School of Public Health Dean Mark Becker to leave U for South Carolina

Becker was named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in South Carolina.

Hayley Odom

Typical days for School of Public Health Dean Mark Becker do not exist.

His routine schedule of leading the school and teaching classes part-time is interrupted by last-minute meetings with student leaders and community members. His evenings are filled with dinners recruiting new faculty members or ceremonies recognizing fellow colleagues.

As dean, Becker’s first priority is the University’s School of Public Health. But soon his top priority will span an entire university.

Becker was named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Carolina last week. He will begin his new position on Sept. 1.

He said he decided to leave the University because he will be able to contribute to higher education and continue his professional development.

“(University of South Carolina) President Sorenson has articulated a vision for USC that’s going to be advancing the institution in terms of size and quality of faculty and academic programs,” said Becker, who is also a professor of biostatistics and assistant vice president for public health.

“I think what we do at USC will be recognized nationally if we’re able to accomplish it in the next few years,” he said.

Becker said his experience partnering the School of Public Health with other areas of the University and the community will help him accomplish his objectives at the University of South Carolina.

Academic Health Center Vice President Frank Cerra said under Becker’s tenure as dean, enrollment in the School of Public Health and its national recognition have increased, funding from the National Institute of Health has increased and the school is more connected to the community.

“All of these are good things, which means he worked with faculty to make all of these things happen,” Cerra said. “This is an example of his leadership and his leadership style.”

Cerra said he will meet with the Policy Council this week to discuss candidates for interim dean and to discuss a national search for a new dean.

Becker said his first focus is to ensure an effective transition for his position at the University.

“Leadership transitions tend to be stressful for many people, but in this case the school enjoys positive momentum and is well positioned for the future,” he said.

Becker said his experiences working with deans across the University and Academic Health Center college deans will ease his transition to provost and vice president.

“I think he’ll do a great job,” said Jerome Odom, current provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Carolina. “He’s got the right kind of background for what we need as a provost right now.”

Odom said he is leaving his post because he wants to continue teaching at the University of South Carolina and he wants to spend more time with his family.

“I think being a dean is great experience for being a provost,” Odom said. “A dean has to have the best interest of his college at heart and now he’ll have to have the best interest of the entire university at heart.”

Although Becker is leaving, he said his experiences will keep him close to the University.

“I spent 12 years at the University of Michigan and I still have strong personal and professional relationships from that experience,” he said. “(Academia) is actually a very small community and we’ll maintain that contact.”