President Denise Battles appointed Central Washington University Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities Stacey Robertson to the role of provost and vice president for academic affairs. She will assume the position in June.
The provost position has been officially empty since Carol Long vacated it in August 2016. Interim Provost and professor of English Paul Schact has temporarily served in the provost position, while the Provost Search Committee conducted a search to fill the role permanently.
Distinguished teaching professor of mathematics Christopher Leary chaired the committee, which was made up of a total of 14 students, faculty and staff members. Geneseo originally contracted with the consulting firm RPA Inc. to find qualified candidates and then winnowed the pool down to 10, whom the committee interviewed. The final three candidates were then invited to interact with the college community through a tour and presentation.
“The provost job at Geneseo is a relatively complex job because of the structure of the administration. Every department reports directly to the provost, so the provost has direct reports from, like, 21 people who are running their own departments,” Leary said. “We were looking for people with good experience, strong letters of recommendation and whose cover letters and applications made them seem like a good fit for Geneseo.”
After the three candidates were chosen, Battles chose Robertson based on the feedback she received from the college community.
“Robertson is very steeped in a liberal arts tradition … but she’s also had exposure to the professional disciplines and graduate education,” Battles said. “Beyond that, she has really had some experiences in areas important to the college going forward. We’re in the process of undertaking curriculum revisions driven by GLOBE and Robertson has had some experiences with that in the past.”
Robertson first became aware of the provost position from RPA. She spoke in a phone interview about how she values a liberal arts education and how this informed her decision to apply.
“An education is more than professional training,” she said. “It’s skills for life, like ethical training, global literacy, communication, critical thinking. I always knew I wanted to be back at a liberal arts institution like Geneseo.”
Battles said she also felt that Robertson had a particular personality that fit well with the position of the provost.
“She was identified as being both an innovator and a motivator,” she said. “She’s an innovator in terms of seeing opportunities and working with colleagues to realize those opportunities, and a motivator as someone who can work very collegially with a variety of stakeholders and rally support toward a common end.”
Geography and women’s and gender studies double major junior Alyssa Forbes was one of two students on the Provost Search Committee and said that she believed Robertson was the best and most competent candidate for the provost position at Geneseo.
“She focused on things like transparency and technological proficiency, and she seemed to know how to move our college where it needs to go through our current Geneseo 2021 plan,” she said. “A big thing for me was that out of all the candidates, she was the only one to actually ask me to sit down with her and actively talk about what’s going on here and what the students were talking about.”
Forbes said she additionally worried that the committee may have had some difficulty with considering student opinion, since only two of the 14 members were students.
“Being a token for the entire student body was really difficult,” she said. “It was hard to be the only real voices for students in the provost search. If there were any problems with this provost, we were the ones that had to establish that from students’ perspectives.”
Although there was a lot of feedback from faculty and administrators, there was a smaller amount of feedback from students, according to Leary.
Robertson expressed excitement in joining the Geneseo campus this coming June.
“I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve had who have reached out to me to tell me that they were alumni of Geneseo,” Robertson said. “It was really clear to me that people took enormous pride in being a part of the Geneseo community, and that tells me more than anything else about what a special place it is.”