Since Robert Sternberg took the helm of the University of Wyoming on July 1, five key leadership positions at the Laramie school have undergone changes.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Myron Allen will begin a sabbatical Sept. 1 and move into a faculty position. Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Budgets Carol Frost is returning to a faculty position.
School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam will soon report directly to the president. Montica Willmschen’s marketing director position will become an associate vice president position. College of Business Dean Brent Hathaway has resigned to become business school dean at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas.
Clif Forbes Conrad, a professor of higher education at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, said leadership changes usually occur with a new president of a university. But the changes usually occur over several months.
“That’s pretty rapid change,” he said about UW. “It’s done sometimes. Usually it’s done rapidly when there’s some kind of crisis — a fiscal crisis or some name-calling of the president. ”
But Judith Ramaley, a former university president and senior scholar in institutional change with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which aims to increase the importance of liberal education, said university presidents are under increased pressure these days and changes are sometimes necessary.
Sternberg said in an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune that the changes can be explained if each one is considered individually.
“I’m not changing positions for the sake of changing positions,” he said.
Sternberg said that Allen, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, chose to step down. Allen did not return email and telephone messages from the Star-Tribune.
The provost is the second in command at UW, university spokesman Chad Baldwin said.
“It’s very common in universities when there’s a new president for the provost to think about whether this is a good time to step down,” Sternberg said.
Sternberg said he would have kept Allen on if he had wanted to stay longer.
Frost sent the Star-Tribune a letter she emailed to colleagues about her future plans and said she didn’t have additional comment beyond the letter.
In the letter, Frost said she will return to UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, where she is a tenured professor, Aug. 31. She said she was an administrator in a variety of roles for seven years and has worked at UW for 30 years.
“I am confident that the future will reveal productive ways to continue my service to this institution, its students, and the state,” she wrote. “Most gratifying are the enduring personal relationships I enjoy with many wonderful colleagues, including all of you.”
Sternberg said he learned of Frost’s returning to research and teaching in a letter she sent him.
“What often happens is when the provost steps down, the associate provost decides it’s a good time” to return to research and teaching, he said.
Conrad, the professor from the University of Wisconsin, said that his university has a new president but the provost is going “to stay on for another year, at least,” he said. “There are a lot of different configurations.”
Sternberg will look for replacements for Allen and Frost. He named Richard McGinity, UW’s Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics, as interim vice president for academic affairs because McGinity’s interest in educating students who become ethical leaders mirrors Sternberg’s interest, Sternberg said.
McGinity will probably serve in the position for a year and does not plan to be a candidate for the permanent position, Sternberg said.
Colin Keeney, chairman of the UW Faculty Senate, said he hasn’t heard of any reaction to the leadership changes since many faculty members often work off-campus in the summer.
“I don’t know if that’s because people have no reaction or because things haven’t fired up yet,” he said.
Two top UW positions have gotten more prestigious with changes made by Sternberg.
On Sept. 1, Northam, the School of Energy Resources director, will report directly to Sternberg instead of reporting to the provost.
“That means that I’m going to work directly with him to serve the energy industry in the state and enhance our collaborations across the state of Wyoming,” he said. “I think there is much more we can be doing.”
Northam’s relationship with the provost was traditionally academic, since the provost is UW’s chief academic officer, Sternberg said.
“And I feel what he’s doing beyond academic, he’s forming partnerships with petroleum, gas, coal, uranium,” Sternberg said.
The SER coordinates programs that promote energy research and education, such as the Center for Energy Economics and the Carbon Management Institute, which supports research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies. SER also has academic programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in energy resource management and development, Northam said.
Sternberg and Northam are discussing having faculty report to Northam. Currently, the faculty have academic homes in other departments, such as chemistry, and also work in SER.
Ramaley, the higher education scholar who has been president of Portland State University in Oregon, Winona State University in Minnesota and the University of Vermont, said Sternberg wants to be involved in SER to flaunt its benefits to the state.
“You are an energy-producing state for sure, that would be core to his logic,” she said.
Northam is not getting a pay raise, but Willmschen will be.
On Sept. 1, Willmschen will move from director of institutional marketing to associate vice president for marketing. Her current salary, $93,000, will increase to $120,000, said Baldwin, the UW spokesman.
The associate vice president position is new. The director position will not be filled because the position has been reclassified as a vice president position, Baldwin said.
Sternberg said that marketing has been undervalued at UW.
“People have different views on this, but I think marketing is a really important aspect of any business,” Sternberg said. “The university is a business. It’s an education business, it’s a nonprofit, but it is a business. I’d like us to broadcast a message, a land-grant message as effectively and as broadly as possible.”
As for Hathaway leaving to become business dean at UNLV, that was in the works long before Sternberg became president, Sternberg said.
Ramaley, the former president of three universities, said now is a time of intense pressure for university presidents. University presidents are accountable for graduating students in a reasonable amount of time, keeping education costs reasonable and making college achievable to people of all ages and walks of life.
“Anyone coming into a presidency today is going to be faced with some very powerful winds blowing in a particular direction,” she said.
Education has changed over the past decade from a model of teachers imparting knowledge to students, to teachers and students collaborating together to solve problems and answer questions. Universities are having to adapt, Ramaley said.
“In Wyoming, a small but mighty state with one flagship [public university] and minimal educational access, he’s clearly going to have to come up with some fresh strategies so that anyone in the state either through interaction with an educational site or online can get the education they need for life and work in the 21st century,” she said.