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UC Merced Appoints New Dean in School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts

September 16, 2009

Chancellor Steve Kang of the University of California, Merced, has announced the appointment of a new dean for the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SSHA).

Pending approval of his compensation package by the UC Board of Regents, who are meeting this week, anthropological archaeologist Mark S. Aldenderfer of the University of Arizona will take over as dean on Jan. 1, 2010. Aldenderfer’s appointment marks the end of an exhaustive administrative search since Founding Dean Kenji Hakuta left in 2006.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Aldenderfer to the UC Merced family,” Kang said. “It is my belief that he has both the skills and vision required to lead the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts to reach its full potential as our university grows in the coming years.”

Aldenderfer is best known for his study of the transition from hunting and gathering to pastoralism in highland Peru. Most recently, he has conducted archaeological research in Tibet and is the editor of “Current Anthropology,” one of the field’s most prestigious academic journals. He has been a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona since 2005.

Though an anthropologist by trade, Aldenderfer has administrative experience in mathematics and information technology, making him a prime pick to lead a school as diverse as SSHA. Aldenderfer is also no stranger to the UC system, spending 15 years in both faculty and administrative roles at UC Santa Barbara.

“In terms of the number of majors offered and students enrolled, the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts is UC Merced’s largest academic entity,” said Keith Alley, executive vice chancellor and provost. “It takes a special person with a passion for interdisciplinary collaboration to head such a school. It’s my belief that Dr. Aldenderfer is such a person.”

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 doled out within the school.

“I believe the UC system is the finest collection of research institutions in the world,” said Aldenderfer, who will begin his new position in January 2010. “I wasn’t looking to become a dean, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead a school within UC Merced’s interdisciplinary model. There is such great potential in SSHA. The faculty has already laid the foundation for strong academic programs, and I look forward to helping make them even better.”

As a new hire, Aldenderfer is not exempt from the furlough/salary reductions facing all UC employees during the 2009-10 academic year. As a member of senior management, he will be subject to a 9 percent pay cut through the end of the fiscal year and furloughed commensurate to the time he’ll be contracted with the university.

Aldenderfer’s compensation package is slated to be approved by UC Regents this week. Pending their approval, as dean of SSHA, Aldenderfer will receive an annual salary of $200,000, which is between the midpoint salary of $195,200 and the average UC Merced dean salary of $203,000, along with these additional items:

  • Per policy, standard health, pension and senior management benefits and standard sabbatical, sick and vacation accrual;
  • Per policy, a relocation allowance of up to $50,000 to assist with relocating to Merced (subject to repayment if he resigns within the first four years of his appointment;
  • Per policy, reimbursement of 100 percent of actual and reasonable moving expenses;
  • Per policy, two round-trip coach-class airfare trips, plus reasonable accommodation expenses to assist with house-hunting;
  • Per policy, eligibility for a Mortgage Origination Program loan in order to purchase a primary residence in which to live.

In addition to serving as dean, Aldenderfer will hold a faculty appointment at UC Merced.