UC Merced Provost: Deans are worth the high pay

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comMarch 12, 2013 

— The three deans at UC Merced are highly paid, but their role is vital for the growth of their respective schools and the overall advancement of the university, an administrator said.

The three combined make $701,000 a year, not including benefits.

Tom Peterson, provost and executive vice chancellor at UC Merced, said the university tries to offer competitive salaries to staff, faculty and administrators -- including deans -- to get the best talent.

"This is the only rational way to attract and retain the brightest people to the University of California, Merced," he said, who was traveling in the United Kingdom at the time of the interview.

He said their positions are important, especially in a time when the young campus is growing.

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland will be talking about that subject with the UC Board of Regents today. She will discuss space limitations on campus and the options that are available so that UC Merced can reach its goal of 10,000 students by 2020.

Peterson said a dean's primary responsibility is the academic curriculum within his disciplinary area.

But nowadays, a dean's duties go far beyond curriculum, he said. To support the faculty in fulfilling their obligation to educate students, deans often are involved in other activities, such as lobbying for resources and prompting their faculty's research.

The highest-paid dean is Dan Hirleman, who earns $256,000 a year for overseeing the School of Engineering.

Juan Meza, dean of the School of Natural Sciences, makes $245,000 a year, and Mark Aldenderfer, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, brings home $200,000 annually.

Point people

They are the primary contact people in the area and throughout the broader community, as well as alumni and those interested in supporting the educational mission of their programs, Peterson said.

They spend time trying to identify sources of support for their schools, he said.

Meza, the newest dean on campus, said he helps define the mission of his school and how best to achieve it. "We work with faculty to try to decide where we are going in the future," he said.

He's an advocate for the programs within his school and is the point person when dealing with other divisions at the university, Meza said.

"There's lots of examples," he said. "We are under some budget constraints in the state of California and resources are limited.

"The dean's role is to put that best case forward to why we should have more resources."

In his school alone, he wants to hire seven to nine new faculty members by July 1.

Deans are required to do a lot of traveling to help promote the faculty and their research, with the ultimate goal of bringing in more funding, Meza said.

There are several challenges that deans face at UC Merced. One of them is the lack of space, Meza said. "We are running up against our limitations right now," he said.

Another challenge is getting the word out about the university.

"It takes a while for a professional network to know that there's a new university," he said.

Despite the challenges, Meza remains optimistic the campus will continue to flourish.

"We are a very young and very vibrant school," he said. "We have a lot of energy that I think it's going to translate into a lot of success in the future."

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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