The university search committee has named current Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, Deborah Huntley the university’s provost.
The position became open after former provost Don Bachand took the position of the presidency in February.
Huntley, who gained her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Connecticut and her Ph.D. from Cornell University, first came to SVSU in 1998 when she was hired as a faculty member in the chemistry department. Since then, she earned her tenure in 2001, became a full professor in 2006 and has held positions as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and as a visiting scientist at Cornell University.
Huntley will begin her duties Monday, April 21.
She said that throughout her career, she has been engaged with creating a “diverse and stimulating environment of opportunity” and would continue to address the needs of the university at a broader level as provost.
As the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Huntley learned more about SVSU’s other academic colleges and the university’s campus-wide initiatives. She worked directly with the current university President, Donald Bachand, who was then the provost.
“It has been a huge learning experience over the last 16 years,” Huntley said. “But in that, from being a faculty member and a mentor and holding all those administrative roles, I feel like I am well positioned now to take on this next step as provost.”
Huntley has experience in both the realms of higher education as well as research-based study. Before coming to SVSU, she was a senior research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
She said that she values all disciplines, having traded off between majors during her undergraduate education. She started out as a special education major.
“That is how I found myself in the sciences—not by any direct route, I was not the high school kid who played with chemistry sets, but the high school kid that was in theatre and band,” she said.
Huntley said that she has seen SVSU grow over the years, and looks forward to continuing with that success while working with current faculty and administration to accomplish the school’s goals.
“Our university has grown in so many ways, and I have had so many opportunities here,” she said. “We are all pretty much on the same page about what we are trying to accomplish, and we are all trying very hard to make that happen. And that sort of universal dedication really inspires me and makes me want to do as much as I can for this institution.”
She said that as provost she would work to improve the reputation of the university while helping to increase retention of current students.
“It just wasn’t a part of our culture because we were just trying to find chairs to put students in, (and) not worried about keeping them in the chairs,” she said.
SVSU currently is the second lowest in the state for retention.
“Certainly, the rates of high school graduates are declining in the state of Michigan. We get a constant 1.4 percent of high school graduates at SVSU. It would be great if we could increase that market share,” she said.
She said the university’s goal should not to be trying to get 10 percent, but instead to get 2 percent of the high school graduates instead of 1.4.
Huntley said the first problem SVSU faces is the fact that it isn’t very well known, being one of the lowest colleges in the state for recognition. The second problem is that those who know about SVSU choose not to apply because they perceive the university to have weak academic programs.
“I found the first finding discouraging and the latter finding offensive,” she said. “We need to strengthen our academic reputation. We need to not keep ourselves a secret.”