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Director of the Oriental Institute (OI)

The University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois
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Job Details

The Oriental Institute (OI) is a leading center for the study of the ancient Middle East and North Africa that combines innovative methodologies with empirical research, following the highest standards of rigorous scholarship. With renowned expertise on a variety of subjects such as history, archaeology, languages, and linguistics, the OI is home to major dictionary projects and important fieldwork throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond. The OI Museum’s collection of ancient artifacts counts over 350,000 objects, and its galleries welcome over 55,000 visitors annually (including many K-12 students from local schools). These objects, mostly excavated during OI field expeditions, showcase the lives and cultures of people inhabiting the region from the Neolithic to the Islamic era. In addition to the Museum, its storage and workrooms, the OI building, situated in the heart of the Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago, houses a magnificent research library (containing over 65,000 volumes), a world class collection of cuneiform tablets, and its own Publications Office, which publishes long-standing series of dictionaries, excavation reports, conference volumes, and other scholarly works. The OI also manages a permanent mission in Egypt, the century-old Epigraphic Survey housed in the historic Chicago House campus in Luxor, which copies and publishes the architecture, inscriptions, and decoration on ancient Egyptian monuments. At this time, the Oriental Institute is undergoing the process of addressing its name and is taking actions that will ultimately result in the renaming of the institution. As this process unfolds, the institution will be referred to under the abbreviation “the OI.”
The OI is headed by its Director who is appointed by the President and the Provost of the University. It is the Director’s responsibility to oversee all OI activities, to foster and promote its work at home and in the field, and to be active in assuring its economic stability and growth. The new Director will find creative ways to harness the talents and attributes of the OI’s faculty, staff, and resources while making the Museum a destination for visitors on campus, locally and from around the world. Reporting to the University of Chicago Provost, the Director will develop a strong vision for the future of the OI, maintain and build on funding sources to aid the Institute’s mission, and oversee its $11 million operating budget. The Director will be a leading scholar who holds a PhD or equivalent degree in a field relevant to the OI’s areas of expertise and will be appointed with tenure. The Director will serve an initial five-year term, renewable following a standard review. 
The Director will understand the OI’s history, legacy, and core mission, and will provide vision to lead efforts to enhance the OI’s commitment to fundamental research, interpretation, and dissemination of the place of the ancient Middle East and North Africa in human history. The Director will raise the OI’s profile on and off campus as a resource and research-rich institution while maintaining its reputation as a leader in the field. Additionally, the ideal candidate will be able to:
●    Understand the OI’s priorities and make sure those are widely and clearly articulated to faculty, staff and both internal and external partners;
●    Lead the Institute while working closely with the University of Chicago administration; advocate for the OI with the administration when needed;
●    Advance the research projects that are crucial to the mission of the OI; facilitate projects with internal administration as well as government officials;
●    Foster partnerships and collaborations with other institutes and organizations, in related subjects and in the Chicago area;
●    Work to make strong connections in the Chicago community, especially the South Side where the Institute and its Museum are located;
●    Manage and lead different constituents of the faculty, research and museum branches of the OI, which include approximately 60 to 65 faculty and staff (20-25 academic faculty/staff and ca. 40 administrative staff);
●    Communicate frequently with different sections of the OI to develop and optimize OI endeavors;
●    Connect with OI faculty and staff, and connect them to each other, incorporating their perspectives into decision-making;
●    Build consensus from diverse constituencies on complex issues; 
●    Ensure that staff roles and responsibilities are clearly articulated;
●    Cultivate strong relationships with Advisory Committee members and OI donors;
●    Work with the Provost and University Alumni Relations and Development to set development goals to further the OI’s strategic initiatives. The Director will lead all fundraising efforts, including grant funding, steward current individual and institutional donors, and help build a pipeline of emerging donors for the future;
●    Oversee the allocation of financial resources and budgeting of the OI; 
●    Advocate for funding with the University of Chicago administration when needed;
●    Collaborate with colleagues in other departments to elevate the OI as a University resource;
●    Make the OI more accessible and inviting to Chicago residents as well as to academic and visiting partners;
●    Communicate the relevance of the OI in today’s global environment, elevating the Institute and the University’s role in a global cultural conversation.

Application Instructions
The University of Chicago has retained Lisa Byala, Principal, ByalaSearch LLC to support this recruitment; the full position profile is available on the ByalaSearch website. Inquiries, applications, and nominations must be sent by email to [email protected] Applicants are asked to submit a CV and cover letter addressed to the Oriental Institute Director Search Committee. Please note all job seekers wishing to be considered for the position must also submit their materials through the University’s Interfolio site ( )
The University of Chicago seeks a diverse pool of applicants who wish to join an academic community that places the highest value on rigorous inquiry and encourages diverse perspectives, experiences, groups of individuals, and ideas to inform and stimulate intellectual challenge, engagement, and exchange. The University’s Statements on Diversity are at diversity. 
The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Disabled/Veterans Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination.


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