New Dean Ready to Lead Fastest-Growing School at UC Merced
Prestigious Archaeologist to Continue Research in Tibet, Emphasize Interdisciplinary Research
MERCED, CA— Mark S. Aldenderfer has begun his appointment as dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts(SSHA) at the University of California, Merced.
Aldenderfer is the first person to permanently hold the leadership position since founding Dean Kenji Hakuta left in 2006. Hans Bjornssön had served on an interim basis. The appointment of Aldenderfer in September capped an exhaustive, nationwide search. Aldenderfer comes from the University of Arizona, where he was an anthropological archaeologist. He also spent 15 years at UC Santa Barbara as both a faculty member and an administrator.
"Dr. Aldenderfer's vast experience and leadership abilities will undoubtedly be wonderful assets for SSHA," said Keith Alley, executive vice chancellor and provost. "We look forward to the continued growth in the excellence of the researchand educational programs under his tutelage. He is a wonderful addition to the school and the UC Merced community. We are fortunate to have him on board."
Aldenderfer said he was drawn to UC Merced because of the school's opportunities, potential and mission to cross academic boundaries.
"I want to participate in a campus-building enterprise. You don't get opportunities like that much," Aldenderfer said. "I had no intention of being a dean at a place where I'm (solely) building an economics department and a psychology department. I want to find ways to create structures that are multidisciplinary in nature."
Aldenderfer, who will be on campus Monday, said his top priorities this semester include meeting the faculty, relearning the budget process and creating a robust strategic plan for SSHA, which is the campus' largest and fastest-growing school with more than 1,100 students enrolled in the fall.. He also wants to foster an academic environment that encourages interdisciplinary research and maintains high standards within each program.
"We really just can't solve problems that confront and confuse us as a society within a single discipline," he said. "In the field of archaeology, I have to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master in none. You solve problems by bringing different people into the mix."
Aldenderfer is best known for his research on the transition from hunting and gathering to pastoralism in highland Peru. He was appointed in 2005 editor of "Current Anthropology," one of the field's most prestigious academic journals.
He plans to continue his research while serving as SSHA's dean. One project studies the early occupation of the Tibetan plateau. He recently submitted a National Science Foundation grant to look at the ancient migrations in Upper Mustang, Nepal.
"I think in order to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk," he said. "If you lose your interest in research and that edge, it doesn't make you an effective scholar or administrator in the long run."
Programs in anthropology, cognitive science, economics, history, literature and culture, management, political science and psychology comprise SSHA's major offerings. The school also offers 14 minors. As dean, Aldenderfer will oversee a budget of $9 million, and be responsible for allocating how funds are distributed within the school.