Incoming Delaware College of Art and Design leader
is higher education innovator, professional artist and designer
WILMINGTON, Del. (April 20, 2018) – Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) announced today that its trustees have elected the College’s next president by unanimous vote. An innovative academic leader and experienced art and design professional, Jean G. Dahlgren, current dean of undergraduate programs at Sage College of Albany in Albany, N.Y., will become DCAD’s third president on August 1.
Dahlgren, 60, expressed the belief that effective leaders must be “chief articulators, collaborators and instigators” who are eager to share and capitalize on the success stories of their institutions.
“My passion lies with the arts and working with art and design instructors to educate artists and designers,” Dahlgren said. “Creating dynamic curriculum choices, fostering strategic partnerships, supporting the faculty and expanding the boundaries of what is possible for artists and designers intrigues and energizes me, and developing strong internal and external relationships is extremely important to supporting those goals and creating a vibrant learning environment.”
Dahlgren was selected from a pool of more than 40 applicants in a robust, nationwide search coordinated by AGB Search. Known as the leader in higher education search, AGB was founded by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and is the only search firm that specializes in all aspects of executive search exclusively for higher education institutions.
AGB Search worked with the 10-member DCAD Presidential Search Committee, which was co-chaired by DCAD trustee Tom Shopa and longtime DCAD supporter Denison Hatch, to find the right leader to launch the 20-year-old College into its next 20 years and beyond. The search process started last August with a roundtable discussion among members of the College and local communities to determine qualities and qualifications of viable candidates.
Applications were received from accomplished, highly credentialed leaders with a variety of strengths and backgrounds from the Delaware Valley and across the United States. Following rigorous preliminary rounds of consideration coordinated by AGB, the Search Committee invited four candidates to campus on individual dates in January. Once on Market Street, these finalists met with staff and students, underwent face-to-face interviews with the Search Committee and delivered a presentation on the role and future of a two-year art and design college. Shopa said that throughout the process, the Search Committee sought a leader with a collaborative mindset, an outward-facing focus and a vision for the future.
“We were looking for someone with outstanding skills as a listener, a communicator and a motivator, someone both entrepreneurial and responsive, who will be an exemplary ambassador for DCAD in Wilmington and beyond,” Shopa added. “Jean Dahlgren is all of that and much more, and we are thrilled she will be DCAD’s next president.”
DCAD is the Mid-Atlantic’s only two-year professional art and design college and is accredited by both the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). In addition to offering associate of fine arts degree programs in animation, fine arts, graphic design, illustration and photography, DCAD provides courses for continuing education students seeking personal enrichment and professional development; programming for young artists in middle and high school; and community engagement ranging from internships with local businesses to artistic collaborations with area organizations to gallery exhibitions and event spaces available to the public. Since its founding, the College also has served as an anchor institution in the revitalization of downtown Wilmington.
“DCAD has a fantastic mission and an exciting, extremely unique product,” Dahlgren said. “It shouldn’t be a ‘best-kept secret.’”
Like DCAD, Dahlgren’s current institution of higher education is a small private college. Sage College of Albany also was for many years a two-year institution. Dahlgren had begun teaching there in 1988, after starting a career as a graphic designer. She later served as coordinator for Sage’s graphic and media design program for 13 years and then chaired its Art and Design Department for two years before being named to her current position in 2016.
At Sage, “Dean Jean” has come to be known for her creativity, wit, enthusiasm and designer’s approach to problem-solving as well as for the rapport she has developed with students, faculty, staff, feeder high schools, local businesses and the community at large. Her many accomplishments include helping transform Sage’s art and design curriculum and degree programs; working collaboratively with faculty to grow enrollment and establish a signature experience for students; developing new institutional branding and marketing initiatives; and helping to secure a $1.2 million donation to sustain the campus art gallery. During Dahlgren’s leadership, NASAD accreditors lauded the redevelopment of Sage’s art and design curricula and Graphic Design USA magazine identified Sage as a Top Ten Graphic Design School.
Dahlgren is heavily involved with both AIGA, which was founded as the American Institute of Graphic Arts and is now known as the professional association for design, and The College Board’s AP Studio Art Program. Her activity with the former led to the creation of an AIGA Student Group at Sage and many internship opportunities for Sage students. Her involvement with AP Studio Art has exposed her to an extensive network of high school and college instructors, allowing for the establishment of relationships that serve recruitment goals and inform both curriculum development and transfer advisement.
“As an artist and designer, I intimately understand the challenges involved in a life devoted to the arts,” Dahlgren said. “But challenges are where the opportunities lie, and I thoroughly enjoy and relish creating opportunities for young artists and designers and giving them the hope that they can pursue their passions and the tools that can enable them to make a good living doing so.
“I also look forward to the opportunity to help DCAD play its pivotal role as a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Wilmington, drawing students from all over the world and bringing vitality to the city and the Brandywine Valley, an area known for its world-class art and artists.”
Dahlgren holds a bachelor of arts degree (BA) in fine arts/printmaking and a master of arts degree (MA) in fine arts/painting from the State University of New York at Oswego. She also earned a master of fine arts degree (MFA) in graphic design from Marywood University in Scranton, Pa.
The incoming president will celebrate the conferral of degrees upon DCAD’s 20th graduating class when she delivers the keynote address for Commencement 2018, which will take place up Market Street at The Grand Opera House on the afternoon of May 7. Among the dignitaries joining her for the ceremony will be U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz.
Officiating the event will be DCAD’s interim president, John C. Hawkins, who previously had been a member of DCAD’s Board of Trustees. Hawkins assumed administrative leadership of the College upon the retirement of its second president, Stuart Baron, last July and will continue to serve as interim president until Dahlgren begins her tenure. At that time, he plans to return to the Board of Trustees.