By Lianna Hubbard
The most important position to student life at FSW is in the middle of a major change.
FSW’s search for its new provost narrowed to three finalists, after an eight-month vacancy.
“Programs live or die based on the provost’s decisions,” said Ronald Feemster, the FSW Compass adviser and journalism professor. “Provost is a really important job.”
Provost is the chief academic officer. She oversees faculty, curriculum, degree programs, and scholarships.
At FSW, the provost is also in charge of student services. This encompasses everything from clubs to scholarships to student mental health care. She decides the budget for each of these departments.
“Provosts at every institution are masterminds of academics,” said Wendy Chase, an FSW professor of humanities and Honor’s coordinator.
These finalists are a 14-person search committee’s recommendation to FSW President Jeffery Allbritten. He will decide who the new FSW provost is.
Chase sits on that committee. She works closely with the provost for the honor’s program.
“They can’t just look good on paper,” Chase said about provosts. “They have to be people you could work with.”
The former provost, Jeffery Stewart, resigned in July of last year in the middle of sexual misconduct allegations from four FSW employees and one student. Interim Provost Eileen DeLuca stepped in.
“I think what people want more than anything [in a provost], is someone with a comprehensive vision of our academic growth,” said Chase.
Currently, the honor’s program is going through a huge shift. The program requirements, scholarship opportunities, and curriculum will all change.
“The provost is the one who basically has to look over all of that,” said Chase.
“The provost is many ways a gate keeper of programs,” said Feemster. “If the provost says ‘yes’ then a program can happen.”
FSW hired Feemster in 2016 to establish, advise and teach students about the student newspaper.
Then, there was a provost change. Jeffery Stewart stepped in. He was skeptical of the project. It took two years for progress on creating a student newspaper to start again. The FSW Compass printed its first issue on Aug. 20, 2018.
“Programs like that, that are new, get funded more or less at the discretion of the provost,” said Feemster. “If students are interested in a project or a program that may or may not be at the core of the school’s mission, they should pay attention to the provost decision.”
The provost finalists will travel to FSWbetween March 15 and April 5for in person interviews with the committee and dinners with President Allbritten. While here, they will give presentations.
Students and faculty can attend the presentations and ask questions about the goals of the new provost.
“Faculty take the provost search very seriously,” said Chase. “Usually, the only students who know about it are teaching assistants.”
Provosts affect more than teaching assistants though.
“The best thing to do is to go to the open forum and to sit in the front row and raise your hand,” said Feemster. “The thing I would look for most as a student is how accessible is this person and how much student input will there be in the provost office if candidate X or candidate Y is selected.”