Provost Interviews Completed

With the final on-campus interview completed Monday, the provost search committee is scheduled to meet Friday to develop a recommendation for President Les Wong.


The campus visits included a public presentation. Each finalist was asked to address the following topic: “In light of national trends and/or challenges with regard to higher education, what role does the provost play in leveraging NMU’s opportunities and in responding to our unique challenges?” Issues that surfaced repeatedly in the comments included declining state support, increased emphasis on accountability, shifting student demographics and the impact of technology. Following are comments made by each candidate. To see the entire presentations, visit Podcasts. To view the candidates’ biographical information, visit Provost Search.


▪Barbara Keinath, vice provost and dean of graduate studies at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., addressed the emphasis on graduation rates:


“The college completion agenda nationally seems to focus more on training for jobs ... than on education for a career and for citizenship in a democracy. That’s a conversation we need to engage as higher education and I think there is an opportunity to talk about the critical synergy between technical preparation, if you will, for a job and liberal arts education for thinking citizens and for lifelong learners and for a career and a lifelong contribution to society. … [Three students I talked with] had a solid understanding of how their education is not just a benefit to them, but how it’s going to benefit their families and society. It’s an awareness that there’s a public good to higher education that we all know is there. Again, maybe not telling our story as well as we should. Increasingly it seems to me that gets lost in the conversation about the individual benefit.”


▪Patrick Guilfoile, interim associate vice president of academic affairs at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, elaborated on a potential opportunity he saw for more intensive use of the campus during the summer:

“I know the danger of looking at limited pieces of information, but in looking at enrollment during the summer versus the academic year, it looked like it was probably about 12-14 percent in terms of credit generation during the summer as compared to the academic year. I think a number of institutions are looking at the physical facilities they have during the summer. Since often there are fixed costs that happen no matter what, if more students can be brought to campus (and with the wonderful area you’re in, that seems like a real possibility), it can often be relatively inexpensive to get those students to campus in the summer and have them in courses. It’s likely that has been looked at and addressed, but to me seemed like a potential opportunity. … If indeed it’s true it costs less to educate students during the summer, it might be worth considering whether tuition could be lowered or non-resident tuition could be eliminated. Those might be possible mechanisms by which to generate additional enrollment in the summer.”


▪Lance Grahn, most recently provost and dean of faculty/vice president for academic affairs at the University of Central Arkansas, said strategic budgeting is a challenge in today’s climate because state support has dwindled while student costs have increased.


“The predominance of tuition revenue in the budgets of public universities means we simply have to pay more attention to both effective student recruitment and student retention. Or, put another way, success. … A challenge within this trend is how to balance appropriately accessibility in keeping with our comprehensive and geographical mission with the academic standards for admission that would certainly raise the retention and graduation rates by which we are increasingly judged. There will always be some tension between accessibility and higher admission standards. We all want academically better students, but we can’t intellectually, demographically or even financially price ourselves out of our home market. It is within this tension that strategic enrollment management becomes so important.”


▪David Dauwalder, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, responded to a question about his experience with an academic program review similar to what is under way at NMU:


“I’ve worked toward creating a process through which basic data can be supplied to an academic unit. They would simply analyze the data, which suggests the university has a system in place to collect the appropriate data. … Another key element that has typically been missing is a pool of funding to help units make adjustments that are necessary when you finish the review process. When you get to the end, you have these great suggestions of things to do, but you can’t afford any of it. … I have walked into situations where program review processes have already been conducted with the primary intent of figuring out which programs they were going to get rid of. When you create that kind of an atmosphere, no one really wants to work on program review. There’s not really a good incentive to do it. You really need to look at it as a program improvement process. Certainly a decision not to continue a program could come out of it, but for the most part it ought to be viewed as something very positive.”



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Updated: March 28, 2012

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