Verbum Ultimum: Continuing to Move Forward
The Board of Trustees' decision to appoint Provost Carol Folt as interim College president was no doubt an expected and logical move. As Dartmouth's second-highest ranking administrator, Folt is an integral part of College President Jim Yong Kim's administration, and her appointment will allow for a smooth leadership transition following Kim's departure to the World Bank on July 1.
Although her appointment has been met with mixed reactions from students, faculty and alumni, Folt is nevertheless the most suitable individual to maintain stability at the College during this critical transition period. Having been here for nearly 30 years and having served in a variety of leadership positions, Folt has a clear understanding of the inner workings of the College and is cognizant of the unique challenges it faces.
Kim's short tenure as president has left Dartmouth in a difficult position. With his background in health care, Kim embarked on a variety of projects that fit his specific interests and expertise, such as creating the Center for Health Care Delivery Science and establishing the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking. The current round of strategic planning has also been shaped by Kim's goal to improve Dartmouth's global presence and image.
Kim's premature departure leaves many loose ends, creating a precarious future for his unfinished initiatives. The next president will likely arrive with his or her own vision for the College and a fresh set of ideas and goals. While we hope to see the next president take Dartmouth in new directions, we must also ensure that the many worthwhile projects Kim started and all the time and resources spent on their creation do not go to waste.
As interim president, Folt's primary responsibility will be to maintain the momentum of the initiatives Kim left behind so that they continue in the future. Given her central role in helping to develop and implement many of Kim's policies, Folt should have no difficulty keeping the College moving forward on its current trajectory during the presidential transition period. Although she does not need to create her own vision for Dartmouth, Folt must not become complacent as she leads the College.
Her time as president may be limited, but Folt must still take the lead in addressing the many pressing issues currently facing the campus, most notably student life concerns like hazing and sexual assault. In order to effectively deal with these issues, Folt will likely need to take on a different leadership approach than she has during her 30 years at the College thus far. Her previous roles as provost and dean of the faculty may not have required significant engagement with the greater Dartmouth community, but Folt can no longer limit herself to working behind the scenes once she assumes the presidency.
Students across the board have expressed their lack of interaction and familiarity with Folt ("Interim president must stress visibility, students say," April 18). While this is unsurprising for a provost, who works primarily within the administration to implement the president's initiatives, Folt will need to make a concerted effort to interact with all sectors of the College as she takes on this new position. She will need to communicate regularly with students, solicit their feedback and actively engage the community consistent problems with Kim's presidency from which all future occupants of the office can learn.