CMU professor promoted to humanities dean


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Carnegie Mellon University has selected a new dean for its Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Richard Scheines, professor and head of CMU's Department of Philosophy, will lead the college as of July 1. He has been a member of the university's faculty since 1990.

The first item on his agenda as dean, he said, is to encourage and enable students' studies to directly impact other fields.

"I think people do their best work when they're free to pursue questions in lots of different directions and vantage points, as opposed to keeping within their own framework," Mr. Scheines said.

Mr. Scheines' research with the philosophy department has included studies on causal discovery and the effectiveness of educational technology. During his tenure, Mr. Scheines has achieved an increase in external research funding for the Department of Philosophy. He also has improved its globalization by helping establish the Center for Formal Epistemology, and partnering it with other centers in Europe and Japan.

He said one of his most satisfying memories was of some his undergraduate students building manipulative pieces of software for a Montessori school. His students created interactive academic games to be played in school or at home. Seeing the young students positively respond to the games is the kind of real-world application that makes his job worthwhile, he said.

Elizabeth Silver, 29, described Mr. Scheines as one of the most fun, friendly professors she has ever worked with. The doctoral student in Carnegie Mellon's philosophy department said she has never seen his door closed because he is always meeting with students and other faculty.

"He's the most gifted communicator I've ever met," Ms. Silver said. "He's got an incredible talent for breaking down incredibly complex information and making sure everyone gets the idea. It's sad that we're losing him to Dietrich, but I really think it is Dietrich College's gain."

Dietrich College is the second-largest college at Carnegie Mellon, with about 1,300 graduate and undergraduate students. It consists of eight academic departments and four undergraduate degree programs. U.S. News & World Report has named its economics and psychology graduate programs among the top 25 in the country for 2014.

Mr. Scheines said he thinks students and faculty can benefit from using departmental curriculum to address serious "issues of the day," including privacy, inequality, racism and religion, and evaluating them from various academic perspectives.

"I think that's one of the big advantages of Carnegie Mellon. It really encourages creative interdisciplinary work like no other place I know."


Clarece Polke: cpolke@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1889.

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