Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Encouraging Words From and About

University of Minnesota

Presidential Finalist Kaler 

Jenna Ross

[Kaler's] background, plus his focus on Stony Brook's graduate programs, "leaves us wondering where undergraduate education, especially in the liberal arts, falls on Kaler's list of priorities," wrote the editorial board of U's campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily.

Before Kaler came to Stony Brook, folks in the humanities held similar apprehensions, remembers Nancy Squires, who then was chair of the Psychology Department. But after a two-hour meeting, she and her colleagues were "very impressed" by Kaler's grasp of their department. After a three-year run, they appreciate his handling of the inevitable cost-cutting.

Sitting in his Stony Brook office Monday, Kaler made an unscientific-sounding statement about the liberal arts. "I'll be as absolutely clear as I can be," he began, leaning forward, as if ready for a fight. "Humanities are central to the mission of the university. They're central to -- and this sounds a little bit corny -- modern civilization."

"The idea that you're going to starve these or step away from them or do silly things is just wrong."

One of the U's regents called Kaler "a proven change agent," a term on which Kaler paused before accepting.

But when considering his greatest accomplishment at Stony Brook, he did not mention downsizing Southampton, growing master's degree programs or adding chemical engineering, his own field, to the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Instead, he cited a change in attitude with faculty.

Schwartz, a sociology professor, has been at Stony Brook for 40 years and many provosts. Kaler is, he said, "the best provost we've ever had."

That's in part because he's skilled at seeing the political map and creative about finding new funding, said Schwartz. But it's largely because Kaler listens.

"It's not as though he's a softy," Schwartz said. "There's plenty I don't agree with him about. But I have never felt that he dismisses what I think, or the body of opinion that I represent."

So when a decision is made, faculty members respect it.

"It seems to be strange to say this, but these provosts and even presidents don't seem to have the same attitude he's had: We have to preserve the core mission of the university. They were all very busy doing something else besides that," Schwartz said.

The whole article is worth reading.  Jenna Ross is a U alum.  

Nice job, Jenna. 


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