By Rebecca Jasulevicz
ESU’s Provost Dr. Van Reidhead has announced that he will step down from the position of provost and join the faculty as soon as a replacement is found.
The provost is responsible for aligning Academic Affairs with the strategic plan and the mission of the university. The provost oversees and coordinates the allocation of resources to achieve these goals.
“It is a very difficult job because we have dozens of departments and several colleges, and so the big job is to try to make sure that all of those are aligned from the students through the faculty…the department chairs, the deans, the provost, and all the way to the president and the Council of Trustees. And in a [state] system, because we have our mandate from the state, also the state,” Reidhead said.
Reidhead became the provost of ESU in August 2010, and has held the position while the university experienced financial difficulties.
He believes the most challenging part of his time as provost has been managing five straight years of budget cuts, as the university’s revenue was less than its costs.
He said, “I‘ve presided over difficult times as provost. Everybody who has been faculty who holds positions like I hold — a provost at most universities around the country will have held a faculty position — always asks themselves ‘Is there a point at which I would want to go back into the classroom?’”
When he makes the transition from provost to faculty member, Reidhead will join ESU’s sociology department. Reidhead earned a PhD in anthropology from Indiana University – Bloomington.
He said, “We don’t have an anthropology program here, nor do we have freestanding anthropology courses. I don’t plan to introduce any. I really want to go into that department and help them achieve their goals and their mission for students.”
Until a new provost is found, Reidhead will continue his duties as normal while anticipating the switch.
“I take very seriously continuing this job, and the president and I are on the same page that I’m the provost until the new person walks in the door and until I walk out. But I’ll wait until that person is found and ready to take the job. I’m ready to make the move,” he said.
Before coming to ESU, Reidhead spent five years as the dean of the college of social and behavior sciences at the University of Texas – Pan American. Prior to that, he was a member of the faculty at the University of Missouri – Saint Louis.
Reidhead said, “There, while a faculty member, I was 15 years a department chair, and I founded and was director of a couple of centers. I was chair of the Faculty Senate there and served in a lot of other faculty leadership positions at that university.”
One center that he helped to found while teaching at the University of Missouri – Saint Louis is the Center for Human Origin and Cultural Diversity. This provides one of the few experiential learning-based anthropology programs available to the public in the country. Students in grades 4 through 12 have the opportunity to learn about cultural awareness and social justice.
More recently, in the Fall of 2012, Reidhead was instrumental in ESU’s formation of the Lehigh Valley Center, which provides an additional location where students can complete degree requirements in a unique setting.
Dr. Brenda Friday, the Director of University Relations, said, “Dr. Reidhead has really been significant in helping us establish the center down in the Lehigh Valley. The other things I think that Dr. Reidhead is really responsible for are things like the articulation agreements that we’re really moving forward with the community colleges in the area and really trying to make recruitment and retention on this campus a priority for all of us — faculty, staff, and administration.”
Friday believes another of Reidhead’s most significant accomplishments at ESU is “the creation of the college of the university… and really trying to coordinate all of the efforts that we do to keep students here; to help them if they’re struggling, to help and give them tutoring, and to help give them direction when they don’t know what major they want to be and things of that nature.”
Even with the responsibility of being the provost, Reidhead still works to spearhead a number of important issues and make a significant difference not only at ESU, but also in the community.
Reidhead is a board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Monroe County. This organization is the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network, matching adult volunteers and children in the community. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children with strong and supportive relationships that they might otherwise lack due to adverse circumstances.
In the past, Reidhead has challenged the President’s Council and some of the university’s deans to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Last year, the university raised the most funds at the local Bowl for Kids’ Sake, a bowl-a-thon that raises money for the organization.
“He’s been putting a lot of us to task on helping to get out in the community and do some good things,” said Friday.
Even after making the transition to faculty member, Reidhead still hopes to make a difference.
According to Reidhead, “I think it’s the right time in my life personally, and I think it’s also a good time for the university. I want to finish my career in the classroom, working with students. I want to be a better teacher than I ever was when I last taught — that’s my primary goal.”
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