Interim dean appointed for UI School of Labor

Interim dean appointed for UI School of Labor

CHAMPAIGN — An interim dean has been chosen for the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations following the resignation of Dean Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, who plans to return to faculty research.

Joseph Martocchio, UI professor of labor and employment relations, was named interim dean pending approval by UI trustees later this month.

Cutcher-Gershenfeld, dean for the last six years, said Thursday that he had informed faculty after his five-year review last year that he would step down in 2013. But he moved that timetable up a year when he was awarded an $800,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation. He plans to step down July 15.

"It's moved very, very fast," he said of the grant, and given the scale of the project "it would not be fair to try to do both."

The grant involves the study of "stakeholder alignment for 21st-century institutions." It refers to determining how different people or organizations can work together effectively in a complex system, in this case the geosciences. Cutcher-Gershenfeld said the United States has 14,000 geoscientists working in different fields, but the major challenges of energy and climate change require cross-disciplinary work.

"It's part of similar research we've done on new institutions in biomedicine, in green energy, in regional innovation and in labor relations," he said Thursday. "The 20th-century institutions don't always bring the right people together in the right way."

Cutcher-Gershenfeld was hired from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and replaced Peter Feuille, who was director of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, as it was formerly known, for more than a decade.

Cutcher-Gershenfeld said that during his tenure the master's program has grown from 150 to more than 200 students, and the labor education program expanded online with global labor studies. Faculty research has addressed "core societal challenges" such as public-sector labor relations, executive compensation, workplace diversity, technology and innovation. The school also launched a "visioning process" called Project 2020, about what the human-resources profession would look like in 2020.

One of the smallest academic units on campus, the school was one of four programs studied for possible consolidation in 2010 under the campus Stewarding Excellence budget review process. The review team concluded that a merger would not result in any significant savings and could actually harm quality if not done carefully. Top campus officials agreed but urged the units to cut costs by sharing services and consider mergers down the road.

Discussions about the school's structure continue, but "what's clear is that the school will maintain its independence, its name, its identity," Cutcher-Gershenfeld said.

A member of the UI faculty since 1989, Martocchio has written two textbooks on compensation and employee benefits. His research focuses on human resources, including compensation, training, absenteeism and generational dynamics in the workplace.

In addition to his teaching and research duties, Martocchio serves as a Provost Fellow, where he undertakes projects on strategic human-resource issues for the campus. He previously was associate dean for academic affairs and director of degree programs for the School of Labor and Employment Relations.

"Having worked closely with him in his role as Provost Fellow, I have considerable respect for interim Dean Martocchio, and full confidence in his ability to provide astute and strategic leadership for LER in the coming year," interim Provost Richard Wheeler said in a release.

In 1996, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology honored Martocchio with the Ernest J. McCormick Award for distinguished early career contributions.

Martocchio earned master's and doctoral degrees in human resources management from Michigan State University.

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