Provost Vincent Price became the first interim provost in University history to permanently fill the position when he officially assumed office July 1. He replaced former Provost Ron Daniels, who left Penn last winter to serve as president of Johns Hopkins University. After his first summer on the job, Price, a Communication professor, talked about his time so far and his plans for the future.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: How has your experience as Interim Provost prepared you for your official tenure as Provost?
Vincent Price: Stepping into the role of interim provost underscored just how deep the passion is at Penn for excellence and innovation, creativity, and independence. We have twelve more or less independent schools, each of them are doing interesting, interrelated things. While the job of the Provost Office is to coordinate that, the job is made so much easier by the fact that the leadership within the schools is extraordinarily strong.
DP: As you meet with various groups on campus, what interests are you hearing as priorities?
VP: I'm continuing to meet with people and my meetings will continue this fall and into the spring. It's a bit too early to say just how those conversations are going and where they'll lead. I think what's quite apparent is that there is a strong interest in pursuing interdisciplinary opportunities and Penn is uniquely positioned to do that. There are obviously localized concerns since every faculty is dealing with a somewhat different set of issues. And the students have of course have an interest in seeing that we have a strong support structure for things like undergraduate research. Some of what I'm hearing I fully expected to hear.
DP: What summer preparations or developments were made for the upcoming academic year?
VP: It's been a busy summer. We have now implemented our Arts and the City academically themed year-a theme that helps introduce students to all of the wonderful arts and culture opportunities on campus. It's also a theme that helps, I think, a wide array of schools and programs across the university to collaborate on interdisciplinary ventures that are focused around the love of arts and building a community. For example, the Center for Public Health Initiatives in the School of Medicine has a fabulous year-long program dealing with arts and public health. It's also an opportunity for the campus to build stronger ties to the community so we have a passport program to help students get to know regional arts institutions. We really never stop working here.
DP: How will you balance the goal of increasing research opportunities given the current economy?
VP: Some of this is to create facilitative mechanisms, to help our faculty identify interested students and vice versa. We have been expanding the scope and operations of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships that clearly will be a centerpiece to advancing undergraduate research on campus. We're looking into expanding our Center for Teaching and Learning and one of the points of conversation will be about incorporating undergraduates into their research projects. Service learning opportunities that incorporate a research component really begin to tackle pressing problems. It's taking advantage of those kinds of opportunities more systematically.
DP: What projects or opportunities do you really have an interest or hand in?
VP: We have been making a major effort to help create stronger support services and resources for all schools to support their study abroad programs, to support faculty research abroad and the various ways the Provost's Office can better support those international missions. More generally, we are continuing to support activities that fit within the general framework of the Penn Compact. Increasing access to Penn dovetails with our mission to diversify not just the student population but the faculty at Penn as well: using the resources of this office to help the faculty identify and coalesce around pressing interdisciplinary problems, and then helping the faculty work with the students to address those problems….locally and globally. This is an institution that is not just about research for its own sake, although that's of enormous value, it's also about applications of knowledge to contemporary problems-whether in West Philadelphia or in Africa.
DP: How is the search for your replacement going?
VP: We're working on it. We have a terrific search committee that has been assembled and is being chaired by my colleague from Annenberg Bob Hornik, chair-elect of the university's faculty senate. I expect will be bringing me a list of candidates for me to review and interview sometime in the mid-fall. I'm looking forward to working with a new Vice Provost for Faculty who will be on point to help the schools diversify their faculties and to recruit the best and brightest.
DP: What do you love most about your role?
VP: During the interim period, I enjoyed having the opportunity to see what it takes to run a world-class research university. It's an absolute delight to know everyone [involved in running Penn], but it's even more gratifying to be part of that enterprise…I love coming to work everyday.
DP: What drives you, what is your secret?
VP: The secret is to capture the sense of opportunity of being in a transitional period and capturing it and if you can and bottling it and continually going back to it. The things we do need to do take a long time to accomplish-months, years, even decades. Each of us, whether a student or a faculty member or administrator, we experience a little sliver of that history and it's an opportunity for us to affect the history of the institution-it's just as true of a student as a provost.
DP: What will you have liked to achieve by the end of your tenure?
VP: Penn is at a pivotal moment in its history: we are an institution with a tremendous amount of energy and the undergraduate student body is a big part of that. I think in many respects this institution at its founding was very forward looking. All of the things that have been historically built in at Penn are a wonderful match with the challenges we're facing now. I'd like to feel at the end of my term that I've had a role in helping the institution grow into that role, so that we can say that we have maintained the very highest standards of scholarship, admitted the very best and the brightest of students, produced the finest community of alumni across the world and managed not just to recruit a world class faculty but give them the resources to do some very innovative work. At the end of the day, that's my job. If all goes well, that's where we will be when I finish the term I started.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.