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Air Force Academy considers replacing retiring dean of faculty with civilian

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Air Force Academy’s Dean of Faculty plans to retire in summer 2013, opening the door for the academy to fill the post with a civilian for the first time, officials said Thursday.

Advertisements for a replacement for Brig. Gen. Dana Born, who is about three years into her second, five-year term, are scheduled to begin running Tuesday in military channels and civilian higher education publications, according to Dave Cannon, the academy’s communications director.

A civilian dean would mark a shift for the academy, which has traditionally relied on one-star generals to oversee its curriculum and instruction, as well as the academy’s 700 faculty members and a budget of more than $350 million.

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The U.S. Naval Academy has a civilian dean, though a brigadier general serves as dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The academy wants “to hire the best possible candidate for the job, military or civilian,” Cannon said in an email. The Chronicle of Higher Education could be among the civilian publications airing the advertisement.

Whoever takes over the position will follow an “incredibly effective leader” who leaves a “great footprint” at the academy, said John Regni, a retired lieutenant general who served as the academy’s superintendent from 2005 through 2009.

“The work that they’re doing shaping the character and leadership development of our cadets is at the core of the mission of our academy, and she has led that effort tremendously well,” Regni said. “She’ll be greatly missed.”

A 1983 graduate, Born taught at the academy and headed its Department of Behavoiral Sciences and Leadership before competing against one of her former professors for the job of dean.

She won it at a tumultuous time for the academy, which was recovering from a sexual assault scandal while also receiving dozens of complaints of religious intolerance. The reports of intolerance became public about a month after she took the post, just as the academy implemented religious sensitivity training.

Ensuing surveys of cadets and faculty found largely improving views towards religious tolerance at the academy.

Born was not available Thursday for comment.

A release from the academy touted several of her initiatives, including the creation of classes on cyber warfare and unmanned aerial vehicles, often referred to as “drones.” Born also spearheaded the expansion of cultural immersion programs that send students to countries across the world for several weeks.

Regni credited her with helping the academy receive a 10-year accredidation from The Higher Learning Commission in 2009.

In February, the Air Force Inspector General found Born made “negligent statements” to the commission and to a weekly newspaper about whether the academy’s professors were qualified to teach. It found no evidence that its professors weren’t qualified to teach.

William Thompson, president and CEO of the Air Force Academy Association of Graduates, said her departure is unfortunate.

“I think she’s had a very successful tenure — some bumps here and there, but we have all had them,” Thompson said. “I have tremendous respect for her, I think she’s a very bright lady, a very approachable lady, a very common sense and objective person.”
 

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