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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
April 17, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. —Following a nationwide search, Northern Illinois University has selected an experienced administrator with a record of innovation and consensus-building to lead the university’s largest college.
Christopher McCord of the University of Cincinnati will become dean of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on July 1, pending approval of the NIU Board of Trustees.
McCord will oversee the largest of NIU’s seven colleges—with 17 departments, 385 faculty positions, more than 6,500 undergraduates and more than 1,200 graduate students.
“We landed our very top choice,” said NIU Provost Raymond Alden. “He was the unanimous preference of the search committee.”
“Christopher McCord was clearly the candidate who stood out,” added NIU President John Peters. “Our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is an integral part of the NIU experience, and Dr. McCord will play a major role as we continue to strengthen already nationally recognized programs and develop new areas of study that meet the needs of our students and region.”
Provost Alden said search committee members were impressed with McCord’s wide range of experiences at the University of Cincinnati, a research-extensive public institution with more than 35,000 students and many similar characteristics to NIU.
“Dr. McCord has a breadth of leadership skills and experience in all the things we tend to value,” Alden said. “He is a problem solver who works well with diverse constituency groups and has the interpersonal skills to lead by consensus-building.”
Joe Grush has served as acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since the death of Dean Frederick Kitterle in May 2005. The national search drew nearly 50 applications. McCord was selected from four finalists.
McCord has spent his career at the University of Cincinnati, beginning as an assistant professor of mathematics in 1986 and rising to the position of associate dean for graduate affairs of the university’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, a post he has held since 2003.
“As dean of liberal arts and sciences at NIU, I want to be an advocate for the college, someone who can speak to the needs of students and faculty members from all disciplines and someone who will be inclusive, open and transparent in leadership,” McCord said. “That’s exactly what NIU was looking for. I think it’s a perfect fit.”
McCord holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He boasts an impressive resume of diverse interdisciplinary experiences and interests.
In his current post at the University of Cincinnati, McCord oversees the college’s 15 doctoral programs and 24 master’s programs, budget and planning, space management and marketing and communication efforts. He is a key member of a team that has revitalized the college and raised its internal and external profiles.
McCord also spent five years directing the Taft Memorial Fund, a faculty-run endowment with an annual budget of more than $1 million. As director, he worked with external trustees and led a strategic-planning process that refocused the fund’s mission and led to the creation of the Taft Research Center for the humanities and social sciences. The new focus included funding opportunities for the launch of projects that were previously out of reach, including an interdisciplinary European studies graduate program, a center for homeland security, a statistical consulting laboratory, an economics research institute and a literary magazine.
During the same period, McCord was asked to serve as interim head of the Department of Economics, a field outside his own discipline, where he led a successful restructuring. In his earliest administrative role, he served as founding director of a program dedicated to improving the preparation of doctoral students for faculty positions.
Additionally, McCord has numerous research publications in his areas of mathematical expertise, which include dynamical systems, algebraic topology and celestial mechanics. On a personal note, he’s an enthusiast of history and archaeology, as well as a collector of rare maps.
McCord sees his breadth of experience as an important strength that he will bring to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“I come with an enthusiasm for all of the arts and sciences and the ability to value and internalize the goals and aspirations of different disciplines,” McCord said. “The key strength of the college is its faculty. The culture of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is very positive. The college has excellent professors, talented researchers and people who are deeply committed to their educational mission.”
McCord will arrive at NIU with some priorities for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Topping that list is strategic planning, an effort that has been ongoing at the university-wide level. The NIU Strategic Planning Task Force, led by Provost Alden, has been meeting in planning groups and committees working toward a May deadline to produce a blueprint that will guide university academic growth and development for the next decade.
“One of my priorities is to lead the college through its own detailed articulation of the strategic plan,” McCord said. “Out of that will flow decisions about college needs, resources, investments and development opportunities. We want to have clear goals and follow them consistently.”
He also said he will work to meet staffing needs as best as possible.
“On my NIU visits, everyone shared with me the concern about being able to meet student needs and remain true to the college’s mission as enrollment continues to grow,” McCord said. “We not only must provide enough courses but also must ensure that our programs are of high quality, while at the same time addressing graduate and research needs.”
McCord said other interests will include exploring interdisciplinary opportunities, working toward further internationalization of the curriculum, pursuing development opportunities and creating new strategies for faculty diversification and retention.
“With our diverse mission, the need for a diverse student body and faculty is self-evident,” McCord said. “We need to be thoughtful in our diversification strategies. We not only want to bring in highly qualified people but also create an atmosphere where they want to stay.”