Welcome to the relaunch of my blog, which I first started in my previous position as Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. I have brought over some of my favorite posts from there, and in the coming weeks I will begin adding more from my experience as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of San Francisco.
Since joining the university on January 25, it’s been a whirlwind semester which just wrapped up the week before last with the commencement ceremonies for our four schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. The semester flew by as I did my best to learn about all of our academic programs, got out to meet people across campus, visit each of our five branch campuses in the bay area and in Southern California, and experience the many cultural, athletic, and spiritual events at USF.
As I’ve been meeting people across campus, I am often asked, “How are you doing juggling the many things you have to do as provost?” I generally respond by saying that juggling is perhaps not the best metaphor for my job. Instead, or at least if they are old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan show, I suggest that a better metaphor is Erich Benn, the plate spinner who often appeared on that show (you can watch a video of him).
I often feel a little bit like Mr. Benn, running from plate to plate, giving each a whirl to keep it spinning and prevent it from crashing to the ground and shattering into a thousand pieces. Each plate would represent a different area of my responsibility as provost; one plate may represent a student crisis that I am involved with, another a new academic program we are considering starting, a third a budgetary problem we are trying to solve, etc.
A difference between Mr. Breen and me, however, is that I don’t have to work by myself to keep all those plates spinning. I am fortunate to have a wonderful group of deans, vice provosts, and others who report to me and are the ones who keep the university operating at high capacity on a day-to-day basis. Approximately 73 percent of the university’s total expense budget of $437 million in fiscal year 2017 (which starts tomorrow) falls under the Provost’s responsibility, and we generate 96 percent of the university’s revenue. So having a good, strong team of leaders is critical to helping us meet the university’s mission of offering “a diverse, socially responsible learning community of high quality scholarship and academic rigor sustained by a faith that does justice.”
I hope you will visit my blog regularly to get a sense of what is happening here at the university, what kinds of things I am engaged in, and for a little commentary on some broader issues affecting higher education in our country.