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Officials create new position to oversee academic programs on the Vern

Hatchet File Photo
Terry Murphy, the deputy provost for academic affairs, said the University started advertising the position online a few weeks ago.

The University is seeking a new leader to oversee academic programs on the Mount Vernon Campus.

The provost’s office launched an internal search earlier this semester for the inaugural associate provost for special programs and the Mount Vernon academic experience. Officials and faculty said the new hire will work to enhance programming on the Vern and oversee faculty and student partnerships.

The person who holds the new position will oversee the university honors and women’s leadership programs and will also manage the Mount Vernon Society of Fellows, which includes the postdoctoral fellows on the campus, officials said. The person will also develop programming and coordinate with the dean of residential engagement on the campus, officials said.

Terry Murphy, the deputy provost for academic affairs, said the University started advertising the position online a few weeks ago. About 10 current faculty members have applied for the job so far, she said.

Murphy said she hopes to begin interviewing candidates for the position with a committee of faculty, staff and students at the start of the spring semester.

“I think the ideal candidate will have an academic vision for a creative intellectual community on the Mount Vernon Campus,” Murphy said. “I think that person will be committed to thinking about how first-year students, in particular, are integrated into the GW academic community.”

Murphy said the associate provost will need to have an understanding of and interest in scholarship, and the person will also focus on expanding the living and learning communities on the Vern. She added that the first-year Politics and Values program, which is housed on the Vern, will not report to the new associate provost because the initiative is housed in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

“I would hope that we see strategic partnerships and the way in which women’s leadership and honors can really be brought together in conversation with other living and learning communities that we might get going,” Murphy said.

The new associate provost will also be involved in the search for the next director of the honors program after Maria Frawley announced last month that she would step down from her role at the end of the semester.

Colette Coleman, the interim associate dean of students, said she will serve on the interview committee for the candidates. She said she hopes the new associate provost will have a passion for the Vern and ideas about how to bring together and host events for the two programs.

“All of the communities were tight within themselves, but it’s breaking those walls down to say if all those communities are tight and they were all tight together, it would create a more robust feel on the campus as well,” she said.

Ingrid Creppell, the interim honors program director, said she hopes the new associate provost will invest money into hiring more postdoctoral students and ensuring that the Mount Vernon programs have “first-rate” faculty.

“I think overall, I am hopeful that the person that they hire would be an academic leader and be able to really re-energize the potential of the Mount Vernon space because I think GW has not proficiently used it,” she said.

Mary Buckley, the director of the Women’s Leadership Program, said it is important to have a central administrative presence on the Mount Vernon Campus since there has been a “void” in leadership since 2016 when Rachelle Heller, the former Mount Vernon Campus associate provost and director of WLP, stepped down to work as a professor in the computer science department. Heller did not return a request for comment.

Buckley said she is looking forward to new programming, perspectives and ideas that the associate provost will bring to the campus and its academic programs.

“I think that once there’s a director of the campus that’s looking out for the academic integrity and life of the campus, that will absolutely create more networking that happens across the programs,” she said.

Mark Ralkowski, an associate professor of honors and philosophy, said a central administrative figure will help identify ways to improve academics on the Vern, like increasing diversity among students and faculty.

“There are some really specific areas where we have identified room for growth and hopefully with new leadership, the director position will just continue that process,” Ralkowski said.

He said the new provost must be a “positive, consistent presence” who attends annual events on the campus like Vern Harvest and Fountain Day.

“My hope is that it’s a person who is around and who is naturally inclined to be a part of everything that is going on on that campus,” he said.

Meredith Roaten contributed reporting.

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