Final two UMN provost candidates speak at forums

Rachel Croson and Carol Fierke made their cases to the University community Monday.

Rachel Croson, a candidate for the University of Minnesota's provost position, spoke at a public forum on Oct. 7.

Hana Ikramuddin

Rachel Croson, a candidate for the University of Minnesota’s provost position, spoke at a public forum on Oct. 7.

Hana Ikramuddin

The University of Minnesota wrapped up its series of public forums Monday meant to showcase its candidates for the executive vice president and provost position.  

The last two contenders — Rachel Croson and Carol Fierke — both spoke at Northrop, offering their reasons as to why they should be chosen as the next chief academic officer of the system.

Rachel Croson 

At a forum held Monday morning, Rachel Croson, the current dean of the College of Social Science at Michigan State University, focused on her mission surrounding collaboration and inclusion.

“Different schools need different leaders at different times” Croson said, as she launched into her background and accomplishments.

Speaking about her experience with collaboration and interdisciplinary research, Croson referenced her ability to bring together researchers and professors from different backgrounds.

“I firmly believe that the way to do good interdisciplinary research is to have collaboration amongst strong disciplines,” Croson said. “You need to take people who are experts in their fields and induce them to work together in ways that create new insights.”

Brushing briefly on mental health, Croson touched on the projected changes to the student demographic in coming years and the possibility of a future with fewer college students. 

Audience member Bob Rubinyi, the University’s senior analyst for online learning in the Center for Educational Innovation, asked a question on the topic of teaching nontraditional students, or those outside of the 18-22 age range for undergraduates. 

Fierke pointed out the benefits of online programs that can reach potential students who might not otherwise be able to attend class. Teaching collaboration would prepare students for the challenges they might face, she said. 

“This is really one of the most important things I think that the University does,” Rubinyi said after the forum. “This person will have a lot of impact in terms of how this University proceeds with, you know, teaching, research and outreach.”

Carol Fierke

Later in the afternoon, Carol Fierke, the final candidate and current provost at Texas A&M University, spoke. As the only candidate who currently holds the position of provost at another university, Fierke spent her forum focused on her past successes and strategies she has used at Texas A&M and as the dean of the graduate school at the University of Michigan.

Fierke mentioned incoming challenges she sees to universities as well as the importance of inclusion.

“New students who are graduating now are going to change careers three times during their life,” Fierke said. 

Fierke also addressed why she might choose to leave her current position as provost at Texas A&M for a similar position at the University of Minnesota.

“[When] new presidents come, they tend to like to recruit their own provosts. So that’s the push,” Fierke said.

Fierke said she saw the public forums as a barrier to applicants, and said that forums can damage pre-existing relationships with current institutions the candidates come from. 

“How will it affect my ability to do my job at Texas A&M?” 

With the public forums for the provost officially finished, the University will now focus on choosing a candidate to replace Karen Hanson, the current provost. 

In a statement to the Minnesota Daily, Kate Stuckert, senior assistant to the president, said over email that there is no projected date for the University’s choice for provost.