By Connor Ryan and Kelly Kultys
Michael Latham, acting dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill since 2009 and a faculty member in the history department for 13 years before then, will be leaving Fordham in July to become the dean and vice president for academic affairs at Grinnell College in Iowa, university officials announced Tuesday.
Latham called the move “a professional step,” in an email to The Fordham Ram, and said his decision to leave Fordham “was not shaped in any way by a sense of discontent.”
“Fordham has profoundly shaped my sense of what the liberal arts can achieve,” he said. “Grinnell’s commitment to inquiry-led learning, undergraduate research, innovative teaching and social justice strongly parallel the values that I have found and embraced here at Rose Hill.”
Stephen Freedman, the university’s provost, announced the news in an email to the university community late Tuesday afternoon. He spoke fondly of Latham, thanking him on behalf of Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, for his service and commitment to the ideals by which Fordham bases itself.
“We extend our warm congratulations and gratitude for his outstanding leadership as dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill,” Freedman said. “As dean, he has guided the work of Fordham College at Rose Hill through the formal introduction of a college-wide strategic planning process and the implementation of a comprehensive plan to provide operational direction for the college.”
Bob Howe, director of communications at Fordham, declined to speak in detail about Latham’s departure, labeling it “not public information.” But, he noted that several of Latham’s predecessors — including McShane — have gone on to attain higher-level administrative roles at various universities.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Pomona College and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of California, Los Angeles, Latham arrived at Fordham in 1996 as an assistant professor.
He earned his doctorate that same year, and was promoted six years later to associate professor within Fordham’s history department.
But, it was halfway through the spring semester in 2009 when Latham made his largest career jump: interim dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill. The “interim” was removed from his title one year later.
“In the process [of being interim dean] he has established an admirable reputation as a consultative and effective administrator,” McShane in a statement, naming Latham dean. “Therefore, I am confident that he will lead the university’s oldest and largest academic unit with real distinction.”
Latham said his goals at the time of his promotion were to emphasize “undergraduate research across all academic disciplines, develop the sciences and [continue] international education.”
During his time at Rose Hill, Latham received Fordham University’s award for undergraduate teaching in the social sciences in 2007.
He also published two books involving his research into the history of U.S. foreign relations, 20th-century America and the global history of the Cold War. These were The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S. Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present and Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and Nation Building in the Kennedy Era.
In addition, Latham garnered the respect of his colleagues and students throughout his time at Fordham.
Robert Parmach, freshman dean at Rose Hill, has worked closely with Latham and will miss his colleague.
“Over the years, I’ve worked with Dean Latham on many initiatives — an increased Jesuit identity of the College, Integrated Learning Communities (ILCs) such as the Manresa Scholars Program, and academic integrity, to name a few,” Parmach said via email. “Also, we co-present very often at Fordham events for prospective students, parents, faculty, alumni, and potential donors —deans can be salesmen, too.”
John Harrington, dean of arts and sciences faculty, assumed his position the same year Latham started his term as dean.
“This is a great opportunity for Mike to advance some of the key values he advanced at Fordham — close student-faculty communication, advancement of sciences as part of liberal arts and emphasis on undergraduate research,” he said via email.
Kirstin Swinth, an associate professor in the history department, highlighted Latham’s important role as a mediator between faculty and administrators.
“Dr. Latham has been a wonderful colleague and friend in all the years I’ve known him as a fellow professor in the history department and as [a] Dean,” Swinth said.
She added: “His guiding vision was always to make Fordham better for its students. He leaves a lasting legacy, especially in his promotion of research for undergraduates.”
Christopher Rodgers, dean of students, complimented the strong work ethic Latham has displayed at Fordham.
“It has been a real privilege to work with Dean Latham during his tenure at Fordham,” Rodgers said. “He has left a significant positive legacy here, but the area where I am personally most grateful to him is for the work he has done with us on integrated learning communities — centerpiece partnerships between the colleges, mission and ministry and student life.”
When it comes to his relationship with students, Emily Horihan, FCRH ’14 and United Student Government vice president of Rose Hill, said: “He has always been attentive to students’ ideas and committed to making us a strong voice in the future of Fordham.”
It was not clear Tuesday when Latham’s successor will be named, but Parmach said that he hopes Latham will be able to train his interim replacement next semester before he leaves this summer.