Graduate College Dean Search: College of Education Associate Dean Amanda Thein emphasizes continued conversations with student

Thein focused on how she plans to support students, faculty, and staff members and how her previous experiences constantly inform the decisions she makes.


Nathan Charles

Amanda Thein, a finalist for the Associate Provost and Graduate College Dean position is asked interview questions on Wednesday, May 5th, 2021.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

At the second Graduate College Dean search forum, candidate Amanda Thein discussed her plans to listen to students, focus on hard data, and show students all of the facets of graduate education if she is selected.

Thein currently serves as the associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the University of Iowa’s College of Education. While in this position, she continues to teach literacy, culture, and language education at the college, a position she’s held since 2017.

On Tuesday, Thein’s candidacy for associate provost of graduate and professional education and dean of the Graduate College was announced and her forum took place on Tuesday via Zoom. More than 100 UI community members listened and asked questions during the forum.

One of the focuses of Thein’s forum was restructuring how people understand graduate education. She said she misunderstood higher education until she was a part of it, and she’s afraid most people do as well.

“I stumbled into graduate education, as do so many people,” she said. “I’m a white woman, I grew up with educated parents in the suburbs of Denver, but I still stumbled into graduate education. I thought graduate education was for doctors and lawyers and maybe rocket scientists and I discovered graduate education through an advisor who gave me insider knowledge and I pursued it because I could.”

She said the university and academia as a whole has an opportunity to tell a better, more compelling story about what graduate and professional education can do for students.

As the dean of the Graduate College, she said she would continue to uplift the Ph.D. and postdoctoral students who venture out into careers away from academia. She said it is important to embrace the new trend of students who attain higher degrees going into careers outside of education.

Another focus of Thein’s forum was on the hard data the university has on students and the support they want. She said it is also crucial to continue diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives throughout the university system.

“My experiences have taught me that diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism efforts must be central to all we do,” she said. “DEI is not a peripheral concern. Campus climate data tells us that many graduate students and postdocs feel unsafe and vulnerable. We know that graduate students and postdocs need support with wellness and mental health, especially students of color and international students. We have to change our culture and climate.”

She said her experience with anti-racism programs in the College of Education has taught her that antiracism must be a sustained conversation and that it’s a slow process that requires persistence.

If selected, Thein said she would build relationships to ensure that the Graduate College is at the center of campus-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to better support graduate and professional students.

From the second she steps into the position, Thein said she would be a listener. She advocated for maintaining relationships that outgoing dean of the Graduate College John Keller has with students.

“I will listen to students and postdocs to understand their experiences and support their success,” she said. “I will learn from faculty and staff in the Graduate College and its academic units. I’ll collaborate with leaders across campus to advance DEI interdisciplinarity and Iowa’s research mission.”

Dean of the Tippie College of Business Amy Kristof-Brown and Director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology Kevin Legge co-chair the graduate dean search committee. The search began after Keller announced in March that he would step down at the end of July.

The state Board of Regents tapped Keller to serve as interim university president once Bruce Harreld departs on May 16, until Barbara Wilson’s term as the university’s 22nd president begins on July 15.

Members of the search committee and the university community will evaluate three candidates for the position of associate provost for graduate and professional education and dean of the Graduate College.

The first candidate is Chirstine Getz, the associate director of graduate studies at the School of Music. Her forum was on Tuesday, and a recorded version can be found on the search’s website.

The third candidate was announced on Wednesday morning. Steve Varga, the associate dean of academic affairs and graduate student development at the Graduate College, will participate in a forum on Thursday at 9 a.m. on Zoom.

The UI’s Office of Strategic Communication stated the appointment of the next associate provost and dean is anticipated by July 1.