Yesterday, President Michael S. Roth announced the appointment of John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Rob Rosenthal as the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Rosenthal, who will succeed Professor of Chemistry Joe Bruno, has served as Interim Provost since the start of the academic year.
“In the few months that he has held this position on an interim basis, he has quickly assumed a leadership role in the development of Wesleyan as an ‘Engaged University,’ and he has articulated a vision that connects our curriculum to meaningful work in the public sphere,” Roth wrote in an e-mail to the community. “Please join me in congratulating him as he takes on this responsibility so important to Wesleyan’s future.”
According to Rosenthal, although he originally hoped to take on the position for one year, he quickly realized that assuming a long-term role would aid the accreditation process for the University and allow him to pursue larger goals.
“It’s a chance to do something different, it’s a chance to just to shake up my own head,” Rosenthal said. “I’ve been teaching for 23 years, and it’s a very different perspective. I hope to help the University move in directions that are beneficial for us all. [Roth] is sympathetic to that sort of approach, so it seemed like a good opportunity.”
As Provost, Rosenthal will play an instrumental role in the two-and-a-half year accreditation process for Wesleyan, which will be administered by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
“It’s a real self-study followed by a visit from a committee appointed by NEASC,” Rosenthal said. “It’s become clear to me that because there’s going to be so much work involved in this, we have to see it as an opportunity to see what we’re doing and really think about it. I would love for it to be a vehicle for a collective vision to emerge. I think people talk a lot about what Wesleyan means, but it’s a chance to articulate that vision and see whether people around you agree with that vision.”
The chairs of 12 internal reaccreditation committees were announced today and its remaining members will be named in the near future. Each committee will look at one of the areas assigned by NEASC and will be made up of students, administrators, and faculty. According to Rosenthal, committees will begin writing a final report some time next year prior to a fall site visit by an external NEASC committee.
“The Provost ends up being a central person in the process, not in terms of writing the report, but rather in steering committees in a way that will really focus the direction of each piece and bring them together,” Rosenthal said. “My job is to make sure everyone’s doing what they’re meant to be doing.”
At this point, Rosenthal is still unsure of what the internal review will reveal about the University.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any one thing,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more a quality of mind, a way of living that is encouraged here. I think that’s really what the best liberal learning does—it doesn’t teach you facts, it teaches you a way of being in the world that’s very liquid, flexible, and allows you to go into different situations. I think that’s the kind of mind we’re trying to see here. But that’s just my vision, and it may turn out that people have a different vision.”
Excited for the job ahead, Rosenthal expressed some nostalgia for being a professor.
“I totally miss teaching, I miss talking with students,” he said. “I still have my advisees, but days will go by when I don’t see a student—that’s the sad part of it. I definitely don’t miss grading, but I do miss everything else about it.”