Over the last two weeks, we have taken the time to interview and interact with the three candidates for Associate Provost for Student Academic Affairs. According to the administration, the person in this position:
"Provides leadership, strategic direction, and administrative oversight for all student academic support programs and student academic development and success initiatives. The associate provost reports directly to the Provost, serves as chief of the provost’s central office staff, and sits on the Provost Advisory Council, as well the University’s Senior Administrative Group." (See the end of this post for the full description.)
Obviously, this is an important post--one that Butler students should be concerned with.
As such, we have provided our personal evaluations of the candidates. We do not claim to be absolute authorities--we only wish to provide those concerned with this position some standards by which to compare. Also, we encourage you to utilize the candidate resumes and responses that were e-mailed out during the past week. If you've lost them, contact us and we'll be happy to send you a copy.
We have posted links below. These will take you to online surveys where, in the absence of legitimate voting power, you can "share your thoughts" with the administration. Please note that our officials have requested these responses be completed by 5pm today.
Make your voice heard(!):
- The Dissenters
An Evaluation: By Jon Irons
Dr. McKeever seemed quite relatable and interested in students. However, when I met with her in a more intimate situation I found myself wanting more genuineness. I had a number of questions to ask Dr. McKeever, particularly about her ideas of the special role that a student affairs provost might have. Unfortunately, our time was mostly used up due to the long stories she told about growing up in a military family and teaching and learning English. Her perspective was intriguing, but she jumped from the meat of the questions the students asked to anecdotal supplement after only supplying cursory answers. I left the meeting uncertain of whether this story-telling down-to-earth self was a real one or a tactic to win favor. This is not a good type of uncertainty to leave.
Furthermore, McKeever presented a metaphor to her position that bothered me. She used the idea of grafting roses on a rose bush to explain how she thought “cultivating” the student-faculty relationship was of the highest importance. Ultimately, it seemed that the role of the cultivator was unrivaled, and while the grafted roses would develop unique relationships, the scheme carried an air of determinism which bothered me. I think administrators think of themselves too much as cultivators and not equal actors.
It is worth noting that Dr. Hagans is an internal candidate, meaning that she already holds a position at Butler. She works in the counseling center in the HRC. The fact that she worked at Butler, left and returned again indicates to me that she is a good fit for and enjoys the climate here. This is a benefit in the sense that she understands the needs to Butler-type students. However, one might wonder if the incomplete puzzle needs a well-fitting piece or a another one that fits, but requires some reworking around the edges. Perhaps conflict would breed more productivity.
Unfortunately I could not meet with Dr. Hagans in a smaller student-oriented setting. For that reason I cannot offer a great deal of insight into the person behind the claims. But, while I was at the open forum, she answered a question about the role she would play in summer school. To this she immediately mentioned the numbers of students she has worked with that express (of the Butler summer opportunities) frustration in never being asked what they needed. This meant for her that the first step in addressing summer school would be to determine needs, with specific mention to the needs of students seeking summer credit. Again, I cannot attest to verifying the sincerity behind listening to students (for all the candidates promised to defer to students), but I can say that the sincerity I felt in the formal setting was more than an sincerity I got from Dr. McKeever in even the intimate setting.
An Evaluation: By Caleb Hamman
I was able to attend open forums with the three candidates for Associate Provost for Student Academic Affairs. I was also able to meet with the second candidate, Dr. Mary Ann Rasnak, in a small discussion with two other students.
After interacting with each of the candidates, I think that that the third, Dr. Carol Hagans, would be the best choice for the position.
I essentially used three criteria to evaluate the candidates. In order of decreasing importance these were: their ideas on facilitating effective and genuine student learning, their ideas on student faculty interaction, and their own administrative abilities.
I felt that both Rasnak and Dr. Kerry McKeever, though both seeming to have some skill in the latter category, did not sufficiently demonstrate transformative ideas or plans on the two former.
McKeever spoke of “grafting” students onto professors, showed little concern for pedagogy, and seemed lacking of thoughts regarding the value of experiential learning. When I asked her about possible barriers to university student learning, McKeever almost entirely focused on problems stemming from poor high school education. When at the university, according to McKeever, students can have problems managing time or more difficult material. Though this is certainly true, McKeever demonstrated no concern for pedagogical problems stemming from the university structure itself—those relating to competition and separation that we at the Underground view as substantial barriers to true learning. Moreover, in my personal interaction with McKeever, I felt as if I was being belittled due to my status as a student. A notable example was her interruption of my question, but I’ve heard other students also speak about her tendency to run them over in a conversational setting.
Rasnak would be my second choice. She showed much more concern for student learning that McKeever. However, her focus was almost entirely administrative, and even when asked directly to speak about her theory of student development, continued to only emphasize program solutions. Similarly, her thoughts on experiential learning, which she expressed in the open forum, seemed somewhat manufactured. In my opinion, this is probably due to the fact that I spoke with her extensively on the topic before the meeting and informed her (perhaps mistakenly) that some of those evaluating her would view this as an important subject—one which, I emphasize, she did not mention until I brought it up and even then seemed to view as of marginal importance. Finally, I was somewhat troubled by Rasnak’s suggestion that a solution to faculty-student estrangement was to have upper-class students act as intermediaries between students and faculty. Though I understand this may make some sense at the kind of large institution Rasnak is familiar with, it seems to me to be an unnecessary (and alienating) segregation for Butler, where faculty-student ratios are considerably smaller.
I was only able to attend roughly 30 minutes of an open forum with Hagans. Of all the candidates, she was the only one I was unable to question. Still, even from her brief presentation, it seemed evident to me that Hagans understood some principles that, in my opinion, are absolutely essential for quality learning to take place. Mainly, these are connection, collectivism, empathy, and community. Granted, I was unable to specifically ask Hagans questions concerning my criteria of pedagogy and student-faculty interaction, but from hearing her brief remarks, it seems safe to conclude that at worst she could be the best of three evils—however, from the values I heard articulated, I think there’s a good chance Hagans can offer something much more promising.
Full Description of Position:
The associate provost for Student Academic Affairs provides leadership, strategic direction, and administrative oversight for all student academic support programs and student academic development and success initiatives. The associate provost reports directly to the Provost, serves as chief of the provost’s central office staff, and sits on the Provost Advisory Council, as well the University’s Senior Administrative Group.
Duties and Assignments:
· Provide oversight and strategic direction for the efforts of the Academic Affairs support units including the Registrar, Learning Resource Center, Student Disability Services, Honors Program, Internship and Career Services, Office of Post-Graduate Studies, and Center for Faith and Vocation.
· Provide leadership and direction for Butler’s Summer Session, with emphasis on student development and satisfaction, as well as enrollment potential.
· Ensure that the Honor’s Program serves as an engaging recruitment and retention mechanism for high achieving students across all disciplines.
· Oversee services and programs that support student achievement and recognition in research and creative activity, including the Butler Summer Institute, Undergraduate Research Conference, and other programs that exist or will be developed.
· Support the provost’s priorities and plan-of-work by researching issues, developing and analyzing data sets, preparing presentations, and convening special-purpose workgroups.
· Manage and implement key university initiatives, including retention, academic advising, and electronic portfolio.
· Collaborate with cross-functional constituents, both internal and external on issues and opportunities related to student recruitment, enculturation, persistence, and achievement. The work involves problem-solving, idea generation, strategizing and individual/group meetings. Examples include working with other functional areas on university wide programs such as Early Registration, Welcome Week, Scholars’ Forum, and residence-life programs and working with student leadership to discuss concerns and priorities.
· Respond to the concerns of students, parents and alumni who may be experiencing difficulties in negotiating university policies and procedures. Serve as the university FERPA officer.
· Represent the Provost’s Office on councils and workgroups and ad hoc committees, including: Administrative Systems Improvement Committee; Assessment Committee; Career Services Advisory Board; grant-proposal development groups; Welcome Week planning group. Chair the Student Retention Operation Team and the Electronic Portfolio Implementation Team.
· Terminal degree, college teaching experience, and minimum of five years experience in academic administration, preferably in the areas of student academic development, campus wide retention initiatives, and program development.
· Experience in managing a divisional budget and ability to allocate resources effectively.
· Leadership skills to support the work of and foster collaboration among a diverse population of colleagues and direct-reports.
· Ability to solve problems, analyze and evaluate data.
· Strong communication skills.
· Ability to manage multiple, simultaneous priorities, organize work-flow, and identify emerging needs. Ability to work both proactively and responsively.
· Understanding of best practices in student development and support, as well as an ability to integrate emerging practices into current structures
· Understanding of higher education institutions, structures, policies, and practices