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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Map man plans to plot course for undergrads

Bob McMaster was appointed the new vice provost and dean for Undergraduate Education.

Bob McMaster is a map man.

The cartography expert has studied and worked with them since college, while his life has taken him all over the map of the world, including Los Angeles, Paris, Vienna, Prague, China, Russia, Ireland and Japan.

His next destination will be the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education, where he will replace longtime Vice Provost Craig Swan, who is retiring.

McMaster, 51, was appointed last Wednesday by Provost E. Thomas Sullivan. Pending Board of Regents approval, he is expected to replace Swan by January.

A native of Skaneateles, N.Y. – a small village near Syracuse, N.Y. – McMaster has been a mainstay at the University since 1990, when he began as an associate geography professor. Since then, he has served as director of graduate studies, associate department chairman and also as an associate CLA dean.

With Swan set to retire by the end of the month, the University will be losing 36 years of experience. The soon-to-be-former provost has served in that role for more than 10 years and has worked on campus since 1969.

“I think my goal over the next month is to learn as much as I can from Craig Swan,” McMaster said. “He was a terrific choice for that position.”

Swan said he was very supportive of the appointment and McMaster shouldn’t worry about the perception that there are big shoes to fill.

“My shoes are only a 10 and a half,” Swan said. “They’re not that big.”

Swan added that for McMaster to be successful, he will have to establish himself rather than trying to replicate past provosts.

“He shouldn’t try to be me, I shouldn’t try to be him,” Swan said. “People should let Bob be Bob.”

Colleagues said “Bob being Bob” means a person who is friendly, humorous and motivated.

“He’s a very thoughtful, calm, nonpolarizing individual,” said Roger Miller, an associate geography professor who has worked with McMaster since his arrival on campus. “He’s meticulously fair.”

Miller said he has told McMaster to be cautious of letting the new job consume his life and get in the way of his family.

“These types of jobs grow as you let them,” Miller said.

When it comes to goals for the position, Miller said his friend likely will focus on providing interdisciplinary options for students. Currently, Miller said, the economics of higher education promote competition among different departments.

“Rewards come with increased enrollment,” Miller said of academic departments. “There’s a tendency to try to grab as many student bodies as you can.”

Miller said this practice results in a proliferation of similar classes in different departments, which wastes valuable resources.

Miller said McMaster’s emphasis on increasing interdisciplinary options in the geography department over the years should serve him well as he tries to apply this model across campus.

Associate administrator Glen Powell, a three-year colleague of McMaster’s in the geography department, said he has enjoyed having McMaster as a boss.

“The best part about working with Bob is his open communication style,” Powell said. “He’s funny and very pleasant to work with.”

Powell said McMaster will have to concentrate on setting realistic goals as he takes on his new job. Sometimes McMaster took on more than he could handle in the geography department, which Powell said was a product of McMaster’s determined personality.

One person who could help McMaster deal with the important new job is his wife, Susanna, who also works in the geography department as an associate program director.

“He’s very bright, but he’s also very humble about it,” she said.

The two, who have been married since 1992, are juggling busy careers along with raising daughters Keiko, 12, and Katherine, 7.

“We have the usual, typical hectic morning. It’s like The Jetsons,” Susanna McMaster said, in reference to piling the whole family into the car for the morning commute.

Susanna McMaster said she knew her husband’s life might soon get even more hectic, but added the family is ready to support him.

“My daughters and I are just so proud of him,” she said. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”

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