Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley, Ph.D., says Kent State is the perfect university.
“I love the core values of kindness, respect and purpose in all we do,” Tankersley said. “I don’t know of another university that was just going to come out and say ‘Hey, this is who we are. We are kind, we are respectful, we seek purpose,’ and I think that’s powerful and that really says in a sentence who Kent State is.”
Tankersley has been chosen as a final candidate for the full position of provost and senior vice president, but she approaches her current position as if she already has the full gig.
At her presentation Friday morning, she discussed challenges the university faces and how she would approach them as provost.
As the economic divide greatly affects higher education, Tankersley discussed how the university can help the students looking for financial aid. She also addressed systemic racism and Kent State’s role in turning the crisis around.
“First, we must acknowledge the difficulties that systemic racism places on our students, faculty and staff of color and then take action,” Tankersley said, “especially taking action around reducing some of the bias that is interwoven in the institution, removing barriers so that our population is able to be successful.”
As a first-generation student herself, Tankersley knows the sacrifices it takes to put students through college. Her parents worked second jobs to put her through school, but she knew of people who were never afforded that opportunity.
“Me having the opportunity to go to college meant that my parents had to work second jobs to put me through, but they still did that so I would have that,” Tankersley said. “I believe we need to make sure those people who I knew growing up, who didn’t have the opportunities I had, have them now.”
She received her B.S. and M.Ed. in special education at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She earned her Ph.D. in special education at the University of Virginia and did a fellowship at the University of Kansas with the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project. The project works to improve the care and education of Kansas City children.
Tankersley began working at Kent State as an assistant professor in 1993 and worked her way through the special education program and into administrative offices by 2012.
Tankersley has been the interim provost since July of 2019, when President Todd Diacon left the role and was appointed the university’s new president.
“I haven’t approached this as interim; there was work to be done and I’m doing it,” she said. As interim provost, Tankersley has implemented and organized many programs, such as the new Office of University Outreach.
As provost, she plans to create a new, strategic plan for academic affairs, focusing on the future of education. The hurdle she’s looking at is how to handle the ways education will change after the pandemic, as well as how it continues to change now.
Tankersley is proud of how staff and students have handled the pandemic and appreciates the positive attitudes in such a negative time. She acknowledges how much more work is being done by the Kent State community this semester, and appreciates how others’ work makes her job easier.
She was the second candidate to present, with Teri Balser presenting this past Tuesday and Montse Fuentes next Tuesday.
“I’m excited to be a finalist for this position,” she said. “I love Kent State so I’m hoping that I get to continue to work for our students, our faculty and our staff, and working hand-in-hand with all of them to continue with Kent State to be this great university that it is.”
Megan McSweeney is an administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]
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