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2010 Spring Issue 5 (May 7, 2010)

Professor Arjendu Pattanayak named next Associate Dean

May 7, 2010
By Quinn Stewart

Arjendu K. Pattanayak, Associate Professor of Physics, has been named Carleton College’s next Associate Dean.  Serving a three-year term to take effect July 1 of this year, he will fill the position vacated by Associate Dean Elizabeth Ciner as she becomes Carleton’s Director of Student Fellowships.

As Associate Dean, Professor Pattanayak will oversee matters of educational policy, curriculum, graduation requirements, and campus diversity.  Among his duties will be guidance as Dean of the Academic Standing Committee, service as primary liaison to the Dean of Students Office, and supervision over the Registrar’s Office.  In this supervising capacity, the Associate Dean’s job is to monitor enrollment numbers related to course availability. If changes in credit requirements result in ‘lumped’ enrollment, Pattanayak will advise certain departments to add or reduce sections.  This will involve close coordination with the Education and Curriculum Committee as well as an active role in the hiring of faculty.

Pattanayak taught as an Assistant Professor at Rice University before coming to the college in 2001. He characterizes his first years at Carleton as a time spent adjusting to the intense teaching and learning environment of Carleton while continuing to pursue his research interests.  In recent years, though, he has increased his involvement at the college-wide level.

“As a result of this involvement, I have found myself identifying more with Carleton's ethos and aspirations and have derived a different kind of deep satisfaction in helping shape Carleton,” he said.  “I also enjoy the challenge of big-picture thinking, and have found intellectual satisfaction in thinking about problems far from physics.”

Indeed, this new position will come with a host of challenges beyond the familiar realm of professorship, a realm he has prepared for since age twelve when he decided on teaching physics.  “Some—much, perhaps—of what I will be doing will be about people management, and about resources, and very often I will have to make decisions in real time, with incomplete information, in situations which may not have ‘correct' solutions…this will be very different from the world of physics,” he said.

Pattanayak’s non-standard educational background will richly inform his approach to the position.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Stephen’s College in India, an intimate community of fewer than 800 undergraduates.  He later grew accustomed to Western postsecondary institutions, attending Brown University for his Master’s degree, University of Texas at Austin for his PhD, and University of Toronto for a postdoctoral fellowship.  This unique blend of schooling is sure to impart a broad perspective to his service as Associate Dean.

“I'd say the best way to understand this [perspective] is to think of me as having the curiosity of the outsider—I like learning about the American liberal arts college system, and take very little for granted in the process of learning about it. At the same time, I believe very strongly in Carleton and its mission.” The combination of these two qualities, he hopes, will steer his service in the positive direction.

For the next three years Pattanayak will not be teaching any physics courses; the department will have to find replacement faculty to fill in for him as he navigates the less familiar waters of college-wide administration. Though the role of Associate Dean will be no small undertaking, Pattanayak looks forward to the challenge and has confidence in the support of colleagues, the offices of the deans, and the Registrar.  “I know many of these people very well, and know they are superb at what they do, and trust that they’ll be equally capable at helping train me into my new position.”

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