5 things provosts can do today to support student success

Provosts are in a unique position to contribute to student success efforts, because of their strong relationships with faculty, Mark Canada writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Canada is an executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University at Kokomo. Canada draws on his experience launching two major student success initiatives to recommend five ways for provosts to help improve student outcomes.

Ask for faculty input. Faculty are essential to any student success initiative, and the provost is in a good position to ask for their input, Canada writes. He recommends finding faculty who are passionate about teaching, then ask them about their favorite teaching strategies and what resources they wish they had. For example, when launching one major initiative, Canada held brainstorming sessions with faculty members, then asked representatives from each unit to design a strategy for launching the initiative in their unit.

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Reward good teaching. Faculty generally receive promotions and tenure for their research—not their teaching—so research is what they spend their time on. But colleges and universities are increasingly focused on student success, so Canada suggests that teaching should play a bigger role in faculty tenure and promotions. Although provosts don't have complete control over tenure and promotion criteria, Canada argues that they do have the power to influence how those criteria are applied.

Talk the talk. A big part of leading culture change is making your own values clear, Canada writes.  Find opportunities to "talk openly and ebulliently about student success," he suggests, such as publicly praising faculty who mentor students—or just dropping by the person's office for a quick thank-you.

Support early adopters. Every campus has its "go-getters who make things happen," Canada writes. He recommends supporting early adopters as they experiment with new strategies, then sharing the lessons they learned with other faculty members.

Create dedicated time. Talking about student success and making real progress are two different things. To ensure that change really happens, Canada recommends creating a dedicated time and space to work on projects. For example, his own institution participates in the "Re-Imagining the First Year" workshop, which is run by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (Canada, Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/8).

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