Provost’s office keeps busy during transition

Carrie Blazina

The provost’s office is going through a transition as its chief academic officer leaves and another takes his place, but the office says it has managed to keep busy and continue some initiatives during what could have been “downtime.”

“The things we can wrap up, we have wrapped up, and the things we can’t wrap up will go on and wrap up with the new provost,” said outgoing Provost Robert Frank.

Frank is leaving Kent State to accept the presidency at the University of New Mexico, his alma mater. His replacement, starting Monday, is Todd Diacon, a former deputy chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Frank said the office is still working despite it being a transition time.

“We’re very busy, but it’s not busy starting new projects,” he said. “It’s just trying to move things along and get them in a place where the new provost can jump in and learn about them and participate.”

Some of Frank’s initiatives that will continue under Diacon are the task forces on textbook affordability, globalization and the creation of the freshman seminar; the final steps in the acquisition of the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine; the full implementation of the Graduation Planning System in May and the ongoing efforts to increase retention and graduation rates.

Diacon will inherit the same staff Frank worked with and have lots of help in his transition to the university. Frank said he expects Diacon to succeed if he takes advantage of what is still in place from his own time at Kent State.

“He’s getting a great provost’s office staff, and there’s great faculty here, and the likelihood of him having success is very high if he works with both of them,” Frank said.

Maria Nann, a strategic analyst and special assistant in the provost’s office, said during the transition time, “nothing’s stopping.” She said Diacon has already visited campus twice since he accepted the position and is being brought up to speed with everything he needs to know about the office even when he is elsewhere.

When Diacon first found out he was going to be coming to Kent State earlier than the original start date of June 1, he said he would use his “head start” here to learn about the campus.

“Mostly it’s for me to gather information, learn what important issues are facing the campus and academic affairs and it’s my opportunity to get to know faculty and staff and students before the summer break begins,” he said.

Nann said though the staff will miss Frank, change is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think the dynamics of the office will change, but not necessarily be worse,” she said.

Keli Greene, a special assistant in the provost’s office, agreed.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with change,” she said. “Change is exciting.”

Frank is making his own transition to being the president at New Mexico. He said after he leaves Kent State Monday, he will spend his first 120 days in New Mexico doing a “listening campaign” that will allow him to get to know his constituencies.

Frank said he will have to deal with some serious problems at New Mexico, but said some of them will overlap with issues he has had to deal with at Kent State.

“There’s a bunch of complex issues that are gonna interact around poverty, lack of access to health care, minority populations, public health issues … real-life situations that the university plays a role in,” he said.

Frank said he is a little afraid because New Mexico has had a high turnover rate among its presidents, but is hopeful and confident he will succeed.

“More presidents have failed there than succeeded,” Frank said. “ … But I think they’re very committed to success right now, and they understand [why] people haven’t succeeded in the past.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].