First provosts set to join STLCC in July
By: DALILA KAHVEDZIC
STLCC began altering their administrative structure when former Meramec and Wildwood campus president, Pam McIntyre, retired in July 2015 after her 29- year career at STLCC. The greatest change in administration since then was a new chancellor, Chancellor Jeff Pittman, who was hired in July 2015. He is the fifth chancellor at STLCC within 10 years.
This semester, however, administration is again undergoing major academic restructuring. STLCC is consolidating two positions, which will result in a new one — a provost. This position combines the campus president and vice president of academic affairs.
Forest Park, Florissant Valley and Meramec are each set to welcome a provost by July 1 of this year. Wildwood will welcome an associate provost.
“We have a lot of instability, not just in the chancellor’s office but also at the campus levels. We’ve had different presidents and interim presidents,” Associate professor of English, Michael Burke said.
There is much concern as to what will happen next, but the Academic Affairs Structure Focus Group (AASFG) is working to streamline the campus level overhead, Burke said.
“Our first challenge, the one that Dr. Pittman gave us, was to think about ways that we could streamline the campus level overhead,” Burke said. “His idea, which a lot of other community colleges that have multiple campuses like we do use, is this idea of a provost.”
STLCC has three relatively good-sized campuses (Meramec, Florissant Valley and Forest Park) and Wildwood, a smaller campus. Wildwood has always been treated as a separate entity, Burke said.
“We spent a lot of time getting feedback from faculty first on this idea of a provost — could we combine these two positions and what would be deemed or lost by that,” Burke said.
A couple months later, the committee went back out to the faculty and said ‘if we decide that we have some number of provosts, what would the right number be,’ Burke said.
With a fair amount of feedback from people college wide, the decision the committee came to was to have a provost in each of the large campuses — Forest Park, Florissant Valley and Meramec — and then to give Wildwood an associate provost, Burke said.
There is a slight difference in pay between a provost and associate provost because an associate provost has control over fewer faculty members.
Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Dr. Andrew Langer put together a committee to review job descriptions and advertisements for the four provosts. One committee will hire for four positions as opposed to a separate committee for each campus.
This is a pretty big change from the way it has been done before, Burke said.
“We’re doing that for a couple of reasons. One is speed. It just make things easier if you can say ‘here’s the top six guys.’ The committee can send those names to the board and say ‘here’s our recommendations on where they should go,’” Burke said.
The provosts may apply until February. The hiring process is set to begin in late February or early March.
“The idea would be that all four of these positions would be filled and have someone in place in each of them by the first of July,” Burke said.
Some of the responsibilities of the provost would include overseeing the faculty, the execution of the curriculum; being a part of the student appeals process, being on the promotion and sabbatical committees, Burke said.
The provost would also have some of the overhead pieces such as the business office, the library and the academic program.
“I think the provost needs to be a leader and have a vision for the college and the campus that they are on,” Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs Janet Walsh said. “I think they also need to understand how the academic side of the house functions and operates and all the little details. They don’t need to be involved in the day to day details, necessarily — but somebody that knows about curriculum.”
The other piece of this process is the student affairs side, Burke said.
“Each campus right now has a vice president for student affairs position, but not all of those are filled,” Burke said. “We have one, Forest Park has one, Flo Valley has an interim and Wildwood has never had that position — they have kind of a lead person who worries about student affairs stuff,” Burke said.
Student affairs are in development, Burke said.
The college just went through a search process to find a vice chancellor for student affairs. A candidate was chosen who has agreed verbally to accept an offer that has been made.
“Once she comes then I think we’re going to see some reorganization on the student affairs side,” Burke said.
Different models have been tried over the years that have not worked as well as hoped, Burke said.
The committee is now trying to streamline the process and make it easier for students so they do not see things such as a line coming out of the financial aid office on the day classes start.
“The next level is how much of our current structure do we retain. Do we make any changes?” Burke said.
The current thinking of the chancellor is to put the provost in place and then start to figure out what kind of changes — if any — are to be made with dean and department chairs, Burke said.
The AASFA committee is currently going through the two major policy documents; the board policy and the administrative procedures, Burke said. These are the nuts and bolts of how the college works and is about 200 pages.
“These are documents we’ve had for years and pieces of them have been modified over time but what we’re doing right now is going through and saying ‘okay, now that we’ve decided we’re going to have a provost at each campus, what changes do we need to make in these two documents to make sure that all the titles that we use in there are right for the different structure,’” Burke said.
The assumption is that deans and department chairs will be kept, Burke said.
“It takes us hours, it’s a lot of work and there’s five of us — one representative for each campus,” Burke said. “Some stuff was revised 15 years ago, some stuff was revised two years ago, so we find all kinds of things that are in there that we don’t do anymore and then there’s stuff that we do that aren’t in there, so it’s a complicated task.”
These are pretty big changes, but all of this is moving in the right direction, Burke said.
“I think it’s going to be a messy couple of years until we’re done with all this,” Burke said. “What I think we’re trying to do is make sure that we don’t do anything that’s really disruptive to the student experience. We want the students to feel like they’re well taken care of and they get what they want, they get what they need from us.”
A Higher Learning Commission is coming in spring of 2018, Walsh said.
“The provost needs to understand a higher learning commission’s criteria that we’re going to be assessed on when they come for their visit and help make sure that all of those pieces are in place,” Walsh said.
Walsh hopes that students do not see a change.
“I’m hoping that the change in our structure — that students don’t see a change as far as that goes I don’t think it should — whether we have a president or a vice president or a provost, it shouldn’t make any difference in the student’s academic career here,” Walsh said.