Hooks, the interim director of the Native American Cultural Center, and Pamela George, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, are on schedule, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said in an e-mail Monday. The two search committees, which include members of the administration, as well as students associated with the respective houses, are currently interviewing candidates, Gentry said, and hope to get their recommendations to Yale College Dean Mary Miller as soon as possible, so that the Native American dean can begin work this summer.

Miller, who deferred comment to Gentry for this article, will make the final decision on the new Native American Cultural Center director.

Hayley Carpenter ’11, one of two students on the search committee for the director of the Native American Cultural Center, said the committee has narrowed the applicant pool of about 30 down to three. Two of the candidates have already visited campus and met with the search committee as well as administrators and students, she said, and the third will be visiting next week. After each visit, the committee reconvenes to discuss the candidate, Carpenter said, adding that the members usually agree about the strengths and weaknesses of each contender.

Students from both houses have also met the candidates in informal interviews and dinners.

Michael Honhongva ’12, who is the undergraduate student coordinator for the Native American Cultural Center but is not on the search committee, said that he has liked the two candidates he has met at dinner meetings at the center.

“I want someone that has had experience with student affairs and investment in the whole Native American education, especially at Yale,” Honhongva said.

He added it is important that the new dean understand the experience of the contemporary Native American Yale student. Honhongva said some students — especially those from predominantly Native American communities — have a hard time adjusting to the Yale environment. The students on the search committee sat in on the informal student meetings, Honhongva said, and relayed any consensus to the larger committee.

Hooks, who will have a part in training the eventual appointee but is not a member of the search committee, said the candidates so far have been strong.

“We’ve hosted and interviewed some very promising candidates,” he said. “As much as I have enjoyed doing this job, I think that the person that replaces me will be someone who can really focus on that role.”

A student on the search committee for director of the Afro-American Cultural Center declined to comment on specifics of the search, including how many house-affiliated students are on the committee and the number of candidates being considered. But students who have met some of the applicants said they are optimistic about the search.

“We have some impressive candidates,” said David Lindsey ’12, a staff member at the center. “I’m very happy.”

Ivy Onyeador ’11, another staff member, said she in confident that the search committee will find a capable replacement, but acknowledged that filling George’s shoes “would be really hard.”

The former dean of the Native American House, Shelly Lowe, announced in March 2009 that she would take a job as executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program. George is now serving as the dean of readmission for Yale College.

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