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Acting Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Mary Maples Dunn is about to get a little advice on transitioning from an independent college to a research Institute.
Tomorrow, a newly formed 22-member Dean's Council will convene for the first time in Cambridge. The council brings together 11 former members of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees and prominent members of the business and educational communities--some with no previous ties to Radcliffe.
The group plans to spend its first meeting discussing its own mission, as well as considering ways to spin the new Institute for the community at large--including the Radcliffe College alumnae that it must count on for support.
"Basically, this is an advisory council that will assist the Acting Dean [Mary Maples Dunn] in whatever way she wants to use it and to help over the course of the transition," said Nancy-Beth G. Sheerr '71, former chair of the Radcliffe College Board of Trustees.
Sheerr, who worked tirelessly for two years to bring about the merger between Harvard and Radcliffe, will herself serve on the council. The group also includes Former Dartmouth College President James Freedman and Sonesta Hotels CEO Stephanie Sonnabend.
According to Sheerr, the merger agreement that took effect Oct. 1 specifically called for a Dean's Council that would include eight of the Radcliffe trustees who helped negotiate the merger.
Moriah Freeman, assistant to Dunn, said the eight required trustees--of the 11 total trustees serving on the council--met in late September and discussed who else might be included on the council's membership list.
The first permanent dean chosen to lead the Institute--expected to be named in the next year--will have the power to appoint her own council. Yet, according to the merger agreement, this group too must include eight members of the now defunct board of trustees.
"This is to provide continuity from Radcliffe College to the Radcliffe Institute," said Harriet B. Todd '64, a former Radcliffe trustee and member of the Advisory Council.
Radcliffe College alumnae have wondered in the past how they might ensure that the Institute maintains a commitment to women and gender, only one of many academic disciplines to be studied at the $300 million-strong Institute.
Unlike the Radcliffe College Board of Trustees that once advised the college's president, the council is not a governing body, and therefore cannot enforce any decisions it makes.
But Sheerr said the group's strength will lie in its close proximity to the dean's ear.
"This is a powerful discussion forum," Sheerr said.
For Sheerr's part, she has said she plans to be merely one voice in that
forum, though the press release accompaning the announcement of the new group tagged her a "prominent member of the council."
"I see myself as one of the members of the group. I'll bring my perspective to the table, just like the others."
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