Tuesday, August 31, 2021

When Amanda Haertling Thein began her academic career at the University of Pittsburgh, she believed her job was to train graduate students to be either a university researcher or a university teacher.

However, Thein quickly broadened her mentoring horizons and became more responsive to the individual needs of these students who possess a diverse array of experiences and interests.

“My goal is to help people grow and succeed in such a way that they leave college and go somewhere else and expand their interests further, which is a victory for me, too,” Thein says. “I want to help people flourish in whatever ways that meet their professional and personal goals.”

Thein has brought that approach to her new role as associate provost for graduate and professional education and dean of the Graduate College. Prior to joining the college, she spent the previous five years as associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the University of Iowa College of Education.

When the position in the Graduate College became available, Thein believed her experience helping students launch careers inside and outside academia made her a strong candidate.

“I am really interested in making sure that as many people as possible are able to access graduate education, a much more diverse range of people perhaps than in the past,” Thein says. “I would like to be a part of opening more doors and creating networks through graduate education for people in academia and university positions and in industry and government.

“One of my strengths is my ability to listen closely to people and understand their needs and interests. I hope I can be really engaged with faculty, staff, and students and understand their personal and professional goals, so we can work together as collaboratively as possible.”

Providing opportunities for success

One of the best parts of Thein’s job as associate dean in the College of Education was working with graduate students and she looks forward to continuing to provide opportunities to help graduate and professional students succeed in their chosen careers.

Amanda Thein with a PhD graduate.
Amanda Thein with her mentee, Mark Sulzer, a 2016 PhD graduate.

Thein wants graduate program administrators to be more strategic in recruiting students statewide and nationally and identifying what careers they’re most interested in pursuing.

“I’d like to be sure we’re providing excellent professional development for current students, and I’m excited about the work the Graduate College is already doing,” Thein says. “I’m excited about individual development plans for students, so that faculty members can learn to pay attention to the needs and interests of students rather than reproducing positions.”

Postdocs are another population of scholars who must benefit from Graduate College services.

“Postdocs sometimes get lots in the gray area, falling between faculty and doctoral students,” Thein says. “Postdocs have a lot of need for professional development, learning how to build networks, and learning how to become part of a university community.

Thein encourages graduate and professional students and postdocs to have an open mind about pursuing different career paths.

“Oftentimes, they come in thinking they know exactly what career path they want. However, participating in a graduate program is a chance to open your mind and think in new ways about your professional life and who you are as a person,” Thein says. “I would advise students to explore all opportunities through course work and clinical or practical experiences. They should not be afraid to explore paths they might not have imagined going into graduate school.”

DEI is a focus for the Graduate College

Thein considers diversity, equity, and inclusion to be a big priority for the Graduate College. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is more than having a wide representation of people. It’s about understanding a diversity of thought and life experiences and embracing them.

“We can’t just expect students to come to us with the same life experiences,” Thein says. “It’s important that our students come to us with a diversity of life experiences. When we bring in students from a variety of different backgrounds, they might approach thinking and learning in wide array of ways that we might not have considered before.

“We need to embrace these differences and be responsive to them rather than trying to help fit students into the same kind of mold.”

The dean’s favorites

Thein believes in having a work-life balance. Amanda and her husband, Mike, have two sons, Henry, age 15, and Charlie, age 11, whom they enjoy watching play football, basketball, and baseball. Thein, who grew up in Colorado, also loves hiking with her family at Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail in Coralville as well as cooking and reading fiction.

Here is a list of Thein’s favorites:

  • Food to cook – White clam pizza
  • Author – Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Books – Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, both written by Lahiri.
  • Concert – Mark Knopfler (former lead singer of Dire Straits) at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo.

Amanda Thein with her husband, Mike, and sons, Henry and Charlie.
Amanda Thein with her husband, Mike, and sons, Henry and Charlie.

Thein and her husband moved to Iowa City when their sons were 5 and 1, and the family has had a tremendous experience here. Her oldest son is beginning to explore places to attend college, and one university remains at the top of his list.

“I took him to visit and walk around campuses at a couple of schools in Colorado, and he said, ‘These schools look OK to me, but they don’t look as good as Iowa,’” Thein says. “I think he might actually become a Hawkeye.”

In the meantime, Thein is enjoying her new opportunity at the Graduate College.

“I had amazing experiences working with staff, faculty, and leadership in the Graduate College in my role as associate dean in the College of Education,” Thein says. “The commitment and excellence of the faculty, staff, and students who are a part of the Graduate College drew me to this position. I am thrilled have the opportunity to work with everyone.”