The search for University of Wisconsin’s next dean of the College of Letters and Science has reached a new stage, narrowing down to a target range of eight to 10 finalists from both inside and outside the university.

The search began last July after the current dean, Gary Sandefur, announced his resignation.

Sandefur, who has served dean for the College of Letters and Science for nine years, plans on taking one year for research leave before returning to the UW as faculty for the sociology department. 

Provost Paul M. DeLuca organized a search committee at the end of last year to review potential candidates’ applications, and ultimately to select a group of finalists for the dean position that Interim Chancellor David Ward would approve.

The committee is headed by professor Jeff Hardin, chair of the zoology department, and consists of members from diverse departmental backgrounds.

According to Hardin, no finalists have been chosen yet, but the committee has a target range of eight to 10 finalists they hope to submit to the chancellor by the end of April.

These finalists will then be brought to campus and interviewed for the position, Hardin said. 

Hardin declined to comment on the specific criteria used by the committee to determine the finalists, as well as the number of current applicants being reviewed.

According to Hardin, the next dean will be faced with a number of challenges and must be a strong leader, capable of representing their large and diverse student constituents to make progress in a time of budget cuts and losses due to sequestering.

Additionally the dean must be able to work closely with the new leadership in the chancellor’s office, he said.

“Letters and Science is a huge part of the UW-Madison system as far as teaching, administration and research goes, and whoever is at the helm of that is going to need to be an impressive leader,” Hardin said.

Hardin said the committee is looking both externally and internally in the University of Wisconsin System for candidates and has had many promising applications so far.

Jacob Steiner, a junior studying political science, currently holds a position on the search and screen committee, representing the 17,000 undergraduate Letters and Science students at UW.

As the only undergraduate on the committee, Steiner said he takes the selection process very seriously. 

“We are very fortunate to attend a world-class institution, and the applications we’ve received have been in line with that reputation,” Steiner said. “I’m very excited to continue forward in the process and submit an exceptional slate of candidates from which the chancellor will select the next dean.”

The search committee is going to have to work vigorously for the next month in order to narrow down the list of potential candidates, Steiner said.

After all the work is done, Steiner said he is hopeful an applicant can be found who is “devoted to teaching; creating an inclusive, positive atmosphere; maintaining affordability and access; and ensuring student success.”