Parting words from outgoing Dean John Staudenmaier, S.J.
On June 30, I will end three years as interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education. Dr. Charles Marske, who shows every sign of being a wonderful new dean, will begin settling into the dean’s office in Briggs on July 1.
What has me writing this column are some rumors about why I am not continuing as dean—some people heard that I don't like the job; some that I've decided to leave UDM after 23 plus years here, leave permanently; I even heard that I'd gotten fired. None of those rumors are accurate.
To explain my decision I need to start with St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded us Jesuits four centuries ago. Ignatius said that when we make an important decision we should pray until we are “choosing the greater good.” So if you find that you are choosing the lesser of two evils (i.e., damage control), you have not gone far enough in your prayer. Put another way, a good decision should leave you both happy and sad—happy because you have found the next step for your life, sad because you cannot live the other good possibilities you also see. That happened in my prayer a year ago when I decided to ask the University to search for my successor.
I have found deep joy working as dean because I work with a spectacular administrative team in Briggs, Reno, and on Outer Drive; because I am so proud of our faculty and our students. UDM students come from everywhere; you cannot study here with a fantasy that everyone in the world is just like you. We—staff, faculty, students—are realists about the way the world is. I love this place! Joy, too, because I am so at home with the other deans and the vice presidents and the president. I have told many people over the last couple years that UDM’s leadership is extraordinary—smart, creative, committed—and fun to work with. I will miss every part of this job.
My challenge has been that I have not just been a dean. I am also the editor of an international journal, Technology and Culture. We publish research written by scholars from around the world, men and women who study the way technologies are related to their host societies. We make the claim that every article is honest scholarship (that you could check any footnote and find evidence for what the author says). That takes a lot of work. It is also what I have for 25 years believed to be my main calling in this world, the history of technology. It has been hard to find the time to be the editor and the dean at the same time. I also have a contract with MIT Press to write the second edition of a book that came out in 1985: Technology's Storytellers: Reweaving the Human Fabric. It’s still in print and 20 years out of date.
Sometime in August, I'll pack my Ford Focus with some stuff and drive to California. For the next academic year, I will be a scholar-in-residence at Santa Clara University, helping the new director of the Science, Technology, and Society Center chart the future of that Center and working on a second edition of Storytellers. Now and then I'll be back around campus—first for Fr. Stockhausen’s inauguration as president on October 1. Then in summer of 2005, I will drive the Focus back across the Rockies and settle in at Six Mile and Livernois.
I plan to be around UDM for a long time, and I am looking forward to getting back to the 10:00 p.m. (20 minute) mass in Shiple on Monday and Wednesday nights. In the meantime, I will miss this place, even though I am thrilled to get the chance to dig deeper in my scholarly profession. Deciding, says St. Ignatius, means choosing between goods. When I am sad as I drive away in August, I will be grateful for my sadness. And I’ll feel very much like a Jesuit.John M. Staudenmaier, S.J.