New associate vice provost aims to raise graduation rates

Kari Petrie

Jerry Rinehart knows how to work as part of a team.

While in college, the University’s new associate vice provost for student affairs joined with other students in a folk jug band to put himself through college.

Recently, he worked with officials on a University subcommittee to identify how to improve graduation and retention rates.

Now Rinehart wants to use those communication skills to get classroom and extracurricular programs to work toward common goals that will improve the college experience and help students stay on track.

“Hopefully I’m going to bring people together,” he said.

As the chief student affairs officer, Rinehart oversees several programs including Boynton Health Service and the Department of Recreational Sports.

He said he can open lines of communication between the academic and student service worlds, in part because of his experience as a student adviser and as director of student services in his former position as assistant dean and director of undergraduate studies at the Carlson School of Management.

June Nobbe, former interim associate vice provost for student affairs and current director of leadership programs, agrees with Rinehart, and said he has good relationships with people at Carlson.

Many students feel more allegiance to their college than the University as a whole, but Rinehart will be able to create a campus-wide community feel, Nobbe said.

Arthur Erdman, chairman of the athletics advisory committee on which Rinehart sits, said Rinehart has already helped bring two groups together by creating a forum for communication between academics and athletes.

The committee developed faculty and coaching staff subcommittees to discuss the rules student-athletes must follow.

Aside from creating forums within the University, Rinehart said he wants to develop programs such as study abroad that give students a sense of independence, tolerance and integrity.

“Students need a sense of what it is they’re accomplishing here at the University so they have more motivation to move ahead and finish their degrees,” he said.

Rinehart added he likes study abroad because it gives students a sense of the world outside of the University.

“If students see a light at the end of the tunnel, they have more purpose to their education; they are more likely to move more quickly towards graduation,” he said.

But he said his biggest challenge will be getting people to feel good about the institution despite rising tuition rates and program cuts.

“We can be the best university in the world,” he said.

Rinehart has spent 27 years working for the University, first in the English department and then at the business school.

Bob Ruekert, associate dean for undergraduate programs at Carlson School, said the school is sad to see him go.

“It’s a loss for our school, yet we’re very happy for Jerry and we’re happy for the University,” Ruekert said.

Erdman said Rinehart is perfect for the position because of his deep concern for students.

“His heart’s in the right spot,” Erdman said. “He’s taking (the position) because he truly wants to make a difference.”