Search committee selects three final candidates for Towson provost
After several months of searching, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs have narrowed down the list of provost candidates to three. The provost is a senior academic administrator and typically handles the oversight of various circular, financial and staff-related affairs.
Towson invited the three candidates to visit Towson for a day, complete with a tour of campus, a meeting with President Maravene Loeschke and an open interview with students, faculty and staff members.
The Towerlight spoke to the candidates after these open meetings. Each candidate was asked questions as what he or she would do if appointed, and why they are interested in Towson. The search committee will make their selection in the coming weeks.
Senior Associate Provost, Kent State University
While Timothy Chandler wants to work with Towson University on following their strategic plan, he also wants to implement several of his own ideas to improve the University.
“I want to enable Towson to do what it wants to do in its strategic plan,” Chandler said at his open interview. “I will discuss tweaking that plan if hired, but I will allow the institution to achieve what it wants to do, I see myself as a facilitator.”
Chandler was originally born in England, but has lived in the U.S. for almost his entire life, and maintains dual citizenship to this day. Because of this, Chandler said he will encourage students at Towson to pursue study abroad programs, after witnessing the experience his children had visiting England with him.
“I cannot tell any U.S. student that understanding other cultures and countries is not an enhancement to their education,” he said.
For the past 21 years, Chandler has been the Senior Associate Provost at Kent State University, where he implemented the Grade Planning System, or GPS.
“Each student has an online academic plan that they can see what they need to graduate, and what would happen if they changed their major or minor, and how much longer it would take them,” Chandler said. “It cuts down on the time it would take to meet with an academic advisor or a faculty member to figure those things out. After implementing this, we saw an increase in graduation rates and retention rates.”
Chandler also opened new opportunities at Kent State for students who weren’t accepted into screened majors.
“For the nursing majors who got screened out, we started a College of Public Health, where students could do things they want to do, but it just wasn’t necessarily in their original major,” Chandler said. “We didn’t want students to feel like they’ve been cast out, and we want them to find something that better fits their skills.”
Although Chandler works as a provost, his true passion is studying the history of sports, specifically in 19th Century England, and the role that sport plays in religion.
Chandler received his Bachelor’s degree in Education at Loughborough University in England, and his Ph.D. in Physical Education at Standford University.
Now that his children have moved out of his house, Chandler said he and his wife are looking for new challenges.
“I knew that Maryland at Towson would be a friendly place,” he said. “But I didn’t know how friendly until I got here.”
Former provost, University of Mary Washington
Most don’t know what a provost is, and those that talk to him mention looking it up in the dictionary and finding that it means a method of confinement, University Provost candidate Jay Harper said. Harper said he wants to create a legacy at Towson, defined by consistency, diversity and quality. He stressed advising students developmentally, not just simply planning schedules.
In addition, he said that having internships available for all majors is important, as well the opportunity to study abroad. Overall, education through experiences is essential in higher education.
“Your job is not just the hours you spend in your classroom, it’s more holistic,” he said. “Students learn more outside of the classroom than sitting in a lecture.”
As part of his visit to Towson, he had a chance to meet some faculty and students and get a feel for Towson. He said that Towson is a school that he would want to work at because he will have a good working relationship with President Maravene Loeschke.
“I’m not just interested in working anywhere, but somewhere I can make a difference,” he said.
Harper told the audience of primarily faculty at his open interview Thursday that he doesn’t plan on coming into the position with prescribed solutions, and wants to hear anyone who has potential solutions to existing problems before making any decisions. He focused on working together collaboratively with staff, and especially emphasized the importance of a good working relationship with the president.
Dean of the Graduate School, Montclair State University
Joan Ficke said during a public Q&A that the best method of solving problems involving students is to consult students.
Ficke said she enjoyed student focus groups and interviews when Montclair was revitalizing its academic advising program, and they resulted in the school’s current model.
Ficke is a finalist for the open provost position at Towson, and if she were selected, she said she hopes to maintain that personal connection with the students.
Ficke’s intention is to increase the number of student representatives serving on as many University committees as possible. She said this would allow to students to better understand administrative decisions.
“It’s a raw-headed assumption to think you understand what administrators do,” she said.
Ficke received her master’s degree in school health education from New York University. She received her bachelor’s degree in physical education and health from Montclair State.
All her life, Ficke said, she’s been involved with the health and safety of students, whether it’s as an athletics coach, the head of the women’s center or as the dean of the graduate school. She said it was emotional taking on so many different roles and connecting and leaving students behind.
Towson is similar to Montclair State, she said, which attracted her to the provost position. Montclair State is a public university that has an enrollment of over 18,500 students, and is New Jersey’s second largest institution.
“Montclair State was a normal school, Montclair State was a teacher’s college, Montclair State was Montclair State College, and now it’s Montclair State University. We’re grappling now with dropping the ‘state.’ Sound familiar?”
Ficke did not say what she intends to accomplish, as she said she has to take office and be within the community before making decisions, but is interested in expanding the graduate program.
One the biggest struggles facing faculty and staff, she said, is the balance between their commitments in the classroom and their time devoted to independent, scholarly research.
“There has to be clarity about what Towson wants that to look like,” she said. “The research function benefits the students as well. It’s not that they don’t want to be in the classroom and they just want to do research, it’s all in the same continuum.”
The partnership between student affairs and academic affairs is key at any University, Ficke said. She wants to encourage faculty and professional staff members to communicate and collaborate.
At Montclair, staff and faculty work together to develop community programs in residence halls, and almost all of the topic-specific freshman seminar courses are largely taught by student affairs professionals.
“There’s a commitment to have that happen,” she said “At [Montclair] there’s a healthy relationship between student and academic affairs. We need to look for ways that can happen.”