Tim Chandler has big ideas for KSU

Regina Garcia Cano

Senior Associate Provost Tim Chandler used to be Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is known for his out of the box ideas. Glennis Siegfried | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Cricket caps from different teams adorn part of the wall-sized, dark-wood bookshelf in Timothy Chandler’s office – the Band of Brothers, the Warship Pilgrims and Marylebone, the oldest cricket team. He proudly points out a slightly smaller cap, which corresponds to the first cricket team he played for; he was 9 years old at the time. Chandler also shows the cap from the English Universities Cricket Club, a team he played for during his undergraduate years. Books about sport history are also displayed in his bookshelf.

Chandler, senior associate provost, describes cricket as a game for thinking men. He says it can also be depicted as chess on wheels. Chandler has played for various cricket teams but is currently a member of a completely different team – the one that runs Kent State.

Since joining the Provost’s Office in January as senior associate provost, Chandler knew it would take him more than willingness to accomplish all the items on his team’s agenda. Chandler, however, has an ace up his sleeve: his creative approach to issues.

“Trying to think differently, it’s trying to formulate problems in new ways, and what most scholars do is formulate problems,” Chandler said. “I think the problem isn’t different; it’s the way of addressing and formulating it and trying to attack it. That’s all it is.”

In his new position, Chandler has made changes that not only apply to students in one college, but that also affect virtually everyone in the university.

In President Lester Lefton’s words, Chandler became the “LER king” after he created the new liberal education requirements structure that will be in place Fall 2010 if approved by the Faculty Senate.

With his unique point of view and help from a group of colleagues, Chandler developed a system that focuses not only on the learning outcomes of each class, but also appeals to students’ learning interests.

The LER reform committee, which he co-chaired, placed special attention in what students will leave with after finishing a course, arguing it is pointless to study every topic listed in a syllabus if a student won’t remember anything the day after a test.

In order to change students’ perception that LERs exist to fill the gaps in their schedules, Chandler proposed the development of interdisciplinary courses that will allow students to explore the interaction of different topics that may interest them. Classes such as Political Journalism or Ethics in Health Care are among the ones he envisioned.

Among his ideas is analyzing whether students learn better following a trimester calendar than a semester calendar.

“What would make the best learning environment for a student? Is it a 16-week semester? Well, I don’t think it is,” he said. “But it’s because I think about the energy that I can bring to something and how long people’s attention span rounds. How do students learn best?”

Yet, Chandler believes “there aren’t many new ideas, just new contexts for them.” With that in mind, he knows his trimester idea may have to remain on hold.

The senior associate provost hasn’t missed a single Faculty Senate meeting since he was appointed. He is one of the first to arrive at the Governance Chambers and the last to leave. He takes notes, answers questions that come up during discussions and interacts with faculty before and after the meetings.

During the Senate’s meeting in January, some senators asked for clarification about Chandler’s recent hire. After the chairman of the Senate addressed the senators’ questions, Chandler stepped in front of the Senate and simply gave an update on the LER reform.

For Chandler, the passion that can be seen in a sporting field is comparable to the one in academia: It is exciting and enticing.

“I do this because I really like it. I played cricket because I really like it,” Chandler said. “In some ways, it isn’t really like work – you get paid to work, and you pay to play. So does that mean I would come here and do this job and not be paid? Maybe. I don’t do this because of the money, I do this because I like it.”

Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs said Chandler was appointed to help the Provost’s Office to finish tasks that had been falling through the cracks because of the lack of consistent reviews.

“Tim was needed to make sure that we follow up through the process of pushing each and every one of our goals,” Frank said. “(Now) we just have a much higher ability to follow and pick up on issues and solve all the complexities.”

As for how to convince people to change, Chandler said one must provide good arguments to support an idea. He admits the university has not always done a good job at explaining the necessity for changes.

“You have to help people understand why it’s important and how the changes that you think are necessary will benefit the institution and the students,” Chandler said. “People want things to be good; people want to be in a place that’s excellent. Sometimes these are acts of faith, but normally most of us, as academics, believe in argumentation. Change for change’s sake is not a good idea either.”

Chandler is not only a sports fan and a cricket player, he is also a sports scholar.

Chandler left England to pursue a master’s degree in physical education at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He said he intended to finish his degree in one year and return to England, but instead, he met his Canadian wife and moved to California.

He earned his doctorate degree in physical education and sports history from Stanford University, and he began working at Kent State in 1991 as an associate professor in the School of Exercise, Leisure and Sport.

Since then, he has held different teaching and administrative positions that have given him different views of the university, from the microscopic view of a class professor or department chair, to the macroscopic view he currently has.

“You see the institution as a whole, rather than just small pieces of it . I’m learning what different people in different departments do,” he said. “I’m always amazed just (by) the breadth of work that is been done on this campus . I get to see all aspects of the human condition and all aspects of human endeavor.”

The macroscopic view, however, has kept him from interacting with students, which is something said he often misses. To make up for the time he cannot spend with students, he tries to attend as many on-campus events as he possibly can, ranging from concerts to fashion shows.

Chandler wishes he could teach a class again on a regular basis, but his Monday-through-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, filled with meetings and student events, does not allow him to sit in a classroom for extended periods of time.

“One of the things we all hate doing is canceling class,” Chandler said. “But sometimes it would be necessary because if there’s a problem, you’ve got to go and deal with it. I would end up having to leave a class or cancel a class, and that is not good; it is not fair to students.”

But behind the professor who does not like to cancel classes, there is a young man who got Ds when he was an undergraduate. It was his junior year in college when Chandler realized he “wasn’t going to go anywhere,” so he reshaped his life and took control of his future.

The lesson paid off after time. Frank said Chandler is the first one to get to the office and the last to leave.

Since weekdays are not enough time to accomplish all his projects, Chandler visits his office on Sundays for two or three hours while his wife is at church.

“She goes to her shrine – I come to mine,” Chandler said.

Frank says everybody likes Chandler – even when they may be upset with him. As good friends, Frank teases Chandler, saying the reason he is liked by everybody is his British accent. Yet he says the real reason is because Chandler is a thoughtful and caring person.

“To some degree, that’s why he is a huge asset,” Frank said. “One of the things that is attractive is his candidacy. He knows everyone in this university; he’s been here for a long time. Everybody likes him, respects him, knows him. (He) listens carefully to what they say, and he’s very approachable.”

Chandler has been invited to play for the English Speaking Union in a cricket game in July. And with such a busy schedule, when does the senior associate provost exercise to stay in shape? At 6 a.m. every morning in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Contact academics reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].