Dever launches task forces in third month as provost

by Erica Buonanno | 9/29/14 6:38pm

A restructured leadership team and two new task forces are on Provost Carolyn Dever’s agenda as she moves into her third month at the College. Across its initiatives, Dartmouth must work to create its own image and stop allowing its problems to define it, as it has for decades, she said.

Dever, who began in her role this summer, is assembling a four-person provost’s office team that will include one new position. Former interim Provost Martin Wybourne, who Dever replaced, and executive officer and associate vice provost for government relations Martha Austin will serve alongside Dever on the team, as will the faculty member who fills the new role of vice provost for academic initiatives, to be announced Wednesday.

The provost’s office is also launching two task forces this week, one discussing the future digitalization of College libraries and the other evaluating the prospect of giving Dartmouth’s graduate and advanced studies programs a physical plant.

Another of Dever’s priorities is to find a new dean for the Tuck School of Business, as current dean Paul Danos will step down after his term ends in June 2015.

Her office is also leading a review of programs like admissions and information technology to ensure that the College is strategically positioned in the future. The study is being conducted by an external panel, and no results have been published yet, Dever said.

She said that the search for the new Dean of the College will not start until both the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee and the residential life initiative report to College President Phil Hanlon. The steering committee is investigating ways to reduce high-risk behaviors on campus, while the changes to residential life include implementing living learning communities and a neighborhood system of continuous undergraduate housing.

Dever serves as the chief academic officer on campus and ensures the quality of academic life for students, staff and faculty, Dever said.

“It’s a deceptively simple way of putting it because it becomes making sure you have a good residence hall or that you have the right lab for your course or the best faculty member in the world is teaching you this term,” she said.

She works with other College administrators, including undergraduate deans and executive vice president Richard Mills, to guarantee that Dartmouth offers a top-notch education.

Mills said he and Dever complement one another.

“I can provide some of the financial and administrative perspective to explain what’s right for Dartmouth, and she can provide the academic, and together we make a whole,” Mills said. Together, the two give Hanlon well-rounded recommendations, he said.

Dever came to Dartmouth from Vanderbilt University, where she served as dean of the college of arts and sciences and taught in the English department.

“She connects people together where she sees potential synergies, and really understands that, whether thinking of the college, the university, the academy, even the nation, we are all in it together — and need to be looking for creative solutions and opportunities together,” Vanderbilt English department chair Mark Schoenfield wrote in an email.

At Dartmouth, bookshelves line her Parkhurst Hall office, and she has family photos around the room. Now that her books have been delivered, she said, the space feels like home.

Including Dever, only three of the past 11 College provosts have been hired externally.

“Every institution needs a combination of leaders from the inside and from the outside,” she said. “If you can imagine braiding those perspectives together, you get a structure that’s really strong.”

Reflecting on the toughest problems facing Dartmouth, Dever said the College must differentiate itself by focusing on its strengths and offerings.

“One of my theories is that it has to do with a spirit of autonomy that the students here embrace,” she said.

She said that every campus must address cultural issues around students’ social practices and choices and appreciates that administrators have made bold leadership decisions in trying to solve these problems.

Dartmouth, however, has made the “strategic mistake” of allowing its problems to define it for too long, she said.

“We’re not as bad as everybody thinks,” Dever said. “Everybody has their problems and I feel really strongly that there’s a positive story to be told about this place — so how do we begin to distill that positive story and shift it from defense to offense?”

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