Face of change

Chico State’s new provost lets us in on how the faculty and student body will look in years to come

RIGHT AT HOME<br>When she first visited Chico State’s campus, Sandra Flake was attracted to the “Chico Experience” that accompanies attending, or working at, the school.

When she first visited Chico State’s campus, Sandra Flake was attracted to the “Chico Experience” that accompanies attending, or working at, the school.

Photo By Evan Tuchinsky

Sandra Flake, former provost of the University of West Florida, began as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Chico State on April 2. One of the things that sparked Flake’s interest in Chico was that the university serves a specific region, much like other schools she had worked in through much of her career.

As such, she has the North State clearly in mind as she oversees some major hiring.

President Paul Zingg has said he expects around a fifth of the faculty to turn over in the next five years or so. As provost, Flake works with the deans of the various colleges of the university to bring new professors, including what positions are needed, how they will be filled and where the resources to fill them will come from. Though she does not hire new faculty directly, she must approve each hire.

This gives Flake a huge influence within Chico State and upon its students, both current and incoming, as Flake approves new professors and searches for a new head of enrollment. How will all this affect the student body, in class and on campus? Read on …

What characteristics do you look for when approving new staff?

I’m looking for faculty who are interested in a university where they can be teacher/scholars … In some research institutions the emphasis is very heavily on the research side and less so on the teaching side. Our faculty typically teaches a significant number of courses …[and] have less time for research so they have to be able to carve that time out in their lives and enjoy what they’re doing. The other thing I look for is people who want to be part of a community.

Have you found a new head of enrollment?

We have a vice provost [Meredith Kelley] for enrollment management. Meredith was our director for financial aid and under the vice president for student affairs. So when [the last head of enrollment] left the position, I asked Meredith to serve as the vice provost for this year and next year, and that allows us to begin a search for this position next fall … so that we’ll be in the marketplace at exactly the right time to get the widest range of candidates, but also have stability through the transition.

What characteristics are you looking for in a head of enrollment?

Someone who has experience within one or more areas in enrollment management [and] who can lead a unit in developing an enrollment plan and evaluating its success and interact very successfully with offices across the campus, particularly in academic affairs, but also student affairs.

Do you see the change in this position affecting the type of students that Chico State looks for?

We are always looking at what is happening in the future … and whether or not this position changed we’d be doing that.

I anticipate that we will increasingly be involved in finding ways that we can increase the college-going rate in the North State and northern counties of California. So we’ll be doing that in addition to what we’re already doing, which is keeping Chico State the kind of unique university that it is.

There’s expected to be a large turnover of professors in the coming years due to retirement. How do you foresee this changing the university?

I think our faculty will have more than one disciplinary interest. I often see faculty who are in one field, such as literature … but who have multidisciplinary interests.

I see that we are going to be hiring teacher/scholars. We are going to want to hire the widest array of faculty that we can—people who have had different life experiences, different cultural backgrounds, different employment histories, and different approaches to education.

Are students likely to see a different type of class from this new teacher/scholar or a completely different kind of professor?

Maybe a little bit of both. Being a provost and a dean before coming here, I started seeing faculty members who might apply for something like a position in biology but they also have an interest in environmental science … and I think there’s been some of that before, but there’s more of it now. I think that it’s going to lead to more interdisciplinary programs.

I also think you will see increasingly some changes in approaches to teaching—moving away from a single form of a lecture—to a more interactive kind of education.