Wiess seeks new master
At the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, Wiess College Master Mike Gustin, professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and his wife, Denise Klein, will be completing their five-year term as masters. According to Sam Oke, chair of the Master Search Committee, a search committee has been created to begin the process of finding new Wiess masters, which will hopefully be completed by the end of the fall semester.
The search committee will consist of 14 students, the Wiess resident associates and Brown College Master Steven Cox. Oke, a Wiess senior, said that ideally, the committee will represent every opinion at Wiess and stress Wiess' openness. The committee encourages the students to raise any concerns they might have or notify the committee of any suggestions, Oke said.
"We encourage every student to be active in the search," he said. "We want the students to make known what good qualities to look for in masters, and we want the students to suggest specific people who would be a good fit for Wiess."
Wiess President Molly Bryan said she is confident that the committee, with the help of the Wiess community, will find great successors to take on the mastership.
"The Gustins are the linchpin of the entire support system at Wiess," Bryan, a Wiess senior, said. "Mike is a huge advocate for Wiess in all of the college's endeavors and Denise is incredibly generous in opening up their home and hosting events for Wiessmen and Wiess associates. They both are just really amazing people who have a personal relationship with every student at Wiess."
Wiess sophomore Ian Bott and Wiess junior Wilhelm Kienast both spoke fondly of the current masters.
"I think pretty much any positive adjective would fit the bill," Bott said.
"They're very difficult to describe in one word, but something along the lines of amazing and wonderful," Kienast said. "The Gustins have an ambience of friendliness that fosters a relationship that is unparalleled."
Gustin said he considers the mastership a challenge because of the added responsibility to teaching and researching, but he found his experience incredibly worthwhile.
"Undergraduates have an enthusiasm for learning from each other and from their professors, and it's great to connect to that," Gustin said.
Since becoming masters in 2006, he and Klein have involved themselves in all aspects of Wiess affairs, from going to see powderpuff games to participating in the theater program and strengthening the associates program, among other activities. In addition, they have started a few traditions, such as culture-themed study breaks and Master's Tea, a monthly tea party open to all Wiess students and associates on Thursday afternoon. Inspired by the student-taught courses at his daughter's college, the University of Virginia, Gustin introduced the idea of student-led courses to Rice, now a popular program with a wide variety of classes offered by nearly every college.
Wiess junior Rebecca Jaffe said that the current masters make efforts to make a connection with every student, such as when Gustin congratulated her after she achieved a personal best in her grades last spring after a difficult semester of coursework she had experienced.
"The Gustins have been so supportive of everything," she said. "They're the best masters you could ever ask for."
She said they have influenced her expectations of the new masters, whom she hopes will embody the creativity and openness of the current masters.
Kienast said the key qualities he wanted in the new masters would be compatibility with the students and the ability to integrate themselves into the Wiess community quickly.
"I want them to be a foundation of support for the seniors to alleviate the transition to the new world," he said.
Regardless of their year, Wiess students had high expectations for their new masters.
"The new masters should keep in mind the needs of freshmen," Wiess freshman Kavin Kanthasamy said. "I want them to be very approachable to every student. They've gotta catch 'em all."
Wiess junior Ellory Matzner said enthusiasm was important.
"I want them to be ready to throw themselves into being masters, full force," Matzner said.
The Master Search Committee encourages interested faculty to consider applying to be Wiess' new masters. Oke said that on Sept. 29 there is a reception planned at President David Leebron's house.
"The reception is for interested individuals who can go and learn more about the masters program," Oke said.
In attendance will be the current college masters and the committee heads of the colleges - the masters of Jones College and Will Rice College will also be finishing their terms soon - that are searching for new masters. Additional information will be released at a later date by the administration.
"Being master is like being the president of the United States," Oke said. "There is always a feeling that you're not qualified, and the job description is not concrete, but the potential for profound impact is limitless."
Gustin reflected on the personal fulfillment he received from serving as a Wiess master.
"Being master at Wiess has been very fulfilling in a human way," Gustin said. "I love all the students at Wiess. I love the community there, and I will miss it, but I am excited for the new masters and think it will be a wonderful experience for them.
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