Sunday, July 21, 2024

Campus shares ideas for provost search

 

By Aleksandra Sidorova

SUNY Plattsburgh’s community expressed it wants a provost and vice president for academic affairs who values arts programs and seeks to connect with all college populations while understanding their needs.

The search for a new provost and vice president for academic affairs began with community members sharing their expectations of candidates at two public listening sessions on Zoom Friday, March 1.

Although there are two roles to fill, SUNY Plattsburgh is looking for one person. Brent Carbajal, who holds both positions in the interim, described in an email how he understands the roles based on his experience of seven months at SUNY Plattsburgh and nine years in the same roles at Western Washington University. 

The provost assists the college administration with strategic planning — they’re usually the one to chair planning committees and may serve as acting president when the president is away. The vice president of academic affairs is responsible for the budget that supports academic programs and whom deans and other academic leaders report to. 

Program funding directly impacts student experiences at SUNY Plattsburgh. For example, the bachelor of fine arts program stopped accepting students because there weren’t enough faculty to sustain it.

Two representatives of the higher education executive search firm Storbeck Search led the listening session to get a feel for what kind of candidate to look for, Managing Director Steve Leo and Senior Associate Vicki Henderson.

Leo and Henderson invited responses from community members under the promise of anonymity. Prompts included what makes SUNY Plattsburgh unique, issues and needs a provost should be aware of and which styles of leadership, management and engagement work best. Some respondents allowed Cardinal Points to use their names via email.

At the listening session, Regan Levitte, assistant director of the Learning Center, said she would like to see a provost who emphasizes collaboration and is good at breaking down silos — barriers between academic departments.

“We have amazing people in all divisions of our college and sometimes it’s really hard for all of us to get together and know what we can do to support each other, and that requires a leader who is good at and thinks strongly about collaboration — someone who understands that this is a school that needs teamwork encouraged in lots of different ways,” Levitte said. “There’s a lot of amazing folks here, but we are so scattered across missions that it can be a real challenge for our provost.”

Levitte also said she would like a provost to value SUNY Plattsburgh’s arts and humanities programs and understand their struggles.

“(Arts and humanities programs are) still very valuable, especially in the age of AI,” Levitte said. “We have fantastic STEM programs, but we’re a liberal arts college, and that’s important to know about the education we get and we give students.”

Professor of history Gary Kroll said he’d like to see a provost with a trait that he admires about President Alexander Enyedi — seeking out connections with all levels of the university, from administration to students.

“We’re a campus that’s really thirsty for provostial leadership,” Kroll said.

Director of Graduate Admissions Carrie Woodward said she would like a provost to see the “untapped potential” in SUNY Plattsburgh’s graduate programs, which have seen an 80% increase in enrollment, as well as online and continuing education programs at all levels. The ideal provost would also have experience establishing and growing these kinds of programs.

Another major change a provost should consider is Clinton Community College’s move to the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.

“A provost that can really get a grasp on Clinton Community College coming to campus is very important, sensing a lot of stress and anxiety with a lot of people on campus with this transition happening, so someone who is able to come in and really aid the college with that transition and help maybe smooth over some people’s anxieties over the unknowns,” said Clara Tribunella, assistant director of Annual Giving at the office for institutional advancement.

This month, the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs will be advertised and Storbeck Search representatives begin direct search efforts. In early to mid April, the recruitment committee will vet the initial candidate pool, with phone interviews being conducted at the end of April into early May. Some of the candidates will then be selected for in-person interviews to be held on campus May 5 through 16.

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