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January 29, 2001

Sanderson to leave Emory
June 1

By Michael Terrazas

Emory College Dean Steve Sanderson announced last week that he is leaving the University to become president of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), one of the oldest and most prestigious conservation organizations in the United States.

Sanderson’s resignation, effective June 1, marks the end of a four-year deanship that has witnessed tremendous growth in the college’s international programs, as well as programmatic and physical growth in both the arts and the natural sciences. His tenure saw the groundbreaking of both phases of Science 2000 (Phase I, Emerson Hall, recently opened its doors for faculty and students) as well as the Schwarz Center for the Performing Arts.

“I never have really planned to do a specific ‘thing,’” Sanderson said of the arc of his career, which included an 18-year term on the political science faculty of the University of Florida before he came to Emory in 1997. “I do get enthusiastic about things, including coming to Emory—that was not, even a year before I came, something I planned or hoped to do.”

The opportunity at WCS, he said, was simply too good a fit to pass up. Founded in 1895, the society operates five wildlife parks in New York, including the renowned Bronx Zoo, and manages more than 300 field research and educational projects worldwide. Given Sanderson’s lifelong interest in conservation and ecology—during the mid-1980s he served as a Ford Foundation program officer in Brazil, designing and implementing the foundation’s Amazon conservation program—it was both a surprising and natural move.

“Yes, I was surprised,” Provost Rebecca Chopp said of her initial reaction. “But after I thought about it, I wasn’t surprised because this is an area where [Sanderson] has both incredible administrative talent and real academic strength. And he loves this kind of thing.”

“For many years I’ve worked on issues of how human societies affect wild things and wild places,” Sanderson said. “I have worked with scientists from WCS for many years, and a number of people who work in the tropics for WCS are people I’ve known because some of them came to the University of Florida for their graduate education or for short [faculty] stints. So I’m really familiar with what they do, and it’s something I write about and feel strongly about.”

President Bill Chace said the position is one for which Sanderson is “almost ideally suited” but the soon-to-be former college dean will leave some large shoes behind him. “We will miss Sanderson greatly,” Chace said. “He did a great deal for the college. He’s a vigorous, strong, clear-headed leader. He did a great deal for international studies, for our understanding of the environment, for our revision of the curriculum, and I think he managed affairs quite well.”

Chopp also cited Sanderson’s role in helping shape the Council of Deans, which she created during her time as interim provost during 1997–98, when Sanderson also was easing into his new job as dean. Chopp said that, while all the University’s schools are unique, Emory College’s broad base of scholarship makes it a vital “partner” college to the other, more focused schools.

“This is an extremely important time in the life of the arts and sciences because of the expansion of so much new programming, the increasing strength of an already stellar faculty, the relationship of this school between all the other schools,” Chopp said. “In all sorts of new ways, it’s become sort of the heartbeat of the Emory campus. Certainly there are partnerships between other schools as well, but I think Emory College probably has the most bridges that can be built.”

In choosing a new leader for the college, Chopp hopes to build another bridge to its faculty. She plans to listen closely to what they have to say about the future direction of the school. Afterwards she and Chace will decide what steps to take in finding a new dean.


Back to Emory Report Jan. 29, 2001