Search Committee Starts Work Reviewing Applications for Academic Engagement and Student Success Position

With well over 90 applications already submitted, and a job posting that remains open until filled, the Search Committee for the position of Associate Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Success has a big task to accomplish. I’m pleased to report that an excellent group of faculty members and administrators have agreed to take on this challenge and that we hope to be able to bring candidates to campus for interviews in the not too distant future.

Christine McBride, Professor of Psychology, is serving as the Search Committee chair. She is joined by Bruce O’Brien, Professor of History; Suzanne Houff, Professor of Education; Dave Henderson, Assistant Professor of Accounting; Taiwo Ande, Assistant Provost for Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness; and Cassandra Ratti, Assistant Director of Admissions (UMW class of 2010). This is an experienced and diverse group that will bring in the wide variety of perspectives necessary to effectively review the numerous applications submitted for the position.

Nationwide interest in improving student retention, and in finding new ways to help students better engage with their academic life (and to make the right steps to achieve success), has led a number of universities to put efforts aimed at planning, coordinating, and directing student success initiatives in the hands of a relatively senior and experienced academic administrator. The successful candidate in this search will bring to UMW the background and insights necessary to help students rise to the challenge of our academic program. These efforts will also help UMW secure its reputation as a university that emphasizes serious academic engagement and provides the support necessary so that students may succeed.

The job description for the Associate Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Success (APAESS) is a modification of a former Enrollment Management and Student Services position. Separating the enrollment management duties into its own position enables a more focused and coherent emphasis on delivering the leadership required to ensure that our programs aimed at promoting student success are successful. The APAESS will be charged with ensuring that our various academic support programs are effectively serving students, whether in providing advising services that help students identify and prepare for particular majors and career paths or ensuring that students at risk are identified and receive the additional support required to help them succeed at Mary Washington.

Overseeing the Director of Academic and Career Services, the APAESS will help ensure that our new model of academic advising in the first and second years is continuously assessed and improved.  By also overseeing a range of additional offices that provide ongoing support to students (Writing Center, Speaking Center, Disability Resources, and the QEP), this individual will have broad responsibility to ensure that students are receiving appropriate support as they progress through their academic work. The revised job description for this position has placed more emphasis on the retention and student completion goals that are driving some of the national conversations in higher education, as demonstrated by the investments from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on post secondary success initiatives and the Obama Administration’s American Graduation Initiative.

The APAESS will also serve as the administrative authority on academic policy as established by the faculty, with the Provost serving as a source of final appeal, when appropriate.  The APAESS will also be charged with overseeing the development, implementation, and assessment of first-year experience initiatives and other high-impact practices designed to engage first- and second-year students especially with their academic programs and more effectively prepare them to enter their chosen majors with the skills and academic savvy required to see them through to successful degree completion.

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